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ubuntu graphics driverBeing a Linux user lets you have a pretty cool choice – open source or proprietary software. While a lot of die-hard Linux users will scream at you if you use anything proprietary (and I recommend not using proprietary software unless absolutely necessary, but that’s still your choice), you can still install whatever the heck you want.

There are a good amount of proprietary products that are being made available for Linux, both free and paid, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. But because Linux allows the best of both worlds, you may also be curious about the proprietary drivers that are available.

Why Do You Possibly Need Proprietary Drivers?

In virtually all distributions, only open source drivers that come with the Linux kernel are used out of the box. While this should be perfectly fine for simple use (and it should work on any graphics setup), AMD and nVidia users may still feel the need to use the more powerful proprietary drivers so that games, videos, and more all play as smoothly as possible.

Intel users shouldn’t feel left out. Intel doesn’t offer any proprietary drivers, but instead pushes all of its work directly to its only set of graphics drivers, which are open source and included with the kernel.


ubuntu graphics driver

Ubuntu users have the easier route to getting these drivers installed. You’ll simply need to open your dash, menu, etc. and look for the Additional Drivers application. This little program will look to see if you have any hardware in your system that could be better supported through proprietary drivers. While it may also include wireless drivers, this is usually the place for the proprietary graphics drivers.


Simply click on which you’d like to install (I’d usually go with the latest), and apply.

If you like a more technical route, you can technically find the fglrx package for AMD cards and nvidia-glx-xxx for nVidia cards (where xxx is the version number, like 185), but I recommend using the Additional Drivers application as it takes care of everything, and I’ve run into problems just installing fglrx through the package manager instead of through Additional Drivers.


ubuntu graphics driver

Fedora users have it a little more difficult, but it’s very manageable. First, you’ll need to head over to this site and install the free and non-free packages for your version of Fedora. These packages will add information about the repository which hosts the proprietary drivers, as the default repositories of Fedora are open-source only. Once that completes, you should now be able to search for kmod-catalyst for AMD cards or kmod-nvidia for nVidia cards.

This is a package that keeps track of dependencies and kernel modules, so whenever you install a new kernel it’ll update the drivers as well. Install, restart, and you’re up and running!


While I’d love to see proprietary-quality open source drivers, I highly doubt that something like that will ever occur. For those who need to use all of the horsepower their cards provide (especially when you have a higher end card; weaker/older cards are usually 100% supported), using the proprietary drivers is still the best way to go.

Please note that using proprietary drivers should work fine unless you have an AMD card while running Gnome 3 GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop Read More . Until the problem is fixed, your performance while running Gnome 3 will be quite sluggish even though it’ll still run. If you run into this problem or any other issue, you can always uninstall the proprietary drivers and revert back to the open source drivers.

Do you prefer open source or proprietary graphics drivers? Do you think proprietary drivers should be open sourced? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Forrestal_PL

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  1. Peter
    April 20, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Whoever is maintaining this article should make an update. I recently used Kubuntu with an ATI Radeon graphics card and not only I have the default Radeon drivers in the System Settings -> Device Configuration, I also have 2 propriety drivers from ATI installed that I can use already installed and listed in the Drivers list. Of course, the system is set to use the one that is defined as "recommended" and my new graphics card works like a charm. The whole article and the comments are totally out of date. If you can't provide and update to this article why not take it down or rewrite it?
    Ubuntu has change dramatically over the past few years and it's not nice to present information that is simply out of date.

  2. Sue
    September 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Hi Danny,

    There's just one problem -- my screen goes black in the middle of installing -any- GUI on Ubuntu Server 12.04. I think it needs the drivers before installing the GUI. Any ideas how I can load those with access only to a command prompt?

    Sue in Colorado

    • Tina
      September 15, 2012 at 4:37 am


      In case you are still looking for a solution, may I recommend asking a question at MakeUseOf Answers. This is a quick way to receive some ideas.

  3. Igor Rizvi?
    August 1, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Good think the default drivers work like a charm since the day one :)

  4. Shehan Nirmal
    May 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    It makes me angry when I cannot install my nVidia graphics card drivers on Ubuntu... So I changed my Ubuntu to Hanthana Linux... A fedora distro... It works great with any VGA card.

  5. Rey Aetar
    April 15, 2012 at 10:58 am

    it would be nice if an article is posted on how to install proprietary drivers from packages available in the manufacturers web site its relly a headche installing those manually

  6. Trevor L
    April 15, 2012 at 12:37 am

    It would be really nice if card manufacturers supported their products on Linux just a little bit more than they do now. I have no problems with them wanting to keep their code private but I do want my video card to work without the rigamarole of installing proprietary drivers. I just finally got my hybrid graphics running under arch, the only issue I have now is HDMI audio.

    • Danny Stieben
      April 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      I agree. It's not that it's hard to get it to work under Linux, they just don't care as much.

  7. barney
    April 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    I'll probably get burned for saying it, but the driver(s) issue is why I treat Linux as a toy. It's fun to play with it, but when I have serious work to do, I revert to Windows. Linux is too fractured to have mainstream vendor support. If I have new hardware (or software) that will not function in Linux, then I have to go where it will function in order to get my job(s) done. I have not the skills, nor time to acquire them, to compensate for inadequate drivers of any sort - nor should I have to have them. That's the responsibility of the OS and the vendor(s).

    • Danny Stieben
      April 15, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      I know that Linux seems fragmented with all of the different distributions, but they all have at least one thing in common: the Linux kernel. And as far as I understand it, they just need to make it work with the kernel, and it will automatically work with all distributions.

      • Anna Summers
        October 18, 2016 at 6:38 pm

        That's the great thing about modular architecture! Maybe someone should tell the hardware manufacturer's that before they have pissed off any more of their prospective customers.

    • Anna Summers
      October 18, 2016 at 6:29 pm

      Agree 100%

    • Anna Summers
      October 18, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      Agree 100%. As new Linux user, I'm building a Linux machine. I put AMD in my old one, the new one will have Intel, because Intel plays nice with Linux. After what I've read here, nVidia is now also on my no-fly list; I will be buying Radeon instead.

      Wake up manufacturers - you are losing sales by not providing Linux drivers for your hardware; and that loss will only expand in the future. I will not be disposed in the future to buy hardware from a manufacturer who dissed me today by being slow to provide full-function Linux drivers for their products.