Sometimes things happen that are unexpected – just ask Ned Stark. In a far less fictional event, Microsoft has posted an update on their DirectX Blog announcing that they’ve brought a form of DirectX 12 to Windows 7, via official support for the latest DX12 version of World of Warcraft on Windows 7. Where do we even begin?

For some background, Microsoft’s latest DirectX API was created to remove some of the CPU bottlenecks for gaming by allowing for developers to use low-level programming conventions to shift some of the pressure points away from the CPU. This was a response to single-threaded CPU performance plateauing, making complex graphical workloads increasingly CPU-bounded. There’s many advantages to using this API over traditional DX11, especially for threading and draw calls. But, Microsoft made the decision long ago to only support DirectX 12 on Windows 10, with its WDDM 2.0 driver stack.

Today’s announcement is a pretty big surprise on a number of levels. If Microsoft had wanted to back-port DX12 to Windows 7, you would have thought they’d have done it before Windows 7 entered its long-term servicing state. As it is, even free security patches for Windows 7 are set to end on January 14, 2020, which is well under a year away, and the company is actively trying to migrate users to Windows 10 to avoid having a huge swath of machines sitting in an unpatched state. In fact, they are about to add a pop-up notification to Windows 7 to let users know that they are running out of support very soon. So adding a big feature like DX12 now not only risks undermining their own efforts to migrate people away from Windows 7, but also adding a new feature well after Windows 7 entered long-term support. It’s just bizarre.

Now before you get too excited, this is currently only enabled for World of Warcraft; and indeed it's not slated to be a general-purpose solution like DX12 on Win10. Instead, Microsoft has stated that they are working with a few other developers to bring their DX12 games/backends to Windows 7 as well. As a consumer it’s great to see them supporting their product ten years after it launched, but with the entire OS being put out to pasture in nine months, it seems like an odd time to be dedicating resources to bringing it new features.

Microsoft does say that DX12 will offer more features on Windows 10, which makes sense since the graphics stack was designed for it right from the start, but if you do play World of Warcraft on Windows 7, you’re going to get a free performance boost. You may still want to look into getting off of Windows 7 soon though, since this isn’t going to move the January 2020 end-of-support date back for gamers.

For Blizzard, the publisher of World of Warcraft, this is a huge win for their developers, since they’ll no longer need to maintain two versions of the game.

Overall, this an unanticipated and rather exceptional event for the state of Windows graphics APIs. And having reached out to one expert for commentary on Microsoft's announcement, they seem to agree:

"This is a big deal" - Ryan Smith, Editor-in-Chief of AnandTech

Perhaps they are also working on Continuum and Windows Store updates for Windows 7 as well. They do have nine months after all.

We've reached out to AMD and NVIDIA for responses on whether there are specific driver versions that are required. NVIDIA has responded letting us know that Windows 7 users will just need the latest Game Ready Driver for this.

Source: Microsoft DirectX Blog

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  • sbrown23 - Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - link

    "Microsoft Brings DirectX 12 to Windows 7"

    That's what they did. The headline could be clarified that it's a subset of DX12 for specific games, but then it might get too wordy. It's not clickbait if it's essentially true.
  • CiccioB - Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - link

    Well, no, it it is not.
    MS has not brought DX12 to Win7, they just enabled some a game (up to now) to take advantage of some of the DX12 features that were locked out before.
    It's not a "Win7 gains DX12 support" as the title suggests.
  • domboy - Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - link

    I find it slightly odd that they're doing this for Windows 7 but not 8/8.1... I can only assume that means at this point the 8/8.1 install base must be tiny compared to 7.
  • UltraWide - Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - link

    Let Windows 7 RIP
  • sonny73n - Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - link

    Nah, I’ll stick to windows 7 for another 10 years.
  • Notmyusualid - Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - link

    INTERESTING news, especially to those of us who won't swallow Windows 10, for the tea in China...

    I will however, swallow fees for extended support for Windows 7. I don't mind that too much at all.
  • SkOrPn - Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - link

    I'm guessing Microsoft is expecting people to pay for the extended support for a few years to come. Nothing else makes any sense. Some people just hate 10 that damn much, even though all their issues are of their own creation.
  • sonny73n - Thursday, March 14, 2019 - link

    Seriously dude? I don’t hate windows 10, I only hate people who says windows 10 is better and people who thinks windows 10 is better. Can you tell me what’s better in windows 10? Or anything you can do on 10 that I can’t do on 7? I basically work with programs on windows, not with windows. I can tell you many bs in 10. Even the settings in 7 is better than 10. When you adjust settings on 10, some with OK and Apply buttons but some has no buttons to confirm what you just set. Isn’t that annoying? How about constant background processes? Constant connections sending who knows what to who knows where? P2P updates? Basic settings that buried somewhere. There’s more but why don’t you just google it. 10 is just annoying as the people who prefers it over 7.

    I tested 10 on all my household’s desktops and laptops, upgraded friends’ too. Freaking wastes of time. Damn 10 can’t even manage paging right.
  • danwat1234 - Thursday, March 14, 2019 - link

    ..So, no DX12 for Windows 8.1?
  • AMD_PoolShark28 - Thursday, March 14, 2019 - link

    AMD has just released a driver to support this feature,

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