This Answer is oriented towards learning if your Video card is supported, the difference between drivers (sources). what drivers to install and how to install them
- 1. Can I use the latest driver on an older version of Ubuntu?
- 2. Difference between video cards & drivers: Official site, Ubuntu's Default, PPA?
- 3. What PPAs are recommended when using any video card?
- 4. How to know which driver or package to install?
- 5. How to install a driver?
- 6. Difference between Proprietary Drivers?
- 7. How to know if my video card is supported in Ubuntu?
For Troubleshooting Nvidia Problems or Overclocking Settings please see this answer which covers:
- 1. What common bugs are solved by using the latest drivers?
- 2. My video card is not installing (Installation problems)
- 3. Tuning and Tweaking by Video card
Top questions asked about video cards:
1. Can I use the latest driver on an older version of Ubuntu?
Since 12.04+ video drivers are maintained and updated more often. It is easier to handle and solve the problems that showed with older ones. You most likely won't need additional PPAs unless you have the latest Nvidia card.
2. Difference between video cards & drivers: Official site, Ubuntu's Default, PPA
I recommend them in the following order according to problems found, how the "out of the box" experience feels to end users, how compatible they are and how it will feel once you have it set up:
Intel - Works out of the box. Most will work with no problems. Great for using a Video Beam. Just plug it in. The benefits relate to how fast the Intel video card is. In general you should not have any problems with them.
NVIDIA - Great Performance. It works out of the box for most cards by using Nouveau and if you follow the easy to install proprietary drivers it will run perfect. Has little problems that can be quickly solved if you happen to have some of the cards that have minor details (Which can also be solved if you update to a more recent driver version or Ubuntu version). Most cards work excellent with Unity. I have tested cards from a Geforce 4600 TI 128MB up to a 680 GTX.
ATI - Similar performance as Nvidia. Works out of the box but has a bit more issues than Nvidia. If you install the proprietary drivers you will get a good jump in performance but again, this are not generally as good as Nvidia. My curiosity lies in that ATI is more open to the open source environment than Nvidia and yet has a bit more problems with video. This has started to change and ATI has gained an overall better performance.
This applies even more to laptops. So if I had 3 laptops to choose from and they all were the same except for the video card, I would definitely choose Intel over Nvidia, and Nvidia over Ati.
In the case of 3 Desktop PCs I would choose Nvidia over Intel and Intel over Ati.
In general, Ubuntu will work without problems or at least with a minimum of tweaking. The performance gain in the past months for all 3 and the amount of fixes they have received just lets us know that there will be fewer problems for each new version of Ubuntu.
There are several points I wish to address here. As I mentioned before, there are at least 3 ways to install a driver. You can either download the driver from the Official site, use the one that comes with Ubuntu by default (Either open source or proprietary) or add a PPA and use the one that comes with it (There are more ways but I will not cover compiling drivers).
For Intel you either use the drivers that come with Ubuntu (Which can be updated every time you update the system) or add a PPA that will offer the latest version of the Intel Drivers. This can solve issues when using Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge or any other newer or older Intel graphics cards. More about installing the PPA later.
For Nvidia and Ati/AMD, you have 3 options, you can either use the driver that comes from the Official site, use the one that comes in a PPA or use the one that comes by default with Ubuntu (In the form of the Open Source one or the Proprietary one).
The differences can be summed in the following points:
-- Official Site --
- Offers the latest driver
- Installation is through the terminal
- When an update appears you have to manually download the new package
- It has more issues than any other method (Specially for Nvidia)
- It is the 2nd recommended way for Ati/AMD and the last one for Nvidia
- Drivers for Ati/AMD are much better than the ones that come by default
-- PPA Repositories --
- Offers the latest driver hours/days after it's official release
- Installation is either through terminal or GUI
- If you have a previously installed driver it will update the package automatically
- When an update appears you will be notified to update using the Update Manager
- It is more stable and tested than the official ones
- It has less issues than using any other method (Less issues for all video cards)
- It is the 1st recommended way for Ati/AMD and Nvidia. Intel drivers that come by default are excellent.
-- Default Ubuntu Drivers --
- For every new release the drivers get better and better (Specially for Intel)
- Gets updated less frequently than a PPA
- In most cases the drivers will work out of the box (Nouveau for Nvidia)
- Not up to date when compared with the official site or a PPA
- More stable for Intel
- Development is going well for all video cards.
- It is by far, more tested in Ubuntu than any other way (PPA or Official)
- Easier to update
3. What PPAs are recommended when using any video card?
The best PPAs for video cards in Ubuntu are:
Ubuntu X Swat OBSOLETE - It'd offered a more updated version of the video card drivers in general and took normally between 2 to 10 days for a new version to arrive once it appears on the official site. It was more tested and stable than the Xorg-Edgers version.
Xorg Edgers RECOMMENDED - The name implies that it is bleeding edge but don't let that fool you. Since 12.04 it has progressively become more and more stable. When using 12.10 (Or even the 13.04 Beta) for cases like Intel and Nvidia, the video card runs much better and offers better performance. It updates more quickly than X-Swat with a time frame between 1 to 5 days (The last versions have all come out on the same day as the official one).
To install simply run the
add-apt-repository command in the terminal as shown:
Xorg Edgers RECOMMENDED
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa
This would add the Xorg Edgers PPA to your system. This PPA is for 12.04+.
sudo apt-get update
This would update the system and make sure your system knows of the packages provided by the added PPA.
sudo apt-get upgrade
This would update the system taking into consideration any packages the PPA offers.
4. How to know which driver or package to install?
Depending on how many video cards you have and if they are integrated or not, the installation method and packages to install will change.
COMPUTERS WITH A SINGLE VIDEO CARD
Nvidia right now has several package versions for different generations of Nvidia cards:
Nvidia 1xx - For older Nvidia Cards ranging from Geforce MX up to the 9xxx series.
Nvidia 2xx - For older Nvidia Cards ranging from Geforce MX up to the 9xxx series.
Nvidia 3xx - For newer ones. Goes from the Geforce 6xxx series up to the latest ones. Note, for the Geforce 600 series, you actually need the 313 or 319 series because of better support, HDMI enhancements and more. I recommend the 319.
If you are using an older Ubuntu version you might see Nvidia package version like 185.xx, 275.xx and others. With the latest Ubuntu versions, this gets a bit of cleaning up and simplifies the amount of packages.
COMPUTERS WITH A SLI SETUP
Now if you have 2 or more video cards in SLI mode you can do the following:
For NVidia cards, when creating the
Xorg.conf add the following to the line:
sudo nvidia-xconfig --sli=On
COMPUTERS WITH A TWO VIDEO CARDS IN HYBRID MODE
In case you have for example, a laptop that has 2 video cards integrated. One Intel and the other Nvidia, using the methods provided by the other settings is not recommended. At least for any video drive lower than 319.17 (Which is the version that comes with Hybrid support). You would need to follow the install procedure for Bumblebee (Optimus) packages which were made for Hybrid scenarios like this, where the user has 2 video cards from 2 different companies and where one video card is typically used for lower power usage and the other for gaming.
Lastly, Ubuntu has a neat way of recommending which driver to use depending on your video card and drivers available (This is why I also recommend adding the PPAs first). Simply type:
It should show you a list of driver packages available for your hardware, including but not limited to the video card. If you wish to see which driver is recommended for your video card then simply type the following:
ubuntu-drivers devices | grep recommended
For example, in my case, since I have an Nvidia 560 ti I got the following:
cyrex@cyrex:~$ ubuntu-drivers devices
== /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:01.0/0000:01:00.0 ==
model : GF114 [GeForce GTX 560 Ti]
modalias : pci:v000010DEd00001200sv000019DAsd00002227bc03sc00i00
vendor : NVIDIA Corporation
driver : nvidia-313 - third-party free
driver : nvidia-313-updates - distro non-free
driver : nvidia-310-updates - distro non-free
driver : nvidia-310 - distro non-free
driver : xserver-xorg-video-nouveau - distro free builtin
driver : nvidia-304 - distro non-free
driver : nvidia-304-updates - distro non-free
driver : nvidia-319 - third-party free recommended
cyrex@cyrex:~$ ubuntu-drivers devices|grep recommended
driver : nvidia-319 - third-party free recommended
This way I know I need to install the nvidia-319 package.
5. How to install a driver?
The method used will be depend on how many video cards you have and which type of video cards you are using. The following are some of the ways of installing an Nvidia video card:
NVIDIA (Old Drivers that need the headers)
For Nvidia, many times you need to first install the header files of the kernel version you are using at that moment for the driver to install correctly. So you would first need to execute the following line:
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-generic
And then install the package related to the driver (nvidia* for Nvidia cardss). In other cases you might need to go a little further and install the sources and specific header files, for example:
sudo apt-get install linux-source linux-headers-3.5.0-16-generic
which installs the
linux-source package and the specific header file assuming you have in this case the
3.5.0-16-generic kernel version.
To check which version you have at any given time type
uname -r which should give you the specific kernel version in use.
For Nvidia, it depends on the video card and package needed for it, if the video card is old then most likely you will end up running an Nvidia 1xx driver, like the following line:
sudo apt-get install nvidia-173
(Again, assuming you added the PPA)
or one of the following:
sudo apt-get install nvidia-304
sudo apt-get install nvidia-graphics-drivers-304
If you have one of the latest Nvidia cards (For example an Nvidia 2xx Series and above), then it is recommended to install the latest package which at this moment is:
sudo apt-get install nvidia-313
If you have an Nvidia Geforce 600 Series card or Titan, I highly recommend using the 319 series:
sudo apt-get install nvidia-319
Of course, the newer the version, the more fixes it brings and issues it solves related to graphics corruption, HDMI support, thermal support and more on the latest Nvidia cards. If you are having VGA/HDMI issues where it works in one mode and not in the other, then go with the
nvidia-313 or newer to solve this issue. Specially when using TVs.
Note that Fan Control and any other Nvidia features that are not found on the
nvidia-settings app, are not Ubuntu related, but Nvidia related. I would recommend, asking the Nvidia developers in the official Nvidia forum about features you may want to include (Fan Control, Overclocking features, etc...)
The exception for both here is when you have 2 video cards (Like a laptop with an Intel video card and an Nvidia card). In this cases I would suggest the following links:
NOTE: Before doing the following remember to first remove any installed Nvidia Packages:
sudo apt-get purge nvidia*
For Bumblebee (NVIDIA Optimus) you can use the following PPA:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:bumblebee/stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bumblebee
6. Difference between Proprietary Drivers?
This is more of an Nvidia question, but as I mentioned in Difference between Additional Drivers (Nvidia) there is some information that you should know:
In general there are 3 options:
The Open Source Nouveau which runs by default if no other Proprietary driver is installed.
The Proprietary driver (Tested)
The Proprietary driver (Experimental)
Depending if "you feel lucky punk!" you can go with Nouveau which works well in most cases but it is not recommended if you want to start testing out Windows Games with Wine or Ubuntu games that use extensive OpenGL (Specially now that Steam is available in Ubuntu).
Then you have the Tested Proprietary drivers. This will work stable and give you considerable more FPS for your card than Nouveau.
Lastly you have the Experimental Proprietary drivers. This will work good in most cases (Using them right now and they work perfectly). This drivers bring a considerably higher performance. You should feel the change when playing L4D2 or see it with unity on how fast Dash and other Compiz features react.
Depending on which one you want, you can go with Open Source Nouveau, Proprietary Tested one or the Experimental one. Note only that either of the Proprietary drivers is recommended for the latest Nvidia cards (Series 6000 and above). Nouveau is more general in that regards but will not offer powerful 3D performance.
7. How to know if my video card is supported in Ubuntu?
Here are a couple of hints to know if your video card is supported in Ubuntu:
If the video card existed BEFORE the release of the Ubuntu version you are using, it has a 99% change it will be supported.
If the video card appeared less than 6 months AFTER the release of the Ubuntu version you are using and you kept that Ubuntu version updated, then you have a pretty good chance it will be supported.
If you added one of the PPAs I mentioned above then you have a 99.99% chance that it will be supported.
Checking the Nvidia/Ati/Intel site for support might yield a quicker answer, but in almost 100% of all cases, your video card will be support either by the open source driver or by the proprietary driver. In most cases, it will be the proprietary driver.
Using the latest Ubuntu version will also improve your chances of having your latest video card supported.
In general, I make it a rule of thumb that if you have the latest video card or almost one of the latest video cards, you will need the latest drivers (Nvidia and Ati mostly). So always install the latest drivers through the PPA or the Software Sources that come with Ubuntu (Jockey in older versions of Additional Drivers).
NOTE - Ubuntu might show in the Graphics option in "About This Computer" the value Unknown. If this is happening, please install the