5 things Windows users need to know about online holiday shopping in 2020

Dell Xps 13 9300
Dell Xps 13 9300 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

Happy holidays and seasons greetings. People love to spread joy this time of year, and gadgets are some of the most popular gifts around. With over a billion people on Earth having Windows computers, there are plenty of accessories, apps, and games you can place under a tree, stuff into a stocking, or wrap in a lovely box.

Windows PCs cover a wide range of categories, ranging from powerful gaming PCs to budget-friendly laptops. Whether someone a big rig that can handle Cyberpunk 2077, a thin and powerful Ultrabook, or anything in between, there are some great gifts available. Here are some handy tips and tricks to ensure that you get the best gift possible for you or someone else.

1. The Microsoft Store isn't just for apps

Many people with PCs don't use the Microsoft Store that often. With browsers becoming more useful and many apps being downloadable through other sources, the Microsoft Store often goes untouched. But the Microsoft Store isn't just for apps. You can also use it to rent movies, purchase tv shows, and films, order accessories, and even purchase Xbox Live or Xbox Game Pass. That means that a Microsoft gift card makes a great gift.

2. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate isn't just for Xbox owners

Despite its name including Xbox, the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate isn't just for console gamers. It's a plan that gets you access to over one hundred games across several platforms. It also includes an Xbox Live Gold subscription. It's a bit like a Netflix-style subscription service that lets you play tons of games for a flat monthly rate. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate costs $15 per month, but you can get the first month for just $1.

There are some excellent PC games as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, including Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, several Halo titles, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps.

If you're an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriber, you're also able to stream games to mobile devices. Right now, the service supports Android phones and tablets, but iOS support is on the way in Spring 2021.

3. Microsoft has discounts for students, teachers, and the military

Microsoft provides discounted services and products for people in education or the military. Eligible students and teachers can get Office 365 for free. You can also get discounts on hardware and other Microsoft products. Exact offers vary, but you can save on games, apps, movies, Tv shows, software, Xbox consoles, gift cards, and many other products if eligible.

When Microsoft says student, it doesn't just mean younger children either. The conditions page states:

Education discount available to K-12 and higher education students, faculty, and parents. Military discounts available to active, former, and retired military members and their families.

To find out more and to start shopping with a discount, check out Microsoft's page that explains the conditions of its discounts.

4. Microsoft makes it easy to manage devices for family safety

Microsoft has several family safety features that allow you to filter and limit certain types of content. You can set screen time limits, see activity reports, filter content, and even locate a member of your family. There are family safety features for many different devices, including Xbox consoles, so you can feel more at ease about how devices in your family are used.

5. You should probably set up any gifts you purchase in advance

Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S Retail Boxes

Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

I know that opening gifts is an exciting part of the holidays, but that excitement quickly fades if someone has to wait hours to update a device or to download content. If you buy someone an Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, or really any gadget that requires you to download things, you should open it up while the recipient is away or asleep and set it up in advance.

To keep some suspense, you can cover the device up and then have a wrapped box. The person will be excited to see what you've given them and even more excited when you say, "and it's right here, ready to go!"

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.