At the Windows 11 event last month, Microsoft announced that the new operating system would feature the new DirectStorage API. This new API changes how games read data from the NVMe SSD drives, enabling much faster speeds and shorter load times. However, it looks like DirectStorage will also be coming to Windows 10, specifically versions 1909 and up. The announcement was made alongside the release of the first developer preview of the API.
Let’s rewind a little bit; DirectStorage made its debut on the Xbox Series X and S consoles, serving as the backbone for the Xbox Velocity Architecture. Microsoft soon announced it would be coming to Windows PCs, and at the time, we all thought that meant Windows 10. However, when Microsoft announced the feature for Windows 11, it seemed like Windows 10 users might not get DirectStorage. Now, it seems that won’t be the case, but the experience might not be exactly the same.
There are two core benefits of DirectStorage we’ve known about. The first is that it allows multiple IO requests to be handled at the same time. This has become increasingly important in recent years as games are now much bigger than they used to be. It’s also important because NVMe drives have a lot more bandwidth, and having thousands of data access requests creates overhead. With multiple requests being handled at the same time, the full bandwidth of an NVMe drive can be used. Another big benefit is that the GPU can handle decompression of game data to speed up the process even more.
However, there’s something else Microsoft is mentioning now. Windows 11 has a new upgraded storage stack, which allows PCs to take full advantage of DirectStorage. On Windows 10, the company has optimized the legacy storage stack for DirectStorage, but it’s not quite the same. Microsoft doesn’t say how big the difference should be, however.
Games will have to be built specifically for DirectStorage, but they’ll keep working on PCs that don’t support the API, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility. However, you do need an NVMe SSD to use DirectStorage. For developers. the API only has to be implemented once into the game engine, and its benefits will automatically be applied across the game. While the first preview is out now, the GPU decompression capabilities aren’t available yet.