The Microsoft DirectX is a series of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) originally released in 1995, that play a crucial role in the function of numerous multimedia, video and programming tasks on Microsoft Platforms. Essentially, it is not a single program, but rather a suite of multiple different components that are capable of facilitating communication between software and hardware and improving game execution by taking advantage of all the hardware features your machine has.
The majority of software that makes use of this collection of programs is gaming programming, as it is one of the most demanding and resource-consuming tasks on a PC. To understand the variety of tasks that are accomplished by this program, it is responsible, among other things, for the drawing of 2d and 3d graphics, GPU computing, Audio functions, ray tracing, and running diagnostics.
The history of DirectX starts back in 1994 when Microsoft needed to create software for the then-upcoming Windows 95, which would act as a mediator between hardware and operating system. The programmers that were tasked with the development of what would later be known as DirectX were Craig Eisler, Alex St. John and Eric Engstrom, who managed to create the API, and it was released a year later, in 1995. Since it was launched in 1995, Microsoft’s DirectX has competed with Silicon Graphics Inc.’s OpenGL API package. Initially, OpenGL was more about professional work than game production. But unlike Redmond’s giant technology, all OpenGL source code is open.
OpenGL’s open-source character was one of the main reasons many developers defended it, claiming that the SIG API was more accessible than DirectX. This fight between the two technologies extends to this day, and in gaming, DirectX maintains a good advantage thanks to the popularity of Windows systems.
Before this great shift in technology, game programmers favored the MS-DOS platform instead of earlier Windows versions, as the DOS operating system was much more open in nature, and they could utilize all the resources of the hardware. On the other hand, programming on MS-DOS was very time-consuming, before the game developers had to write code for each possible hardware combination of the PC configuration. The DirectX technology solved both of the problems, as it enabled games to exploit all the resources of the system, while programmers needed to write code that was compatible with DirectX only, and not with dozens of different hardware drivers.
Since the first version back in 1995, Microsoft has continuously updated DirectX in order to keep up with the gradual progress of the gaming industry and the constant development of new and improved hardware. This was no easy task, because the abundance of software and hardware and the constant release of new editions and products, demanded that they tested all possible products in order to ensure their compatibility and fix any possible problems.
Soon after the launch of DirectX, the first consumers of 3d accelerators appeared in the market and created a whole new niche of gaming and programming. Up to this date, games were 2D or pseudo-3D, but now new possibilities appeared and Microsoft rushed to implement 3d capabilities in their API, as the first release was 2d only. Initially, the reviews about Direct3D were mixed and many times negative, but year after year they updated and managed to become the absolutely dominant force in modern gaming.
DirectX became also widely used in the world of console programming, as it became the basis for the development of the Microsoft Consoles, namely Xbox, which initially used DirectX 8.1. Since then, DirectX has continued to become the tool that we all know and use daily if we are gamers, and it has really become more and more polished and successful since the 9.0 release which was used in the widely acclaimed Windows XP.
It is noteworthy that Windows XP and DirectX 9.0 (which reached to a 9.0c version) were so popular and successful, that official support lasted for almost a decade (2001-2002 to 2010), something which is not very common in software that constantly changes and upgrades. Since then, the 10, 11 and 12 versions of DirectX are still dominating the contemporary gaming scene, as they are the absolute protagonists in PC gaming. Microsoft always tried to cope with every new development that happened in the gaming industry, like real-world physics, shaders, ray tracing and recently 4k (and even more) quality gaming and video applications.
This constant redefining and polishing of the famous API, along with its simplicity, is what has caused its undeniable success. Programmers have a friendly and widely used platform for their creations, while users and gamers can easily run the programs, without having to worry about performance issues and compatibility. DirectX is the program that ultimately tries to guarantee that everything will run smooth and effortlessly on your personal computer.
DirectX is a set of APIs, consisting of several “packages” in its composition, each of which is responsible for a particular aspect of the game. Some examples of these components and their functions are:
- DirectDraw is responsible for 2D graphic drawings
- Direct3D is responsible for 3D graphic designs
- DirectInput communicates between the game and peripheral devices such as keyboards, mice and joysticks
- DirectPlay communicates between computers via the internet or local area network
- DirectSound plays and records waveform sounds (and DirectSound3D does the same but with 3D sounds)
- DirectMusic is responsible for the soundtrack execution.
Microsoft DirectX is installed/included in Windows OS by default:
- Windows XP SP2+ or Windows Server 2003 SP1/R2 – DirectX 9.0c
- Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 – DirectX 10
- Windows Vista SP1+ or Windows Server 2008 SP1+ – DirectX 10.1 (You can upgrade to DirectX11 with KB971512 installed)
- Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 – DirectX 11.0 (You can upgrade to DirectX 11.1 with KB2670838 installed)
- Windows 8, Windows RT, or Windows Server 2012 – DirectX 11.1
- Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2 – DirectX 11.2
- Windows 10 or Server 2016 Technical Preview – DirectX 11.3 and DirectX 12 (it can only be installed directly from Microsoft Update)
How to check the DirectX version installed on my PC?
- Click Win+R on your keyboard or go to “Search” on the right edge of the screen.
- Type “dxdiag” in the dialog box or in the search box.
- Click “OK” or Select and click on “dxdiag” from the search results.
- Check the DirectX Version installed on your computer on the System Information section.
Download DirectX End-User Runtimes/Redistributable
Download Offline Installer (Redistributable)
DirectX End-User Runtimes/Redistributable provides updates to 9.0c and previous versions of DirectX. It will automatically download the right and latest version of DirectX for your Windows version.
Last Update: February 21, 2021
Current Version: 9.29.1974.1 (June 2010)
Supported Operating Systems:
Windows XP SP2+ / Vista / 7 / Server 2003 SP1+ / Server 2008
Developer: Microsoft Inc.