Check the Status of Your Video Drivers with the DirectX Diagnostic Tool

Although I've been using computers since the late 1970s, I've never been a big fan of computer games. I make sure I have a decent video card, but that's all I've needed to know about the video side of my system hardware.

I recently had problems with new versions of some video-editing tools that I use at work. After making sure that my editing software supports my video adapter and performing the usual troubleshooting, I called the software vendor's technical support line. After reviewing the steps that I had taken, the technical support representative offered this advice: "Select the Run command on the Start menu, and type Dxdiag."

The dxdiag.exe command was new to me. I followed the representative's instructions, and the Microsoft DirectX diagnostic tool opened. (For those not familiar with DirectX, it's the core Windows technology that drives high-speed multimedia and games on the PC.) The DirectX diagnostic tool, which has been available since DirectX 6.0, lets you display all DirectX-related files on your computer; check the versions of those files, input devices, and the video drivers you're running; and test the features of DirectPlay, DirectSound, DirectMusic, DirectDraw, and Direct3D.

By using tests from the DirectX diagnostic tool console, we were able to determine that my video driver was the problem. I went to the video card vendor's Web site and downloaded a recently updated video driver for Windows 2000. After I upgraded the video driver, all the dxdiag.exe video tests ran successfully, and the video-editing program even began to work. However, the program ran so slowly that I decided to upgrade to DirectX 8.1, and now the program runs fine.

If you have any use for DirectX compatibility on your desktop system, run dxdiag.exe to view and test your current configuration. If you're running a version earlier than DirectX 8.1, download the latest version from the above address (for Win2K). If you're running Windows XP, you already have DirectX 8.1.

I don't often run graphics-intensive software at work, so I hadn't updated my work desktop with the latest video drivers and display software—an oversight I won't make again.

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