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What is DirectX®?

DirectX® is a suite of multimedia technologies designed by Microsoft to enhance gaming and video performance on Windows. It acts as a middleman, allowing games to communicate effectively with your computer's hardware. With DirectX®, stunning graphics and seamless gameplay become the norm. Intrigued by how it elevates your gaming experience? Let's examine its impact on your favorite titles.
Anurag Ghosh
Anurag Ghosh

DirectX® is a set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) created for enhancing games, active web pages and other multimedia applications running on Windows® operating systems. It provides a bridge for hardware and software to connect or “talk” to each other. The collection of these APIs includes Direct3D, DirectDraw, DirectSound, and DirectPlay. Generally, the names of these components begin with the word Direct.

The five important components of DirectX® include:

  • Direct3D: Helps developers create 3D graphics.
  • DirectPlay: Developers use this API for testing applications. It is also used as a plug-in by end-users.
  • DirectSound: An interface for incorporating sound with images.
  • DirectInput: Used for input from I/O devices.
  • DirectDraw: This lets developers define two-dimensional images, helps in managing double buffers and specifies images.
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Man holding computer

DirectX® was developed by Microsoft® to ensure multimedia programmers have easy access to hardware functions. Prior to the release of Windows® 95 operating system, DOS was the best alternative for game programming. The MS-DOS platform allowed direct access to hardware components such as video cards, sound devices and input devices.

The Windows® 95 operating system had some restrictions. The operating system’s protected memory model restricted access to hardware functions. Programmers were discouraged to maintain creative freedom over their code. Microsoft® felt the need to solve this problem quickly before the official launch of operating system. To provide a comprehensive solution to this problem, DirectX® was introduced. It allowed programmers to access graphics, sound and input components with ease.

The first DirectX® version was released in September 1995 as a software development Kit for Windows® games. It allowed programmers to integrate or create graphic images, sprites, overlays and game elements including sound. Later, more and more versions were released, the latest being DirectX® 10.

One of the key APIs of DirectX® is Direct3D. It is widely used for the development of Microsoft Windows® and Microsoft® Xbox 360 games. The 3D graphics API is also used by other software applications such as CAD/CAM engineering.

The latest DirectX® version boasts many benefits for average users as well as developers. It is designed as the next generation graphics technology for Windows® Vista. In addition, it provides a detailed experience to video game players and encourages developers to increase the realism in games. The software development kit (SDK) contains tools to build multimedia applications. It also includes samples, libraries and runtimes. Developers can download DirectX SDK to create drivers for audio, display and other I/O devices.

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Discussion Comments


@Izzy78 - I am not very familiar with the current DirectX suite of programs, but I think having problems with them is rare. I used to play online games, and it seems like the vast majority of problems comes from the game programmers not programming the game right. It is usually not DirectX's fault, since it is just there to do what the game tells it to do.

One interesting thing about DirectX, though, is that it is a handy way to learn what type of hardware your computer has. If you just type "dxdiag" into the command prompt (or the search box for Vista or Windows 7), a screen will pop up to help you diagnose DirectX problems. On that screen, though, you can flip through the tabs and easily see how much memory and hard drive space you have available as well a the specs on your sound cards and other drivers. It's much easier than going through the Control Panel.


DirectX is a great tool, but it can cause a lot of problems when you are trying to make changes to your computer. Because the programs access a lot of different pieces of hardware, there is a lot that can go wrong.

For the longest time, I was having problems playing videos online. I searched for quite a while until I found someone else who had being experiencing a similar problem. It turns out that somehow the version of DirectX I had installed had a bug. Something about it didn't let it update correctly, either, so it couldn't repair itself. Luckily, I figured out the problem and got things working again.

I don't play a lot of video games, but I am guessing people who play computer games have to manipulate the DirectX settings sometimes to get the games to run like they should.


Interesting. I have always heard of DirectX, but I never had a clue what it's real function was. I was also unaware that it was developed by Microsoft. I just assumed it was something like Java or Acrobat that was made by a different company. Considering that the product is made by Microsoft, does that mean DirectX can't be used on Macs?

I know a lot of websites require DirectX to show videos, so Macs must at least have some sort of equivalent program that lets them do the same thing, right?

It is also interesting that the article mentions DirectX was kind of a quick fix before Windows 95. Here we are over 15 years later, and DirectX is a huge part of every computer system.

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