You can check if your system is ready for DirectStorage (opens in a new tab) right now with a new preview of the Microsoft Game Bar feature in Windows 11. The Game Features tab in the settings menu will let you know if your system is ready for DirectX 12 Ultimate, let you enable HDR and Auto HDR without dive into the myriad of Windows settings screens, and now show which parts of your system are and aren’t ready for next-gen DirectStorage functionality.
It feels like we’ve been talking about DirectStorage for quite some time, without really having anything to show for it. But that doesn’t stop us from being really excited about a new feature that will make the most of the fast SSDs we’ve been stuck in our systems for years.
You can check for yourself how ready your system is for the new feature using an Insider Preview build of Windows Game Bar. Don’t worry, you don’t need to switch your entire Windows installation to a potentially flaky development build, although you do need to enable Insider access on a Microsoft account. It’s free and easy to register (opens in a new tab).
Then all you have to do is download the Xbox Insider Hub from the Windows Store. Yeah, sorry, I’ll get you into the Store, I know that’s not ideal. On one of the Windows 11 installs I tried this on my store, I refused to download or install anything no matter what I tried. So excuse me if you bang your head against that particular brick wall too.
On my main system, however, Xbox Insider Hub installed immediately. So you might get lucky.
Once installed, click on the Preview tab and select the Windows Gaming preview. Once you’ve signed up, you can then return to your store’s Library page and click Get Updates. This should then update the Xbox Game Bar app and you’re good to go.
Image 1 of 4
Then just press Win+G and check the Gaming Features tab in the settings menu to see if your GPU and operating system are optimized for DirectStorage, and which of your installed drives are too.
So why are we excited about it?
Games historically haven’t really benefited from advanced storage options, such as NVMe SSDs, and that’s largely because there were still plenty of systems that still rocked old-school hard drives. and that developers were busy responding to the lowest common denominator. And lately, that has meant catering to the needs of the console crowd.
But with Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 machines now using NVMe storage as standard, there’s an impetus to actually use such fast media for their potential gaming benefits.
And what are they?
Along with offering fast level loads, it will enable seamless game worlds with assorted resources and game data streaming in the background as you play. And this is possible because DirectStorage frees up a ton of CPU resources by allowing the GPU to talk to your SSD.
Microsoft estimates that with DirectStorage enabled in-game it will reduce CPU overhead by 20-40% (opens in a new tab). And AMD and Nvidia are both convinced because, with their SmartAccess Storage (opens in a new tab) and RTX IO (opens in a new tab) features, they are introducing ways for their own GPU architectures to support the DirectStorage API.
Which, admittedly, still isn’t available in any released game, though we know Forspoken at least will support it, and aim to use DirectStorage to cut its load times down to just one second. (opens in a new tab) on an NVMe SSD. Look, it needs both implementation by a game’s developers, as well as optimizations within that game to make it work. So yes, it takes time.
But Forspoken is on its way in October. Unless that also slips from the sterile release schedule of 2022. And hopefully we won’t have to wait another few more months for the developers to release the eventual DirectStorage patch.