When Microsoft announced several Xbox features coming to Windows 11, it said that DirectStorage would only be available on the upcoming operating system. A recent DirectX developer blog post says otherwise. Some developers already have access to DirectStorage on Windows 11, which will also work on Windows 10 machines.
The blog post details that Windows 10 machines running version 1909 or newer will be able to use the DirectStorage feature. This is an application programming interface (API) that Microsoft debuted with the Xbox Series X and Series S. Essentially, it bypasses the processor to quickly load data into the graphics card, which can decrease load times and allow developers to push more impressive visuals.
As Hassan Uraizee, DirectX program manager, points out, there are three main benefits to DirectStorage. The first is batch input and output requests. Instead of applications dealing with requests for various game assets, DirectStorage can lump them together to make getting through the thousands of requests faster.
In addition, DirectStorage provides GPU decompression. Developers compress assets like textures, models, and music to decrease the install size and improve performance on some machines. The CPU usually handles decompression, but with DirectStorage, the GPU can handle it. That decreases load times as the assets are decompressed and offers options for streaming assets into the game in real time.
Finally, DirectStorage can take advantage of the storage software stack inside Windows 11, which should further improve performance. Uraizee writes that Windows 10 will also benefit from the system with its older storage stack.
“This means that any game built on DirectStorage will benefit from the new programming model and GPU decompression technology on Windows 10, version 1909 and up,” Uraizee writes.
Developers working with DirectStorage only need to implement the feature once, and it will work across Windows 10 and Windows 11. Uraizee says that Windows 11 will see a larger benefit because it was designed with DirectStorage in mind, but gamers sticking with Windows 10 will see the benefits of DirectStorage, too.
A big part of DirectStorage is a solid-state drive, which enables assets to be quickly streamed from storage into the graphics card’s memory. As high-capacity, high-speed SSDs become more commonplace, it’s an essential feature to make games load faster and run with larger assets. That said, users still running games off of spinning hard drives will be able to play games with DirectStorage.
“Compatibility extends to a variety of different hardware configurations as well. DirectStorage enabled games will still run as well as they always have even on PCs that have older storage hardware (e.g. HDDs),” Uraizee writes.
DirectStorage requires a PCIe 3.0 NVMe drive or PCIe 4.0 SSD. Although games using the feature will still run off of a spinning hard drive, they won’t see any performance benefit.
Although DirectStorage isn’t as exciting as Auto HDR and the redesigned Xbox app in Windows 11, it’s a bit of a secret sauce that will make PC gaming feel better. The benefits are already clear on the Xbox Series X, which can load games in a matter of seconds and seamlessly switch between multiple games at once.
It’s clear Microsoft has been focused on overhauling the gaming experience on Windows 11. Today’s news shows that at least some of those features will trickle down to Windows 10, too.