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Microsoft’s DirectStorage may improve loading times by 200%, but don’t get too excited

Microsoft has just introduced GPU decompression to its new DirectStorage API, bringing it to version 1.1.

GPU decompression can provide huge performance gains in gaming — Microsoft promises up to a 200% performance improvement in loading times. Unfortunately, it’s still much too early to get excited — we might not see DirectStorage for quite a while.

Microsoft's DirectStorage loading times comparison.

Microsoft’s DirectStorage is new software that will help games utilize the super-quick loading times on NVMe SSDs. You can read more about it in our in-depth guide on DirectStorage. As the development of DirectStorage progresses, Microsoft has just announced that version 1.1 of its new software is on the horizon, and it’s bringing with it a sizeable update that includes GPU decompression.

Normally, decompression tasks are performed by the processor instead of the graphics card. However, seeing as GPUs do an excellent job of performing the same tasks over and over in parallel, Microsoft decided to try to move some of that decompression work from the CPU to the GPU. Utilizing graphics cores in modern GPUs has proven to be effective in slicing loading times in games by a considerable amount.

In its tests, Microsoft managed to cut the asset loading time down from 2.36 seconds to just 0.8 seconds. For gamers, this means faster loading screens, quicker world-building in open-world games, and an overall performance uplift when assets need to be loaded. Microsoft predicts up to 200% faster performance; three times faster than without GPU decompression. Using GPU decompression also cuts CPU usage by a whopping 85%.

Microsoft plans to have DirectStorage work on both Windows 11 and Windows 10, but the former will have some additional optimizations that might make the API more powerful on Windows 11. AMD and Nvidia are already working on drivers that support DirectStorage. Intel, with its new Arc Alchemist graphics cards, also has such drivers in the works.

DirectStorage certainly sounds impressive, and it could deliver some realistic performance gains to gamers. Unfortunately, we’re still quite far off from seeing the tech spread widely. In fact, despite the fact that it will soon reach version 1.1, DirectStorage is not yet released — and it won’t be for some time.

So far, only one title has been announced to provide access to DirectStorage — ForspokenThe game keeps being delayed though, and the latest update tells us that it won’t arrive before January 2023. That means that Microsoft won’t be able to debut its new API at least until early next year. The good news is that once DirectStorage is here, it might be a very promising addition to Windows 11 and Windows 10.

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Monica J. White
Monica is a UK-based freelance writer and self-proclaimed geek. A firm believer in the "PC building is just like expensive…
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