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DirectX 10, 9, 8…
DirectX has many uses in Windows. It allows developers to standardise certain video display and audio files – this makes them easier to develop and run on different types of PCs (it is also used on consoles such as the Xbox).

DirectX is supposed to be backward compatible. So, if a game was written for DirectX 9, it should run if you have DirectX 10 or DirectX 11 installed on your PC. However, a game written specifically for DirectX 10 will generally not run on DirectX 9 or earlier. Each version of DirectX offers newer features and better rendering – in other words, prettier pictures that are more detailed and realistic (assuming your PC has the hardware to handle the heavier load).

Up until version 9.0c, the latest version of DirectX was generally available as a separate download from Microsoft. However, from version 10 onwards, the latest update for DirectX is available only for specific operating systems and under very controlled circumstances.

DirectX 10 was only available for Vista and not XP. DirectX 11 was aimed at Windows 7 users, but a download for DirectX 11 running on Windows Vista is also available. Part of the reason that versions 10 and above are not available for Windows XP is due to an update in the more recent Operating Systems that use the new 'Windows Display Driver Model'. It features in both Windows Vista and Windows 7 but not XP. In other words, the way Windows Vista and Windows 7 create images on your screen is different to the way Windows XP does it. Since DirectX is tied to the way graphics are drawn, therein lies the problem with newer versions of DirectX. In order to make DirectX 10 compatible with Windows XP, you need to make a lot of changes to various system files responsible for creating the display on your screen (also called rendering). There are some hacks available out there to enable version 10's features on XP and they often work for particular setups - however, this does not mean they will work in all circumstances. In other words, use them at your own peril: there is no official release from Microsoft for running DirectX 10 or DirectX 11 on XP. The latest version is 9.0c and unless there is a massive change of heart from Microsoft (no chance), this will always be the case.

Where to download the various versions of DirectX DirectX 11
  • Windows 7: The latest operating system from Microsoft already includes DirectX 11. There is no need to download any specialised updates. However, Microsoft may issue tweaks or security updates for DirectX 11 as part of its monthly patch releases.
  • Windows Vista: Originally Windows Vista shipped with DirectX 10 but you can download a separate DirectX 11 update. Firstly, you must have Windows Vista Service Pack 2 installed (you can get a copy by following the download link above). Now here is a trick from Microsoft - the update was released as part of the Platform Updates package (which is why it may not be immediately obvious that it includes the DirectX 11 update). To download and update DirectX 10 to DirectX 11, do the following:
    1. Click Start - All Programs - Windows Update.
    2. In the navigation pane, click Check for updates.
    3. When updates are found, click View available updates (updates are not visible to download if you already have them on your system).
    4. Select the Platform Updates package, and then click Install.
    5. Windows XP, Windows 2000 and earlier: DirectX 11 and DirectX 10 are not compatible with these operating systems. Some unofficial hacks are available, but there are questions about their degree of suitability for the average PC user.
DirectX 10
This release has become an orphan. It will only run on Windows Vista and even Vista can be updated to DirectX 11. For running DirectX 10 on Windows XP or 2000, see DirectX 11 above.

DirectX 9.0c
DirectX 9.0c is the last officially supported version for Windows XP and 2000. It remains an important part of Windows Vista and Windows 7 - which is why both of these newer operating systems have it installed.

DirectX 8.1
Version 8.1 is the last available version for the ancient operating systems of Windows Me and Windows 98.


Windows 7
Windows Vista
Windows XP, Windows 2000 and earlier

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