One of the staple features of the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles is the full integration of PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs. Not only do these systems use SSDs to house data, the OS design takes full advantage of the SSD bandwidth, thus enabling rapid loading times; near instantaneous, in some games.
Although the PC market is no stranger to the world of SSDs, squeezing out such breakneck performance the way next-gen consoles do has not really happened yet. That is, until now with the arrival of DirectStorage. Microsoft has officially released its API for the new technology, and it will allow developers to implement it, thus giving PC players enhanced loading times.
How DirectStorage works is that it allows SSDs, specifically NVMe drives, to transfer several gigabytes of data per second. Due to the way that gaming workloads have changed over the years, the existing data transfer processes were not designed for how the workload flows now.
Think of it like a literal highway in an expanding country. At one point, a simple two-lane highway may have sufficed. But due to population booms, there are far more cars on the road and they can travel farther and faster than before. So, now that highway system needs to be expanded into perhaps a four-lane or six-lane network to accommodate the larger number of vehicles. This analogy is in essence what DirectStorage will do for PCs and modern titles.
As Microsoft mentions in its press release for this announcement, Windows 11 is the target OS for this technology. Windows 11 has all of the necessary tools built-in. However, Windows 10 is also supported for those holding off from trying Microsoft’s latest OS. To take full advantage of DirectStorage, you’ll also need to have an NVMe drive with a game build on it that uses the API. After all, this is the same tech working behind the scenes of the Xbox Series X, so the requirements are no surprise.
With this release of the API, developers can get started at implementing it into various titles. The process will get even better over time, as Microsoft promises that it’s “working on even more ways to offload from the CPU.” Additionally, “GPU decompression is next on our road map,” with the goal of improving resource management even more.
For now, there isn’t a list of games nor applications that directly support DirectStorage (pun entirely intended), but that’s likely to become a thing soon. Likewise, keep a lookout for tech tests with supported games/applications.
If you want to transfer your games from an old hard disk drive to your new SSD, we have a guide that explains simple ways to do so.