DirectStorage is a feature developed by Microsoft for Xbox consoles that enhances PC gaming. Windows 10 supports it through a patch but Microsoft recommends Windows 11. In this short guide, we’ll see how to take advantage of DirectStorage in Windows to improve game load times.
See the sections of the guide
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What is DirectStorage and how does it work?
DirectStorage is built into Windows and is a Microsoft technology (API) that can improve the performance of PC games. Its main feature is that it drastically reduces loading times and improves game flow.
It is worth mentioning that Microsoft has reduced the hardware requirements for DirectStorage through announced version updates. Although it only requires an NVMe SSD as a storage device, the company has extended support for AHCI devices such as SATA SSDs.
In fact, with the recently announced v1.2, support will be fully extended to mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs). This update was made to cover developers who have stated that better support for older hard drives would be beneficial for gaming.
Additionally, DirectStorage 1.2 includes a new feature called Force Buffered IO, which allows developers to use the same code on SSDs and older hard disk drives (HDDs), with all that that entails.
As for real-world DirectStorage with current data, according to a PCgamer presentation, Forspoken, a game that uses DirectStorage, saw an 18% increase in load times on SATA SSDs.
In contrast, a scene that took about four seconds to load on a SATA SSD only took two seconds to load on an NVMe SSD.
That’s why Microsoft says that if we have an NVMe drive, loading times can be up to 40 times faster, and with DirectStorage enabled in-game we’ll reduce CPU load by 20-40%.
So while we can also see some improvements with SATA SSDs, the main benefits are the much faster PCIe NVMe drives that allow parallel data transfer.
Finally, DirectStorage, in addition to taking advantage of fast NVMe drives, also uses the graphics card to directly handle compressed data, rather than letting the processor decompress it first as it does.
This avoids a potential bottleneck, as the graphics card can start working as expected immediately, instead of waiting for the CPU. This is also the reason why DirectStorage will not work if our graphics card does not support DirectX 12 and Shader Model 6.0.
How can I check if the PC can take advantage of DirectStorage?
We open the Xbox game bar by pressing at the same time Win+G. If for some reason it does not open, we simply type Xbox game bar in Windows, find and run it from there. We can also pin it to Start.
We click on the icon Settings (gear) at the top right of the home screen…
… and we select game features (gaming features) in the left part of the settings. Next, we’ll see if the GPU, operating system, and connected drives fully support DirectStorage.
If our computer does not meet the requirements of DirectStorage or the connected drives are not compatible, we cannot take advantage of this feature.
This means that we will have to upgrade the graphics card and install a compatible disc, where in any case we should prefer an NVMe SSD since we are upgrading.
If we see the message “your system does not support DirectX 12 Ultimate”, it means that the computer hardware does not meet the requirements of this newer and more advanced version.
As DirectStorage is an API belonging to the DirectX family, it does not necessarily mean that we cannot take advantage of DirectStorage, but it may affect its overall performance depending on the storage device.
In other words, we can take advantage of DirectStorage through DirectX 12, Shader Model 6.0 and the compatible disk that our system may have.
To also check the current version of DirectX on our system, we can press Windows + R, type dxdiag, then press OK.
This will open the DirectX Diagnostic Tool for us, where we can see the version.
On the operating system side, as we mentioned in the introduction, Windows 10 supports DirectStorage through a patch, but Microsoft recommends Windows 11.
How to get the best possible result in upcoming games
It should be remembered that DirectStorage is an API that must first be implemented by game developers in order to take advantage of it. Therefore, to take full advantage of it, the game must also support it.
But with the upcoming v1.2 release dramatically simplifying the process for developers, it means more and more games will start to fully support DirectStorage.
So to get the most out of it, we need a DirectX12 Ultimate compatible PC and a game that uses DirectStorage.
It is a fact that if we want to have the ultimate gaming experience on a Windows PC, we need to ensure that our hardware meets the requirements to run games and applications that use DirectX 12 Ultimate.
According to Microsoft, the latest version of DirectX promises an overall gaming experience like never before. It is said to deliver movie-like visuals, dramatically improve frame rates, as well as overall performance through fast processing and faster response rates.
Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 30 Series and GeForce RTX 20 Series GPUs support DirectX 12 Ultimate, along with AMD Radeon RX 6800 Series and RX 6900 XT graphics cards.
Also, to get maximum performance in terms of loading times, we absolutely need an NVMe M.2 SSD, as it can achieve data transfer speeds several times faster than SATA SSDs. For example, an NVMe SSD with a data transfer rate of 5000 MB/s.
NVMe Gen 4 drives are capable of delivering maximum performance, but we can also achieve this with NVMe SSDs that use PCIe Gen 3. Of course, the results will be even better with upcoming PCIe Gen 5.0 SSDs.
What do you think of DirectStorage?
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