Direct X components accelerate hardware to enhance sound, graphic, and security performance. Many games install Direct X plug-ins to create 3-D animation.

The DirectX Diagnostic Tool, available in all versions of Windows after Win 98, can help you troubleshoot sound or video issues but is also a great source for specific information about your system and hardware.

Go to Start/Run and type "dxdiag" (without the quotes) into the box then click OK.

You'll see tabs for your display, sound, music, networking, and more. Here's a summery of what each tab is for...

On the System tab you'll find your System Information: Computer name, OS, Manufacturer, BIOS version, Processor, Memory, and DirectX version.

The DirectX Files tab lists the file name and version for each DX component on your computer. In the "Notes" box you'll be told if there are any corrupt DirectX components that need to be deleted or reinstalled.

Display tabs (may be labeled 1 and 2 if you have dual monitors) tells you your display settings. You can find out what DirectX features your graphics card uses (like 3-D acceleration). You can click the "Test..." button next to the component to see if it is working properly. Another great feature is that it shows your graphics card manufacturer and driver so you can update if needed. Any problems will appear in the "Notes" box.

The Sound tab shows your settings and lets you test DirectSound. You can find your sound card name and driver here. The "Hardware Sound Acceleration Level" slider is used to correct audio glitches that might be caused by some audio drivers. By reducing the acceleration a notch you can troubleshoot audio problems. Be careful not to lower it too much because advanced audio processing techniques, such as 3D spatialization, won't work right.

The Music tab shows your MIDI settings and lets you test DirectMusic. Any problems will be displayed in the "notes" box.

Input lists devices connected to your computer—like your mouse, keyboard, and USB devices—and tells you what drivers they use. As usual, any problems will show in the "notes" box.

The Network tab. This lists DirectPlay service providers. DirectPlay is used mainly for online gaming.

And finally, the More Help tab is the place to go if the previous troubleshooting methods don't solve your issue.

That's just a general run-down of the DirectX Diagnostic Tool. It's pretty easy to use when you get in there. Even if you don't have a problem it's a neat place to go, find out about your system, and test things out.