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I've looked all over and can't find any reason as to why or how Nvidia names their drivers. For example they have a 330.xxx/340.xxx series that are current but also a 300.xxx series. I've also found that they aren't always released in order by number.

Here's an example from their site showing versions and release date:

  • 331.38 - January 13
  • 334.16 - Feb 7
  • 331.49 - Feb 18

I'm really confused about what driver to actually go with. A few different series versions seem to work adequately. I want to have an understanding of the differences between the versions and what the best option would be. I really appreciate any information.

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The choices:

  1. You have a version 304.117 named as NVidia binary X.Org driver ('current' driver) in the Ubuntu Software Center. I'd say - use it if you can get it to run, it is likely to stay where you put it.

  2. https://launchpad.net/~xorg-edgers/+archive/ubuntu/ppa - this may well work, but also break at times. e.g. it broke on 2014-07-10 for me as there was some kind of change in the development build - This is what is currently worked on for Ubuntu.

  3. What you download at nvidia.com - likely to be the very latest there is for nvidia GPU's. But also likely to break at updates, if the updates involve changing things that the driver depends on. Just make sure you check that the driver is for your hardware.

  4. The 'Noveau' driver - cannot comment thoroughly / seems to get in the way for the above.

  • FWIW: I'm using alternative 3 for the time being - keeping a stern eye on updates... – Hannu Aug 21 '14 at 23:25
  • Yeah the Noveau driver seems to be no better than intel graphics and it freaks out when I use minidisplayport. Jockey gives me options of 304.117, 304.117 updates, 331.38 tested, and 331.38 updates and all seem to work so I don't think I need to risk Nvidia's latest. I'm still confused by the naming though, I don't understand how 304 is current and 330 is not. Also I found on Nvidias website my cards driver is version 340 so should 331 or that instead of 304.117? – Patrick Krenz Aug 22 '14 at 5:28
  • I believe it is as simple as this: The lower the number, the older the driver. If there is a driver with lower number available through one update mechanism - then that source is lagging behind in updates. Which means there might be problems, less functionality, adpatation or hardware support. – Hannu Aug 22 '14 at 9:40
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I agree that Nvidia driver versions are confusing, since 4xx Nvidia have introduced the concept of Long Lived, Short Lived and Beta branches, hopefully this will help make things a bit clearer.

There are a few rules of thumb that can help you:

  1. Major version numbers are branches (eg 430.x is the 430 branch).
  2. Branches with higher numbers are newer (435 is newer than 430).
  3. A number of different branches may be getting updates concurrently (at the time of writing both the 430 and 435 branches are being updated).
  4. Some branches are Long Lived (430) and some branches are Short Lived (435) .
  5. Long Lived branches will get updates for a longer period than Short Lived branches (this is similar to how LTS vs non LTS Ubuntu releases work).
  6. Long Lived and Short Lived are not a measure of stability they are a measure of how long the branch will receive updates.

Given the list above you can see that it makes sense to think about Nvidia driver versions like you think about Ubuntu LTS versions. Some people choose to stick with Long Lived (LTS) branches so that they don't need to be upgrading all the time (and possibly they are more stable?). Other people want the latest and greatest so they install the latest Short Lived branch, this is like running an Ubuntu interim release.

Like with Ubuntu LTS releases sometimes the Long Lived branch is the latest branch available.

When it comes to release cadence things are not as clear. I am not sure if there is a fixed number of Short Lived branches between a Long Lived branch or not. I also don't know if there is a regular release cadence.

This nvidia devtalk forum post suggests the following:

  1. There is a new branch every 3 months
  2. Releases alternate between Long Lived and Short Lived branches
  3. Short Lived branches are supported for 3 months
  4. Long Lived branches are supported for 6 months

I have not seen this actually confirmed by Nvidia themselves though.

In terms of branch numbering it looks like Long Lived branch use even numbers while Short Lived branches use odd numbers.

You can find the latest releases listed on this page: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/drivers/unix/. You can find the historical list of releases and release dates here: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/drivers/unix/linux-amd64-display-archive/.

The following links provide more information:

Branch types in the 4xx series

  • Long Lived Branches: 410, 418, 430
  • Short Lived Branches: 415, 435

Beta Branches

There are also Beta branches available where cutting edge features vulkan and openGL features are available.

The 418 branch is confusing it seems to have been a Long Lived beta branch that was promoted to a Long Lived stable branch and then shortly thereafter it was superseded by the 430 Long Lived branch.

In general it seems that Beta Driver Releases (eg for vulkan) can be released from any branch but are nearly always released from the newest branch.

Beta releases can be distinguished as they have a second level of points: 4xx.yy.zz (eg 435.19.03 is a beta release on the latest Short Lived branch).

More information about Vulkan beta releases can be found here.

  • Please point me at any relevant info so I can improve this post. – htaccess Sep 15 at 0:55

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