DirectX is the most important interface between the graphics card and a computer game. It is this API that allows game developers to write their code without having to worry too much about the hardware in the gamers’ computers.
DirectX 11 is the newest version of the API and it offers the greatest range of features. If you’re already running Windows 7, you’re all set, since it’s included with Microsoft's latest operating system. But what about the thousands upon thousands of gaming PCs still running Windows Vista? After all, having taken a fair bit of criticism for the way it handled DirectX 10, Microsoft says it has learned from its past mistakes and promises to do better this time around.
The message is clear: Windows Vista will be able to upgrade from DirectX 10 to version 11. Windows XP, on the other hand, is stuck with DirectX 9. End of story.
Microsoft’s plan is that DirectX 11 will become available to the general public with the release of Windows 7 in a few weeks. Windows Vista, on the other hand, won’t see the upgraded API until later as part of Vista’s Service Pack 3. While that may make sense from a marketing perspective (pushing the new OS based on a feature advantage) there is no real technological reason for this delayed approach.
The final version of DirectX 11 has been available since the end of August 2009. The trick is knowing how to get it installed on Vista. If you dig deep enough and go through the MS Knowledge Base, various blog entries, and the Developer Network, you can actually find an answer. However, it appears that Microsoft is determined to make upgrading Vista to DirectX 11 as difficult as possible.
On the following pages, Tom’s Hardware offers a step-by-step guide demonstrating how to activate the download of DirectX 11 (RTM) through Microsoft’s Windows Update by using two simple registry entries. The remainder of the installation completes automatically.