Load PC Games Quicker: How to Use DirectStorage in Windows 11

edited October 2023 in Gaming

Tired of staring at loading screens? DirectStorage on Windows 11 promises faster loading times for your PC games. Hailing from Xbox's technology stack, this storage improvement API drastically slashes load time to under 4 seconds on Windows and frees up CPU power. 

But what exactly is DirectStorage, and how can you use it? Dive into the core of DirectStorage gaming and discover a straightforward guide to setting it up on your PC. Say goodbye to lag. 

What is DirectStorage?

Microsoft's DirectStorage is a low-level storage API that squashes the bottlenecks between your computer's storage (NVMe SSD) and graphics card (GPU). The result? Up to 40% faster game loading. It also lightens the processor (CPU) overhead by up to 40%, freeing it for other tasks. The result is improved loading speeds and overall system performance.

Why it's a game changer. 

Games contain gigabytes of data, from epic characters to intricate worlds. All this data is squished down (compressed) to keep game file sizes down.

Usually, your CPU has to decompress this data and hand it off to your GPU's VRAM for display. The unpacking phase is time-consuming. It slows down your game's loading time as the CPU gets overwhelmed.

How does DirectStorage make games load faster? 

DirectStorage speeds up this unpacking process by allowing games to efficiently load assets directly from the NVMe SSD. Instead of sending compressed data to the CPU for decompression, it's sent directly to the GPU.

When you fire up a game, it can pull the data more efficiently and reduce the CPU overhead between 20% and 40%. That's a vast improvement in gaming performance.

The game assets are loaded in smaller, manageable packets, facilitating a continuous and faster data stream. This tweak speeds up the game loading times and eases the CPU load, ensuring a smoother, more responsive gaming experience. However, you'll need a modern high-end GPU to fully utilize this feature.

At GDC 2022, Luminous Productions showed that by implementing DirectStorage, Forspoken's load times could shrink from 10 seconds to 2! They loaded a 5.5GB Forspoken scene in a blazing 1.9 seconds in the demo.

DirectStorage: The next level 

DirectStorage versions 1.1 and 1.2 leverage modern GPU decompression techniques, eliminating delays in rendering graphics. Unlike the traditional setup, where the GPU has to wait for the CPU, the GPU now receives substantial amounts of compressed data at once.

Gone are the days when gaming APIs read data at a snail's pace of MB/s. With DirectStorage, it taps into the high-speed GB/s bandwidth provided by NVMe SSDs.  

On an NVMe SSD, I/O speeds increased from 2,862MB/s using Win32 to 4,829MB/s using DirectStorage—nearly a 70% increase. So, I/O bottlenecks are gone.

What you get are:

  • Boosted framerates. 
  • Near-instant loading times. 
  • Developers can craft more intricate games.

With an NVMe SSD and a DirectX 12 GPU, load times speed up significantly if the game supports DirectStorage. The only catch? Not all games are optimized for this feature.

How to use DirectStorage in Windows 11 

DirectStorage is built into Windows 11—no manual setup needed. You'll automatically get faster load times if your PC hardware and game title support DirectStorage.

For DirectStorage, your PC needs to meet or exceed these specifications:

  • NVMe SSD: A 1TB or larger NVMe SSD is essential, with a PCIe 4.0 SSD recommended for optimal performance. 
  • High-Performance GPU: A GPU supporting DirectX 12 Ultimate and Shader Model 6.0 is required. Compatible options include Nvidia RTX 2000 or above or AMD RDNA 2 & 3. 
  • Windows 10 & 11 Installation: DirectStorage is compatible with Windows 10 (version 1909 or higher). However, it performs significantly better on Windows 11 due to new storage stack improvements.

You must save your game files to your NVMe for the best experience.

Does my computer meet the DirectStorage requirements? 

To work out if your PC is compatible with DirectStorage, you'll need to check two main components:

  • Your storage drive.
  • Video card.

Here's a guide to check if your system is DirectStorage ready:

  1. Access the Xbox game bar: Press the Windows Key + G to open the Xbox Game Bar overlay.
  2. Open Settings: Click on the Settings gear icon to navigate further. 
  3. Open Gaming Features menu:
    1. Select the Gaming Features tab on the left menu to see if your computer is DirectStorage ready. 
    2. Under the Graphics section, check if your system supports DirectX 12 Ultimate. 
    3. Scroll down to the DirectStorage section to check if your GPU and drives are DirectStorage ready.

Which games support DirectStorage? 

Microsoft says that DirectStorage implementation can improve game load times by 20-40%. However, developers must make their titles compatible with the technology to see faster load times. 

As of now, DirectStorage technology is new, and game development is long, so only a few game titles are embracing it:

  • Forspoken
  • Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

Diablo IV and Hunt: Showdown has announced plans to incorporate it in future updates. While the list is lean for now, expect a torrent of titles to join the DirectStorage bandwagon as the technology evolves in the coming years.

The Benefits of DirectStorage 

  1. Faster game loading: DirectStorage slashes game load times, letting you dive into gameplay faster by 30% or more. Say goodbye to those long-loading screens. 
  2. Reduced CPU overload: By bypassing the CPU for data decompression, DirectStorage lightens the CPU's workload, allowing it to focus on other critical gaming processes. When paired with an NVMe SSD and utilized on Windows 11, CPU overhead can be reduced by 20% to 40%. 
  3. Efficient data handling: Assets load in small, manageable packets for smoother gameplay and quicker transitions. 
  4. GPU efficiency: DirectStorage lets the GPU directly access compressed data, speeding up rendering. DirectStorage sends compressed data straight to the GPU thanks to modern compression tech. This makes rendering faster and more efficient. 
  5. Boosted framerates: Efficient data handling leads to higher framerates and a smoother gaming experience. GPU decompression can reduce CPU overhead to allow fewer frame drops. 
  6. Advanced game design: Developers get to build more complex and detailed game environments, all thanks to faster data access. 
  7. Maximize SSD speed: Get top performance from your NVMe SSD with DirectStorage optimization. 
  8. Future-proof gaming: As more titles adopt this tech, you're all set for a new era of lightning-fast, deeply immersive gaming.

DirectStorage is on the verge of changing the game—literally. While it's not universally adopted, the potential benefits are too significant to ignore. Faster load times, improved CPU efficiency, and jaw-dropping game worlds are just around the corner. Microsoft is pushing hard to make this tech a new standard, and as the tech matures, more game developers are likely to jump on board.

So, if you're a gamer, watch this space. Your load screens might soon be a thing of the past, and those sprawling, intricate game worlds? They're about to get even more mind-blowing.

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.


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