How Does an Xbox 360 Work?

By Quinten Plummer

Updated September 22, 2017

How Does an Xbox 360 Work?
i, PiaCarrot

Graphics, Memory and Power

The inside of your Xbox 360 is much like the inside of your computer--they both contain storage, a CPU and a power supply. The Xbox's data storage is handled by random access memory (RAM), a hard disk drive and memory cards. Data is stored indefinitely on the Xbox's hard drive. It stores video games, applications and other media. Though built into the system, the hard drive can be removed and upgraded.

The RAM temporarily holds active data and unlike the hard drive, data can be retrieved almost instantly--games run smoother as the system doesn't have to wait on the hard drive's response. The 360 uses flash memory cards to store small amounts of data. The flash cards can be used to store user profiles, save game states and settings.The CPU, or central processing unit, executes data accessed from the 360's hard drive, as well as games or DVDs. Power is supplied to the unit through an AC power plug and transformed into DC power when it reaches the system's internal power supply.


The controllers allow you to communicate with the Xbox. The press of a button sends an electric signal to the system. The controller's circuit board contains many different circuits that are incomplete. When you press a button, contacts beneath the button complete the circuit and send a signal to the system that is unique to that button and circuit. The Xbox 360 accepts both wired and wireless cables. For wire controllers, electric signals are passed to the Xbox via a cable. Wireless controllers use radio frequency signals to send data to the system.

DVD Drive

The Xbox 360 uses a dual-layer DVD drive to play games and movies. The drive reads both writable and rewritable CDs and DVDs at up to 12x. The drive's laser lens reads data physically etched into the DVD disk. The etches are arranged in a pattern on the readable side of the DVD. The DVD drive's motor spins the disk and the lens focuses on a track of data. The DVD drive reports the etches on the disk back to the CPU as raw data.