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Revision [270]

This is a past revision of GoNvidia made by slam on 2011-06-30 14:59:54

As most people with Nvidia cards are probably not aware of, the new free and open source driver Nouveau is already enabled in Aptosid kernels, and does work well for most cards and use cases (3D support still experimental, though). So, it's time to finally get rid of the closed source and non DSFG distributable packages, along with potentially problematic 3rd party repositories. Here is how to do that:

If using KDE, in System Settings turn desktop effects composite type to "Xrender" (keeping OpenGL there will lead to KDE not starting).

Remove all 3rd party repositories from /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ . Keep the official files only, examples are at
Remove all traces of nvidia in /etc/default/dmakms and /usr/src/.
Make sure /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d and /etc/X11/xorg.conf are removed.
Remove all vga=xxx and xmodule=xxx entries from /etc/default/grub, and do update-grub.

WARNING: Your results will vary if you ever have used the installer from Nvidia (the .run file) or other 3rd party scripts/packages, instead of using proper Debian packages!

init 3
apt-get purge ^nvidia* ^libnvidia* xserver-xorg-video-nv
apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade
apt-get install --reinstall xserver-xorg-core xserver-xorg-video-nouveau libgl1-mesa-dri-experimental

Reboot. You are using the free open source Nouveau driver now. Please feel free to add more tips to this HowTo?.

Here is more info about all the driver choices for Nvidia chipsets:


This is a generic featureless driver. It does work with KMS enabled.


The Vesa driver (xserver-xorg-video-vesa) is a basic robust solution for all cards, but the range of available resolutions/colors is limited: - for all resolutions above 1024x768 you can use hwinfo --framebuffer to check which ones are provided by your graphics card. Several extended features are not included, the most prominent ones are all modern 2D/3D extensions. It is sufficient for rescue operations, but also for all basic computing. It does not work with KMS enabled.


The nv driver (xserver-xorg-video-nv) was the first free and open source driver for all Riva, TNT, GeForce? und Quadro cards. It supported all possible resolutions/colors and full 2D extensions, but not 3D. However, it's development has stopped and it was removed from Debian Testing/Sid recently therefore. It was sufficient for normal computing.


The Nouveau driver (xserver-xorg-video-nouveau) forked long time ago from nv, and continued development where nv stoped. It adds better support for newer cards, better performance and a wide range of modern 2D extensions. 3D hardware acceleration is still experimental, but will improve as development is proceeding. Nouveau is free and open source, and the new default driver for Nvidia cards in Debian and Aptosid. It works with KMS, so having it installed is all you need to do for proper resolutions/colors. It is sufficent for all usual computing tasks, just advanced 3D features (for Windows games played using wine, Googleearth, some scientific and professional graphics design applications, etc.) are not yet possible. It works with KMS enabled only.


This is the closed source proprietary driver from the manufacturer. It adds full 3d features for many cards. Support for new chipsets is added with every release, while support for older ones is dropped from time to time. It needs an extra compiled kernel module, which needs to be done with every kernel update. nvidia-glx overwrites core Xorg files, and needs to be reinstalled with every Xorg upgrade. Like all closed source drivers, it often lags behind changes done in the open source components, and therefore breaks from time to time until the manufacturer releases a fix. Besides those technical hassles, the legality of external closed source modules linked into the Linux kernel is disputed. The nvidia driver is not working with KMS.

The Aptosid development team recommends and fully supports the removal of the nv driver and installation/usage of the nouveau driver (and of course vesa). Only for those actually needing the full 3D features of the proprietary driver, we always have and will provide help in our manuals, forums and IRC channel.

Please understand that we do not recommend any use of software from outside Debian/aptosid repositories in general, as we do not have the ability to fix problems in 3rd party packages, (also potential security issues have to be considered including debs not built with strict debian packaging guidelines which also may impact any debian sid dist-upgrades and interfere with debians' namespace nominations in the future and thus break your system).

More Links:

The official list of chipsets supported by the current stable nvidia driver can be found here.
Phoronix does regular tests nvidia vs. nouveau, and while their testing methods might be questionable, a lot of valuable info can found in their forums.
The nouveau wiki provides more technical info about how to use KMS features with the nouveau driver.
You can check the current status of features implemented in the nouveau driver for every single chipset here.