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If you have an AMD or nVidia graphics card or chip in your desktop or laptop, you have some serious graphics processing power under the hood. However, these highly respected graphics vendors like to keep their secrets, which includes making their drivers proprietary software.
Ubuntu and other Linux distributions use open source drivers to make them work. But what’s the difference between the two, and how do you install the proprietary driver in Ubuntu if you decide to use it?
What’s The Difference?
The decision between using the open source and proprietary drivers is a bit more important than you may think. First, the proprietary driver’s performance is much higher because the driver is developed by AMD rather than a community of open source developers who have access to the graphic card’s schematics. Additionally, power management is also much better with the proprietary driver.
However, if there is an issue with the driver, Ubuntu developers can easily fix the problem themselves and push the update to your computer. With the proprietary AMD graphics driver, you have to wait for AMD to respond and solve the issue. Most of the time, picking the proprietary drivers is the best option for the best performance and energy savings, especially if you are a gamer or otherwise have high graphics requirements.
There are a few different ways in which you can go about installing the proprietary drivers. I’ll show you a simple way that installs the proprietary drivers but may not offer the latest versions, as well as a slightly more difficult method which allows you to run the latest drivers.
In the latest release of Ubuntu, 13.04 “Raring Ringtail”, you have to go somewhere else to access the “Additional Drivers” feature which allows you to easily find all of the proprietary drivers from Ubuntu’s repositories which are available for your system. Now, you need to open up the Dash (the Ubuntu logo from the side bar), and type in “Software & Updates”. Click on the application when it appears and then click on the Additional Drivers tab.
In that tab, you’ll see your graphics card, as well as three options – the open source driver, the “fglrx” proprietary driver, and the “fglrx-updates” proprietary driver. The difference between the fglrx and fglrx-updates drivers is that fglrx is the latest version that was out when Ubuntu 13.04 was released. The fglrx-updates driver should update itself whenever a new version is released by AMD.
You can choose either option, hit Apply, and restart your computer once the installation completes. You’re now using the proprietary drivers, and should see 3D performance improvements!
While the fglrx-updates driver should update whenever a new version is released by AMD, this doesn’t always quite happen because of a delay somewhere in updating Ubuntu’s repositories. Instead, you can install the drivers yourself and know exactly what version of the proprietary drivers you’re using.
To get started, run this command:
sudo apt-get install build-essential cdbs dh-make dkms execstack dh-modaliases linux-headers-generic fakeroot libqtgui4 devscripts
If you’re running the 64-bit variant of Ubuntu, you’ll also need to run this command:
sudo apt-get install lib32gcc1
These two commands set up the necessary environment to create the driver packages in the next step.
Now, head over to AMD’s drivers page and choose the drivers for your graphics card and 32-bit/64-bit variation of Ubuntu. Once the download completes, extract the .run file from the .zip file, and then open up the Properties to the .run file and enable the file to be run as an executable.
Next, open up your terminal, use the cd command to go to the folder in which the .run file is located (such as
cd Downloads/, and then run the command :
sudo sh ./amd-catalyst-version-here-and-such.run --buildpkg Ubuntu/raring
of course replacing the filler with the file’s actual name. If you’re also not running Ubuntu 13.04, you’ll need to replace
raring with the appropriate name.
Let it do its thing, and when it’s done you’ll have a few .deb files. Next, run
sudo dpkg -i fglrx*.deb which will install all of the newly created packages. Once that finishes, you’ll need to run one more command to correctly set up the new driver. Run
sudo amdconfig --initial -f
if you use just one display, or if you have more than one display attached, run
sudo amdconfig --initial -f && sudo amdconfig --set-pcs-str="DDX,EnableRandR12,FALSE"
Now, restart your computer and you’re good to go! If you ever want to update your graphics drivers, simply repeat all of the steps from downloading the drivers to installing them with
sudo dpkg -i fglrx*.deb
Proprietary drivers really can help in the long run, and AMD’s drivers have always been a little bit tricky to deal with under Linux. However, these tips will definitely get them installed and functioning so you can get the most out of your system. And now that gaming on Linux is starting to become popular, it’s important to know how to do this. If you run a different distribution such as Fedora, you may wish to check out some older instructions on installing the proprietary graphics drivers on Linux.
If you’re new to Ubuntu, check out our Ubuntu Beginner’s Guide!
Do you use the proprietary drivers in Linux? If not, why are you staying with the open source drivers? Let us know in the comments!