Determine Your DirectX Version and Shader Model

Microsoft DirectX, also simply known as DirectX is a set of APIs used in the development and programming of video games on Microsoft operating systems (Windows and Xbox). Introduced in 1995, shortly after the release of Windows 95, it has since been bundled in every version of Windows since Windows 98.

With the release of DirectX 12 in 2015, Microsoft introduced a number of new programming features such as low-level APIs that allow developers more control over what commands are sent to the graphics processing unit. The DirectX 12 APIs will also be utilized in Xbox One and Windows Phone game development in addition to Windows 10.

Since the release of DirectX 8.0 graphics cards have used programs/instructions known as Shader Models to help interpret instructions on how to render graphics sent from the CPU to the graphics card. Many new pc games are increasingly listing Shader Model versions in their system requirements.

However, these shader versions are tied to the version of DirectX that you have installed on your PC which is then in turn tied to your graphics card. This can make it difficult to determine if your system can handle a certain shader model or not.

How to Determine the DirectX Version You Have?

DirectX Logo
  1. Click on the Start menu, then Run.

  2. In the Run box type "dxdiag" (without the quotes) and click Ok. This will open up the DirectX Diagnostic Tool.

  3. In the System tab, listed under the System Information heading you should see a "DirectX Version" listed.

  4. Match your DirectX version with the Shader version listed below.

Once you've determined the version of DirectX running on your PC you can use the below chart to determine what Shader Model version is supported.

DirectX and Shader Model Versions

  • DirectX 8.0 - Shader Model 1.0 & 1.1
  • DirectX 8.0a - Shader Model 1.3
  • DirectX 8.1 - Shader Model 1.4
  • DirectX 9.0 - Shader Model 2.0
  • DirectX 9.0a - Shader Model 2.0a
  • DirectX 9.0b - Shader Model 2.0b
  • DirectX 9.0c - Shader Model 3.0
  • DirectX 10.0* - Shader Model 4.0
  • DirectX 10.1* - Shader Model 4.1
  • DirectX 11.0† - Shader Model 5.0
  • DirectX 11.1† - Shader Model 5.0
  • DirectX 11.2‡ - Shader Model 5.0
  • DirectX 12** - Shader Model 5.1

* Not available for Windows XP OS

† Not available for Windows XP, Vista (and Win 7 prior to SP1)

‡ Windows 8.1, RT, Server 2012 R2

** Windows 10 and Xbox One

Note DirectX versions prior to DirectX 8.0 do not support shader models.

The DirectX versions detailed here start with DirectX version 8.0. DirectX versions prior to version 8.0 were released primarily in support of Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000.

DirectX versions 1.0 through 8.0a were compatible with Windows 95. Windows 98/Me included support through DirectX version 9.0. All older versions of DirectX are available at various third party sites and if you're installing older versions of the Windows Operating System they may come in handy to run original game files/disks.

One recommendation prior to installing a newer version of DirectX is to ensure that your graphics card supports that version of DirectX.

What Games Support DirectX 12?

Most PC games developed prior to the release of DirectX 12 were most likely developed using an earlier version of DirectX. These games will be compatible on PCs with DirectX 12 installed due to their backward compatibility.

If by chance your game is not compatible under a new version of DirectX, mainly games running on DirectX 9 or earlier, Microsoft provides DirectX End-User Runtime that will fix many runtime errors with DLLs installed from the older versions of DirectX.

How to Install the Latest Version of DirectX?

Installation of the latest version of DirectX is only necessary when you're trying to play a game that has been developed with that latest version. Microsoft has made it very easy to stay up to date and it can be updated via the standard Windows Update and through manual download and installation. Since the release of DirectX 11.2 for Windows 8.1, however, DirectX 11.2 is no longer available as a standalone download/installation and must be downloaded through Windows Update.

In addition to Windows Update, most games will check your system on installation to see if you meet the DirectX requirements, if you don't you will be prompted to download and install prior to installing the game.