Microsoft first developed Direct Storage for the Xbox X/S console, but on March 14, 2022, the company made it available for gaming on Windows PCs. Since then, Microsoft has issued two revised versions of DirectStorage, namely Direct Storage 1.1 and Direct Storage 1.2, respectively, on November 7th, 2022 and April 18th, 2023.
It is an API (Application Programming Interface) that greatly reduces the amount of time it takes for game assets to load, hence improving the overall performance of the game. Having said that, not all platforms or games are compatible with this method.
Direct Storage—An Overview
Each and every one of today’s video games have refined and perfected the process of loading their assets by chopping them up into chunks. However, because of the nature of this operation, the assets will need to be requested and loaded each time, which will significantly increase the number of input/output (IO) requests. The low bandwidth of previous hard drives prevented any further optimization of this procedure, hence it was unable to further improve its efficiency.
The NVMe technology has made it possible, however, the older Win32 APIs were still generating bottlenecks in the process. These general-purpose APIs use more CPU cycles and are unable to keep up with the IO bandwidth that NVMe devices deliver.
Therefore, Microsoft developed the Direct Storage application programming interface (API) to make use of the full IO throughput of these devices and load high-quality visual content in an efficient manner. After the original release, Microsoft began to include more advanced features in this API in order to make full use of the capabilities offered by GPUs that are compatible with DirectX 12 Ultimate.
How Does Direct Storage Work?
- A decrease in the CPU’s overhead
- Enhanced Input/Output Throughput
Direct Storage is able to more effectively handle smaller requests when they are processed in batches. It accomplishes this by taking advantage of the enhanced file IO stack that is included in the Windows 11 operating system.
Additionally, in addition to the increased IO bandwidth offered by NVMe drives, it makes use of the additional CPU overhead to carry out an even greater number of IO operations. Because of this, the games will be able to load the essential components much more quickly.
GPU decompression was added to the list of functionalities that Direct Storage offered with the release of version 1.1.
Because uncompressed assets take up a significant amount of space, most modern games employ compressed ones instead. The initial stop for these assets is the random-access memory (system memory). After that, the CPU is responsible for decompressing the files before transferring them to the VRAM of the GPU. Direct Storage 1.1 makes it possible for the GPU, which is better suited for parallel processing, to take on this responsibility instead. The loading time is decreased even further as a result of this technique.
How to Enable Direct Storage?
Direct Storage is an application programming interface (API) made available to game developers as part of a software development kit (SDK). To activate this feature on your computer, you do not need to complete any further steps or make any necessary adjustments.
The required support for the procedure will be incorporated into the games by the respective game creators. If your computer is compatible with this application programming interface (API), then the Direct Storage capabilities will be automatically implemented whenever you play the specific games that require them.
Games that make use of the Direct Storage API are going to be able to run on Windows 10 even if the user only has an older storage device or a GPU that is compatible with DirectX 12, while also delivering certain improvements. However, in order to access all of the functionalities that are made available by this API, you will need to have,
NVMe SSD graphics card that is compatible with Windows 11 and DirectX 12 Ultimate operating system
Through the settings of the Xbox Game Bar, you may determine whether or not your computer supports Direct Storage.