Guides

How DirectStorage on Windows 11 is going to vanquish load times

Windows 11 brings a next-gen feature from the Xbox Series X to PCs. Here’s how to take full advantage of it.

Windows 11 is introducing a bunch of new gaming features, but arguably none are as exciting as DirectStorage.

DirectStorage might not sound particularly sexy, but if the Xbox Series X (which already uses the feature) is any indication, it could drastically reduce load times and open up a whole new world for developers looking to create huge, lush worlds with loads of streaming assets.

What is DirectStorage?

DirectStorage is an API that helps capitalize on new, high-performance SSDs, specifically those that use a protocol called Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe). Instead of tens of megabytes per second, NVMe can deliver multi-gigabyte speeds — that is if you have the infrastructure to support those new and improved speeds.

SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Drowning in I/Os

As noted by Microsoft Developer, Andrew Yeung, DirectStorage is essentially Windows catching up with next-gen SSD hardware. DirectStorage has a number of advantages, but its biggest advantage is the ability to deal with gobs of I/O.

What is “I/O”? It’s just short-hand for “input / output”. If you’ve ever copied a folder with a load of small files, you’ve might have noticed that it’s slower than copying one large file. This is a bit of a simplification, but part of that overhead comes from the need to route all those files through the CPU.

Shutterstock

To deal with that influx, DirectStorage utilizes several more efficient methods for processing I/O requests, including batch requests that deal with parallel I/Os simultaneously. Game assets can now move directly between RAM and the GPU’s onboard memory.

Shutterstock

OK, so how do I use DirectStorage?

The good news is, on the software side, all you need to do to take advantage of DirectStorage’s benefits is download Windows 11, which is the best possible price: free. The bad news is, if you don’t already have a high-performance SSD, you’re going to have to buy one, and you’ll also need to have a compatible GPU as well.

Shutterstock

Luckily, we’ve got you covered with hardware recommendations too

But first...

Shutterstock

Microsoft’s stated DirectStorage requirements:

“An NVMe SSD to store and run games that use the ‘Standard NVM Express Controller’ driver and a DirectX12 GPU with Shader Model 6.0 support.”

Shutterstock

980 PRO PCIe 4.0 NVMe

The actual hardware requirements for DirectStorage are still murky, but Samsung’s 980 Pro and its PCIe 4.0 interface is a pretty safe bet. If PCIe 3.0 SSDs are supported, the SK Hynix Gold P31 might be a good choice because of its great I/O performance.

As you may have noticed in Microsoft’s requirements, you’ll need to use Microsoft’s DirectX 12 Ultimate API, which means you’ll also need a compatible GPU. That means something like Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 30 Series or GeForce RTX 20 series.

Microsoft also specifically names AMD’s new Radeon RX 6800 Series and RX 6900 XT graphics cards in a blog post, though you won’t need something that that high spec to make it work.

Shutterstock

To recap, you’ll need:

- An NVMe SSD (ideally a fast one)

- A GPU that’s compatible with the DirectX 12 Ultimate API

- Windows 11

With that mix of hardware and software, you should be able to fully utilize all that Windows 11 and DirectStorage have to offer, and hopefully once game developer jump onboard we’ll be waving goodbye to load screens.

Share