Windows 11's best gaming feature now being enabled in Windows 10

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DirectStorage is one of the big three new PC gaming features coming to Windows 11, but despite calling it an OS exclusive around the announcement of the upcoming OS, Microsoft has now confirmed it will be supported in Windows 10 too.

In Sarah Bond's article about the new operating system being the 'best Windows ever for gaming,' Microsoft's gaming corporate VP explicitly states that DirectStorage "will only be available with Windows 11." But a new DirectX Developer Blog post has announced the availability of a developer preview of the DirectStorage API, and in that Hassan Uraizee explains that the SDK will be compatible with Windows 10 from version 1909 and up.

"Microsoft is committed to ensuring that when game developers adopt a new API, they can reach as many gamers as possible," writes Uraizee. "As such, games built against the DirectStorage SDK will be compatible with Windows 10, version 1909 and up; the same as the DirectX 12 Agility SDK."

The promise of DirectStorage is that it streamlines the way game data gets processed, taking advantage of the modern storage hardware in our gaming PCs. Using NVMe SSDs, the DirectStorage API aims to reduce game load times and support the huge open world games of our dreams, ensuring texture data et al gets streamed into the world way beyond your vision rather than popping up in front of your face.

It plans to do this by largely circumventing the processor and quickly loading assets into your graphics card, lowering CPU usage and hopefully improving system performance along the way.

Uraizee breaks down the features of DirectStorage into these bullet points:

  • The new DirectStorage API programming model that provides a DX12-style batched submission/completion calling pattern, relieving apps from the need to individually manage thousands of IO requests/completion notifications per second.
  • GPU decompression providing super-fast asset decompression for load time and streaming scenarios (coming in a later preview).
  • Storage stack optimizations: On Windows 11, this consists of an upgraded OS storage stack that unlocks the full potential of DirectStorage, and on Windows 10, games will still benefit from the more efficient use of the legacy OS storage stack

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It's a genuinely exciting bit of tech, one that's been baked into the new Xbox Series X/S consoles, and one we could see no reason should be ring fenced only for those who upgrade to Windows 11. After all, the new OS started out life as a big feature update for Windows 10, so any barriers would seem to be purely arbitrary if enforced.

But the wider compatibility should mean more gamers have access to the feature, but the broader user base should also encourage developers and publishers to ensure that DirectStorage is considered for new and existing projects.

"This means that any game built on DirectStorage will benefit from the new programming model and GPU decompression technology on Windows 10, version 1909 and up," he reiterates. "Additionally, because Windows 11 was built with DirectStorage in mind, games running on Windows 11 benefit further from new storage stack optimizations."

But developers will only need to implement the new feature once into the game, with the SDK itself controlling which aspects of DirectStorage are available to your system without either you or the developer having to do anything to have it running correctly for their setup.

Having DirectStorage enabled in a game will also not preclude those still tied to hard drives from accessing any given title. "DirectStorage enabled games will still run as well as they always have even on PCs that have older storage hardware (e.g. HDDs)," concludes Uraizee. 

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.