What is DirectX, and why is it crucial for PC gaming?

DirectX serves as the secret ingredient that enables the smooth operation of most top-notch PC games. By offering a standardized solution for developers to communicate instructions to your graphics card, DirectX plays a vital role as a cornerstone for the best graphics cards available today. In this article, we will delve into what DirectX is, highlight the importance of DirectX 12 Ultimate, and provide instructions on how to find the version of DirectX installed on your PC.

What exactly is DirectX?

DirectX stands as an application programming interface (API) specifically developed by Microsoft for Windows and Xbox. APIs act as intermediaries that facilitate the transmission of instructions from software to the hardware within your PC. Initially, instructions were directly sent to the hardware in the early days of computing. However, as games became more complex and security measures more direct, the introduction of APIs became pivotal in relaying instructions to your GPU.

In the past, game developers had to create drivers for multiple graphics cards. However, APIs like DirectX offer a standardized approach, allowing AMD or Nvidia drivers to function regardless of the specific graphics card used. Graphics APIs also unlock features such as hardware-accelerated ray tracing and provide performance enhancements through various optimizations.

While DirectX is not the only graphics API available, it is the main one you will often encounter. It is exclusive to Windows, whereas open-source APIs like Vulkan offer cross-platform support.

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A closer look at DirectX 12 Ultimate

The latest version of DirectX, DirectX 12 Ultimate, has brought an array of exciting features to Windows 10, Windows 11, and Xbox Series X/S. Described by Microsoft as an “additive” upgrade to DirectX 12, DirectX 12 Ultimate introduces features such as ray tracing and variable rate shading to Windows and Xbox consoles.

Here are the additional features incorporated into DirectX 12 Ultimate:

  • DirectX ray tracing (DXR): Initially introduced in games like Fortnite and Battlefield V, DXR represents an early iteration of ray tracing. Most titles that support ray tracing utilize DXR (although Vulkan also provides its own ray tracing support).
  • Variable rate shading (VRS): This feature enables the GPU to allocate varying amounts of power to different areas within a frame. By concentrating resources on the most crucial sections of a scene, performance can be significantly enhanced while conserving resources in less demanding areas.
  • Mesh shaders: Although a complex topic, mesh shaders consolidate multiple shader steps into a single process. This eliminates the need for passing data between the CPU and RAM when rendering meshes, resulting in improved performance.
  • Sampler feedback: Modern games often stream assets into the game world, requiring the game to predict the assets to stream next based on player actions. Sampler feedback provides samples of potential outcomes without executing the instructions, empowering games to make better decisions regarding which assets to stream.

While DirectX 12 Ultimate brings many new features, you need not worry about them extensively. These features primarily exist for developers to optimize games beyond what was achievable with DirectX 12 or DirectX 11. The most notable addition is DXR, which not only enables ray tracing on PC but also on the Xbox Series X.

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How to install and update DirectX

DirectX is inherently embedded within Windows and can only be updated through the Windows Update feature. Be cautious of any online offers to install DirectX, as Microsoft does not provide any standalone installers.

To install or update DirectX, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click on the Windows icon in the Start bar and choose “Run.”
  2. Type “dxdiag” into the box and select “OK.”
  3. Check the DirectX version under the System tab.

If you have regularly updated your Windows operating system, you should have the latest version of DirectX. In case you don’t, you can force Windows to search for new updates by following these steps:

  1. Press the Windows key and “S” simultaneously to bring up the search box.
  2. Search for “Check for updates” and select it.
  3. Click on the “Check for updates” button to initiate the search for new updates.
  4. Proceed to click “Install now” when prompted.

Which DirectX version should you use?

DirectX maintains backward compatibility, making it advisable to utilize the most recent version supported by the game you intend to play. Although most games are compatible with a single DirectX version, some titles like Control, Civilization VI, and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands bridge the gap between different versions.

Newer iterations of DirectX typically offer enhanced features and opportunities for developers to optimize performance. For a detailed comparison between DirectX 11 and DirectX 12, make sure to check out our comprehensive analysis.

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*Note: The content in this article has been rewritten from the original to provide a fresh perspective while retaining the essence of the original material.

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