Do you need a PCIe 4.0 SSD to use Windows DirectStorage in games?

Samsung 980 Pro
Samsung 980 Pro (Image credit: Windows Central)

Do you need a PCIe 4.0 SSD to use Windows DirectStorage in games?

Best answer: No, DirectStorage works with all NVMe drives including the slower PCIe 3.0 spec, though naturally performance will be better with PCIe 4.0 and Windows 11.

What is DirectStorage?

DirectStorage is an API that is part of DirectX. Microsoft has already implemented it into the Xbox Velocity Architecture found on the new Xbox Series X and Series S consoles and has since brought it to the PC, at first with Windows 11.

On a DirectStorage-compatible machine playing an enabled title, players will experience dramatically reduced load times thanks to the new API. Described by Microsoft:

Unfortunately, current storage APIs were not optimized for this high number of IO requests, preventing them from scaling up to these higher NVMe bandwidths creating bottlenecks that limit what games can do. Even with super-fast PC hardware and an NVMe drive, games using the existing APIs will be unable to fully saturate the IO pipeline leaving precious bandwidth on the table.That's where DirectStorage for PC comes in. This API is the response to an evolving storage and IO landscape in PC gaming. DirectStorage will be supported on certain systems with NVMe drives and work to bring your gaming experience to the next level. If your system doesn't support DirectStorage, don't fret; games will continue to work just as well as they always have.

DirectStorage isn't a fix for every game on every system, then, but eventually the ecosystem will grow. It's built into Windows 11 first and that's where you'll see the most benefit, but it is also going to be useable on Windows 10 but with a reduced impact.

PCIe 4.0 for best performance but not required

DirectStorage requires an SSD that conforms to the NVMe standard, which covers a wide range of storage drives. What isn't required is a PCIe 4.0 SSD, which means that even slightly older hardware will be able to take advantage of its benefits.

Obviously, though, the faster PCIe 4.0 SSDs will give the best performance. As they're now supported by both AMD and Intel, if you're building a new Windows 11 gaming PC you should absolutely be putting one at the heart of your system, like the superb Samsung 980 Pro.

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at