DirectStorage 1.1 will dramatically reduce PC game load times by using your GPU

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What you need to know

  • DirectStorage 1.1 will come to Windows PCs later this year.
  • The update adds support for GPU decompression, which shifts the workload of decompressing files from a system's CPU to its GPU.
  • GPU decompression should dramatically reduce load times within supported games.

Microsoft will soon release support for DirectStorage 1.1 on Windows 11 and Windows 10. The update follows on the heels of DirectStorage 1.0, which already reduces load times by up to 40% by taking advantage of NVMe drives. Later this year, Microsoft will share an SDK to allow developers to implement DirectStorage 1.1.

DirectStorage is part of what allows games to load quickly on the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. It does so by taking full advantage of the best SSDs or best internal hard drives. The feature can reduce load times by up to 40%, assuming that a system has an NVMe drive. On the PC side of things, DirectStorage was originally exclusive to Windows 11 but Microsoft later added support for the technology to Windows 10.

DirectStorage 1.0 speeds up the transfer process or moving data. DirectStorage 1.1 improves things further by focusing on decompression.

"When a game is run, the assets are transferred to system memory, where the CPU decompresses the data before it is finally copied into GPU memory to be used as needed," explained Microsoft in a dev blog post (opens in new tab). "The transfer and decompression of these assets on gaming devices contributes heavily to load times and limits how much detail can be included in open world scenes."

CPUs have historically taken the brunt of the decompression workload. DirectStorage 1.1 supports GPU decompression, which shifts things to the GPU rather than the CPU.

GPU decompression vs CPU decompression

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft shared an example (shown above) of GPU decompression versus CPU decompression. When relying on the GPU, scenes loaded almost three times faster than when using CPU decompression. Additionally, the CPU could focus on other processes since it didn't have to handle decompression.

DirectStorage 1.1 will be available on Windows 11 and Windows 10, though Microsoft recommends the newer operating system since it has "additional optimizations in the IO stack." The latest feature requires an NVMe SSD, which has always been a requirement for DirectStorage.

Developers have to enable support for DirectStorage 1.1. Microsoft will share an updated SDK to help developers use GPU decompression.

As noted by Tom's Hardware, developers have been slow to adopt DirectStorage for PC games. We'll have to wait to see if DirectStorage 1.1 drives more devs to take advantage of the feature.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).