While Windows 10 serves a lot of users, it’s definitely a fit for gamers. Features like the Xbox app, Game DVR, and native controller support offer huge advancements over prior versions.
But one of the most important elements powering the gaming experience on Windows 10 is behind the scenes: DirectX. Let’s review what DirectX is, then see how to manage it on your PC.
What Is DirectX?
DirectX is a set of APIs in Windows that handles graphical elements in games. Because no two gaming PCs have exactly the same set of components, game developers use the DirectX libraries to write games that work on computers of all kinds.
In the old days, DirectX was its own separate download. You’d often see a prompt to check for the latest updates for DirectX when you installed a game. Since Windows 8, Microsoft has included DirectX as a part of Windows. Thus, you can update it right from Windows Update.
The latest version of DirectX is DirectX 12, which is only available on Windows 10. Windows 7 and 8 are stuck on DirectX 11.
Note that DirectX isn’t the only graphics API. The Vulkan Run Time Libraries are a newer competitor that offer some enhanced performance.
What Version of DirectX Do I Have?
You can easily open a panel to see all about the version of DirectX you have installed on your PC. To do so, press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog, then type dxdiag. You’ll see a window titled DirectX Diagnostic Tool a moment later:
At the bottom of this System Information panel, you’ll see a DirectX Version where you can confirm what you have installed. Again, if you’re on Windows 10, you should see DirectX 12 here. Check for Windows Updates if not.
While you’re here, you should click the Display tab (you’ll see multiple if you use more than one monitor) to make sure your computer supports all features of DirectX. DirectDraw Acceleration, Direct3D Acceleration, and AGP Texture Acceleration should all say Enabled.
If not, you’ll need to upgrade your PC’s hardware to take advantage of these features.
How Do I Download DirectX?
How to download the latest version of DirectX depends on the version of Windows you’re using.
Windows 10: You can’t download any standalone packages of DirectX. Microsoft provides updates for DirectX through Windows Update. Thus, you won’t even need to update DirectX when you install a new game. Go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for updates to see if you can update DirectX.
Windows 8.1: Like Windows 10, there’s no manual update link for DirectX. Windows 8.1 includes DirectX 11.2, which is the latest version compatible with Windows 8. Check Windows Update at Settings > Update and Recovery > Windows Update for any updates to DirectX.
Windows 7: The latest version of DirectX for Windows 7 is 11.1. This is available with Windows 7 Service Pack 1. You’ll need to install Windows Update KB2670838, either manually or through Windows Update, to get it.
Earlier versions of Windows: Windows XP and Vista both no longer receive support from Microsoft. Since they’re so old, you’re probably not playing any modern games on them. For the sake of completion, though, we’ll note that the latest version of DirectX for Vista is 11.0 with Service Pack 2. On Windows XP, you’re stuck with DirectX 9.0c, which you can update with Microsoft’s web installer.
Why Do I Have So Many DirectX Versions Installed?
While the version of Windows you use dictates the newest version of DirectX that your computer can run, that doesn’t mean it’s the only one installed.
Even though DirectX is built into Windows now, you likely have all kinds of DirectX files located at C:\Windows\System32 (and C:\Windows\SysWOW64 on a 64-bit copy of Windows).
Why is this?
Like Microsoft’s C++ Runtime, every game relies on a different version of DirectX. For instance, if a developer wrote a game to use DirectX 11 update 40, then only version 40 will work. A newer one isn’t compatible.
Thus, whenever you install a new game, it will likely install a unique copy of DirectX. This leads to you having potentially dozens of copies on your system.
Should I Uninstall DirectX?
There’s no official way to uninstall DirectX. You can’t remove it from the Apps panel of the Settings app in Windows 10. But there’s really no reason you would need to, as it’s not a normal program. It’s a core part of how Windows displays graphics.
And don’t worry about having several versions installed. Those extra libraries aren’t hurting anything, and they were installed for a reason when you downloaded a particular game.
You shouldn’t try to delete individual DirectX files in the folders mentioned above. That could cause games or other programs to stop working properly. If you’re having problems with a particular version of DirectX, try reinstalling the game that uses it.
Now You Know About DirectX
We’ve covered what DirectX is, how you can check which version you have installed, and how to get the latest updates for it. This powerful library of graphics tools is part of the reason Windows is the popular platform for gaming that it is. It’s a normal part of your computer if you play games, and in most cases, you shouldn’t have to do anything to manage it.
For more, check out the best ways to optimize Windows 10 for gaming.