The screen of my laptop (Dell Vostro 3460) supports 16 levels of brightness: Not only according to the manufacturer, but also as is clear from two OSs: Both Windows 7 and Ubuntu (dual-booted) support all levels. On Windows 7, the hotkeys for brightness adjustment support all levels.

In ubuntu it is apparent when going on the brightness slidebar (see picture below) from left to right; I can count 16 different levels of brightness when doing so.

The brightness slider of ubuntu

When using the hotkeys (Fn+F4 and Fn+F4), however, only 5 levels are supported. How can I adjust these levels and make them in line with what my screen supports?

  • Do the Fn+F4 keys work when your screen is locked (password prompt), but turned on? I have the same problem on my System76 Pangolin Performance laptop. It seems that GNOME is grabbing the brightness keys and doubling the brightness change. When my screen is locked and showing the password prompt, the Fn+F5 and Fn+F6 brightness keys work normally, minus the on-screen notification.
    – Shane S.
    Oct 20, 2012 at 3:42
  • That's weird. Indeed when the screen is locked the steps taken are smaller (yet not as many as in my screen supports). This obviously is a bug, but of what package, and where to report?
    – Koen
    Oct 20, 2012 at 12:27
  • Almost same problem here in my Vostro 3460. I cannot change screen brightness. No levels detected. I've tested through Brightness & Lock settings and through Fn+F4/F5 keys.
    – hgf
    Jul 4, 2013 at 14:15
  • Some other potential solutions may be found here: askubuntu.com/questions/128463/how-to-control-brightness
    – Koen
    Sep 27, 2013 at 12:34
  • Or here. Do any of these answers solve your problem? By the way it may be what Shane is suggesting in that the DE is choosing which levels to go for.
    – Wilf
    Aug 16, 2015 at 9:44

2 Answers 2


While the question is a little different to your question, I found a possible cure when answering this question Cannot change brightness

After I had completed this, I found that I had the full numbers of steps that I was looking for, rather than the 4 I was being given before.


  1. Open Terminal with Ctrl + Alt + T
  2. I typed in sudo gedit /etc/default/grub, entered my password
  3. I changed the line which read

    • GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="acpi_backlight=vendor" (Note: not the vendors name)
  4. Saved and Closed gedit.
  5. in Terminal I updated the Grub with sudo update-grub
  6. I re-booted the laptop
  • 1
    before I'll try and nuke my system: I think 'vendor' should be replaced by a vendor? In that case; how can I find out what I should fill in?
    – Koen
    Sep 15, 2013 at 15:16
  • 1
    No, I added the line as entered above.
    – Simon
    Sep 17, 2013 at 9:34
  • Thanks for the clarification. Note: it did increase my levels from 5 to 7 (plus no backlight). However, this is not up to the amount of levels on the login-screen. Additionally, it breaks launchpad.net/indicator-brightness
    – Koen
    Sep 27, 2013 at 12:24

Same solution as one-liner

For this solution no nano knowledge is required. It is also handy for multi-machine installation scripts.

sudo sed -i 's|^GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash"|GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash acpi_backlight=vendor"|' /etc/default/grub && sudo update-grub

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