Microsoft is Still Bringing DirectStorage to Windows 10 Too

Posted on July 20, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Games, PC gaming, Windows 10, Windows 11 with 14 Comments

DirectStorage is one of the gaming innovations in Xbox Series X|S that Microsoft will bring to Windows 11. But it looks like Windows 10 will get some love, too.

My, what a tortured path this has been.

Microsoft introduced DirectStorage as part of its Xbox Velocity Architecture in the Xbox Series X|S in late 2020. What it boils down to is that the new consoles have super-fast SSD storage that is specifically designed for consistent, sustained performance.

In September 2020, Microsoft said that it would bring DirectStorage to Windows 10 PCs that were equipped with specially-designed NVMe-based SSD drives, and that on compatible systems, games would be more detailed and expansive than before. But when Microsoft announced Windows 11, it appeared that DirectStorage would be unique to that new platform instead.

Now, Microsoft has explained that it will provide DirectStorage on both Windows 10 and Windows 11. But it will be better on Windows 11.

“Games built against the DirectStorage SDK will be compatible with Windows 10 version 1909 and up, the same as the DirectX 12 Agility SDK,” Microsoft’s Hassan Uraizee writes. “On Windows 10, games will still benefit from the more efficient use of the legacy OS storage stack, [but] on Windows 11, this consists of an upgraded OS storage stack that unlocks the full potential of DirectStorage.”

In other words, DirectStorage will work with both Windows 10 and Windows 11, but Windows 11 gamers will “benefit further from new storage stack optimizations.” And the story hasn’t changed for PCs that don’t meet DirectStorage’s hardware requirements: On such PCs, DirectStorage-enabled games will still run as well as they always have, Microsoft says.

Since Windows 10 and 11 are literally the same operating system and will be serviced identically, this delineation of DirectStorage capabilities is, of course, arbitrary and silly. And while I understand Microsoft trying to push its user base to the new platform, this kind of move is divisive and will lead to some hard feelings from those that wish—or have to—stick with Windows 10.

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Microsoft is Still Bringing DirectStorage to Windows 10 Too”

  1. Greg Green

    This is one of the major reasons some gamers would need to move to Win11, and now it’s not necessary. Kind of like Win 11 itself.

    • bluvg

      This pattern repeats itself with every Windows release. Eventually it will be necessary.

  2. ringofvoid

    I think they'd have been better drawing a line in the sand. You want the new features, you need to upgrade. You're going to be required to have 8th gen CPU or newer, you need TPM 2.0 and you need PCIe4.0 Nvme if you want DirectStorage. Especially for this feature. It's simply going to work better on a newer system with an 8th gen or newer CPU & PCIe4.0 than it will on a 7th gen or older with PCIe3.0.

    • Usman

      If we're basing it off the xbox specs, a pcie gen 3 4x ssd has the same throughout performance as the Xbox Series ssds. The Xbox Series ssds are only using 2x lanes on pcie gen 4, which is the same as a pcie ssd using 4x lanes.

      If the requirement is a pcie gen 4 x4 Lane ssd, then you can get same performance on pcie gen 3, by using an 8 lane ssd provided that ssd is rated for upto 7000mbs read.

    • bkkcanuck

      I disagree with that, at least as far as the next year or two is concerned. Windows 11 seems to be focused on a UI refresh and security improvement at this time. All new computers with a Windows license included should be preinstalled with Windows 11 (of course I am talking of the consumer market). This time they don't need the hard push that they did with Windows 10 (with Windows 10 there was a financial incentive to Microsoft to push everyone over there based on expectations of being able to derive more money from the Microsoft Store). As there will be a larger number of computers in use without being able to upgrade, the focus should be on specific areas of improvement are Windows 11 only (enhanced security and UI), while making the cut-over less impactful... They should focus on the next generation of UI and development tools (the plumbing) and as much as possible have the plumbing go into both Windows 10 and 11 (the bigger the development base, the more likelihood it would have uptake - if it can make things quicker/easier to develop). They have to focus on moving the platform forward so that they can deprecate old foundational support while giving an easier transition to developers so that it becomes as simple as possible to migrate and move forward. A hard-cutoff this time would likely be counter productive.

    • thretosix

      I think the issue here is that with Direct Storage is really only for a very small scope of people who use a PC. I think the people who would have been upset the most are people who just spent thousands on a newish PC that still don't meet the requirements for Windows 11. Even the security aspect which is a concern for some, TPM newer CPU requirements for security settings, this is something that is more for Enterprise and Winsock compliance, though Windows 10 is capable of everything Windows 11 is in this area to if you enable it. The business market is where it will be needed the most. This will be very good for IT jobs in 2024-2025 but for the everyday consumer unless they buy something new that takes the update there just isn't anything that makes someone go, I need Windows 11.

    • blue77star

      There is no 8th Core CPU and PCIe4. PCIe4 is not available on Intel platform until 11th Gen, Rocket Lake in other words Microsoft reasoning has no basis.

  3. north of 49th

    Microsoft upgraded the storage stack in Windows for Windows 11?  Are there changes anyone would notice that are not DirectStorage related? 

    Also, am I reading between the lines that Game Developers need more of an audience to justify the inclusion of DirectStorage in their games beyond Windows 11?  This change to allow some Windows 10 qualifying systems is Microsoft’s compromise?

  4. lezmaka

    "Since Windows 10 and 11 are literally the same operating system" - so Microsoft is flat out lying when they say that the "storage stack" is different between Windows 10 and 11?

    • codymesh

      I mean, technically the feature isn't in Windows 10 now. They're adding it in an update. So the storage stack will be different in the update.

  5. waethorn

    PC manufacturers could learn something about how Apple does storage with their silicon. If that hardware was available on PC's, you could easily implement DirectStorage. PCIe is pretty lame if you can build the controller into the SoC or CPU and use dedicated high-bandwidth interconnects.

    I figure the PS5 storage system is more similar to what Apple does than anything else. It looks like they're using Infinity Fabric over GMI.

    • madthinus

      I think this is where the IO stack upgrades in Windows 11 comes in. I do believe it is possible for the PC to do the same bypass of the CPU by offloading directly to the controller in the SSD and to route data directly to the Graphics Card VRAM. However, the IO stack needs to be aware and modernised to do this. So DirectStorage API is one part of this, Resize BAR on the PCI-E bus another and it works in PCI 3.0 and up. Besides, the file scheduler and IO interface in Windows has not been touched in years.

  6. Maverick010

    It makes sense to some degree as Microsoft is focused on PC gaming again, and wants to at least provide the same feature set to some degree and possibly to get more developers on board at first and not alienate Windows 10 users. With the new storage stack and possible other under the hood changes, I can see why they would tout Windows 11 as having the edge.

    I am taking a big guess here that the Storage stack was only part of a major change Microsoft plans on making, and there may be more changes with future updates, some of what Microsoft has not disclosed that may separate the two OS's further, as Microsoft did say this was for the next era of Windows. Seems like they will slowly be decoupling the legacy underpinnings this time and putting security and communication with Teams front and center (although they botched the message when introducing Windows 11). I have been using the latest insider preview and so far love it as the GUI makes it feel more responsive and it just looks nicer. Games see the same to maybe as much as a 7-9% increase, with a few taking a 1-5% decrease in performance, but nothing too impactful and the OS is still in development. I am going into this with an open mind.

  7. ivarh

    Is this not what have been in unix since the late 80’s? If you open a disk with it’s raw device and then get do a read to a memory buffer the OS offloads the io to the DMA controller on the disk HBA (if it supports dma, scsi and fibre channel controllers have as far as I have been working with unix). Since the gpu’s memory buffer is mapped into the cpu’s memory address space nothing would stop you from getting a pointer to this memory and using that in the read system call. Or have I missed something obvious here?