You can verify that your system is ready for DirectStorage (opens in new tab) now thanks to a new preview of the Microsoft Game Bar feature in Windows 11. The Gaming Features tab in the settings menu tells you if your system is ready for DirectX 12 Ultimate and allows you to enable HDR and Auto HDR without diving into the myriad Windows settings screens and now shows which parts of your system are ready for the next-generation DirectStorage feature and which are not.
It feels like we’ve been digging into DirectStorage for ages without actually having anything to show off. But that doesn’t stop us from being really excited for a new feature that will make the most of the fast SSDs we’ve been stuffing into our systems for years.
You can check for yourself how ready your system is for the new feature by using an Insider Preview build of Windows Game Bar. Don’t worry, you don’t have to switch your entire Windows installation to a potentially buggy developer build, although you do need to enable insider access on a Microsoft account. It’s free and easy to register (opens in new tab).
Then all you have to do is download the Xbox Insider Hub from the Windows Store. Yes, sorry, I will force you to go to the store, I know this is not ideal. On one of the Windows 11 installs I tried this on my store and refused to download or install anything no matter what I tried. So excuse me if you bang your head against that particular wall as well.
However, on my main system, Xbox Insider Hub installed straight away. So you might get lucky.
Once installed, click the Preview tab and select Windows Gaming Preview. Once you’ve opted in, you can return to your store’s library page and click Get Updates. That should then update the Xbox Game Bar app and you’re good to go.
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Then all you have to do is press Win+G and check the Gaming Features tab of the settings menu to see if your GPU and operating system are optimized for DirectStorage, and which of your installed drives are.
So why are we excited about this?
Games haven’t really benefited from advanced storage options like NVMe SSDs in the past, and that’s largely because there were still plenty of systems still rocking old-school hard drives and developers were busy trying to find the lowest common denominator to use. And lately, that has meant catering to the console crowd.
But with the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 machines now using NVMe storage by default, there’s a push to actually use such a fast medium for its potential gaming advantages.
And what are these?
Not only does it offer fast level loading, but it also enables seamless game worlds with assets and various game data streaming in the background while you play. And it’s possible because DirectStorage frees up a lot of CPU resources by allowing the GPU to talk to your SSD.
Microsoft estimates that with DirectStorage enabled in-game, CPU overhead is reduced by 20-40%. (opens in new tab). And both AMD and Nvidia are convinced with their SmartAccess Storage (opens in new tab) and RTX-IO (opens in new tab) They introduce capabilities for their own GPU architectures to support the DirectStorage API.
Which, okay, is still not available in any released game, although we know Forspoken will at least support it and aim to use DirectStorage to reduce its load times to just a second (opens in new tab) on an NVMe SSD. You see, it needs to be both implemented by a game’s developers and optimized within that game to make it work. So yes, it takes its own sweet time.
But Forspoken is coming in October. Unless that too slips out of the meager release schedule of 2022. And hopefully we don’t have to wait a few more months for the developers to release the possible DirectStorage patch.