GT Explains: What is DirectX in Windows? Do You Need It?

Ashish Mundhra

directx-logoIf you have installed and played quite a few games on your Windows computer, just before you complete the setup of a game you might have come across a screen that asks you to install DirectX on your computer. I first encountered this screen in the days of Windows XP while installing Age of Empires. Back then I didn’t care much about what DirectX is and thought that it’s only required to play the game.

However today we have decided to take a deeper look into what exactly is the significance of DirectX for Windows. Knowledge is power when it comes to these complex computing terms, so better to equip ourselves with its understanding. Of course, it goes without saying that like all Guiding Tech articles, this one too attempts to explain everything in the simplest manner possible. So no need to put your nerd cloak on.

In this article we will see answers to three questions regarding DirectX:

  • What is DirectX?
  • What is the need of DirectX for Windows?
  • Which version am I using and why the need to keep it up-to-date?

So let’s take them up one by one.

What is DirectX?

Microsoft DirectX is a set of programs which takes care of multimedia related tasks like gaming, video rendering, 3D modeling and others like that. DirectX acts as a bridge between your computer’s multimedia hardware like the sound and video card, and the software  that are trying to access it. DirectX libraries help not only with graphics but also with complex sound and moving images.

Now that we have seen what DirectX is, let’s have a look at the need for it.

What’s the Need for DirectX for Windows?

DirectX is a Windows program and as long as you are working on a Windows PC and doing multimedia related tasks, you need it. Most of us believe that DirectX is only required to play games but that’s not the case. As I already mentioned, most of the complex programs which uses 3D modeling with complex sounds or moving images will need DirectX library files on the computer to function properly.

All the programs that require DirectX mention it on their system requirements page but sometimes it’s not documented straightaway as DirectX. Instead of directly mentioning that DirectX 9 or DirectX 10 is required, program might say that Direct3D 10 technology, Direct3D 9 technology is required. As Direct3D is a part of the DirectX APIs along with DirectDraw, DirectMusic, DirectPlay, DirectSound and few more, installing DirectX would solve the purpose.

Which Version Am I Using and Why the need to Keep it Up-to-date?

Every version of Windows starting from Windows XP comes with a version of DirectX bundled with it. The latest version that Windows 8 comes with is DirectX 11. To check the version of DirectX that you are using, open the Run command box using the hotkey Windows+R, type in DXDIAG and press enter. After you execute the command the DirectX Diagnostic Tool will open up.

Here you can see the version of DirectX you are using under System Information in System tab.

directX run command

directX diagnostic tool

Different programs require different versions of DirectX to function, and if a program requires an updated version then you must install it for proper functionality. Most of the times these updates are bundled with the program you are trying to install on your computer. You can also download the latest version of DirectX from this page. The page contains links to both online and redistributable version and can be installed like any other Windows application.

However there’s a limitation to that. The last version of DirectX that can be installed on Windows XP Service Pack 3 is 9.0b. For Windows Vista and 7 the limit is DirectX 11. If you are a Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 user, the DirectX update 11.1 is exclusive for you as it cannot be installed on previous versions of Windows.

You must also remember that the DirectX update alone doesn’t always work. From what we have seen, DirectX is required for smooth multimedia performance on your computer. But that’s only possible if your computer’s hardware supports the DirectX version you are using. For example, to use the full potential of DirectX 11 your computer must have the supporting hardware like compatible video card, etc.

If you have any additional questions regarding DirectX you would like me to clear, post them as a comment.

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Ashish Mundhra

Written By

Ashish Mundhra

Ashish is a staff writer and video editor at Guiding Tech. He loves all things tech and has a soft corner for Android. Apart from contributing articles here, he also takes care of our YouTube Channel.