Open Source Xorg drivers for ATI/AMD, Intel & nVidia

Open Source Xorg drivers for nVidia (nouveau), ATI/AMD (Radeon), Intel and others are pre-installed with aptosid.

Note: An xorg.conf is not generally needed for open source drivers.

If you have been running proprietary drivers and wish to revert back to opensource drivers, edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/xx-xxxx.conf with an editor with root permissions. Find the section that reads SECTION DEVICE and change the display driver to read radeon OR intel (to name but a few).

To revert to nouveau from the Nvidia proprietary drivers refer to

Editing an xorg.conf file is entirely at your own risk.

More information about: ATI/AMD   ATI/AMD Feature Matrix   Intel   nouveau   X.Org

2D video drivers

The drivers for the X.Org X server (see xserver-xorg for a further description) provides support in 2D for Nvidia Riva, TNT, GeForce, and Quadro cards and the ATI Mach, Rage, Radeon, and FireGL cards along with atimisc, r128, r6xx/r7xx and radeon sub-drivers. Radeon and Intel both support 2d acceleration (textured xv) for video playback.

ATI/AMD 3D Drivers

Some ATI/AMD cards also support 3D, (and KDE animations), with xserver-xorg-video-radeon. So far chipsets up to r700 are supported.

To automatically inherit newly packaged non-free firmware when they get updated for 2D and 3D video cards:

apt-get install firmware-linux

Then reboot the computer.

Intel 2D and 3D

Intel drivers should work perfectly for 2D and 3D video acceleration as the drivers are included in the Intel free series.

Binary, closed source drivers for: nVidia with dmakms & xorg.conf.d

You will need to add <contrib non-free> to your debian.list, refer to Adding non-free to sources

For the most complete and accurate listing of supported nvidia GPUs please see the Supported Products List available from the NVIDIA Linux Graphics Driver download page.

You can also read nvnews for other options.

New and old installs will need to ensure that the systemwide config /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d exists and add a file to the directory called 20-nvidia.conf :

mkdir /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d
touch /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-nvidia.conf

With your favourite text editor, (e.g. kwrite, kate, mousepad, mcedit, vi, vim) open the file:

<editor> /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-nvidia.conf

and add the following codebox in its entirety to 20-nvidia.conf:

Section "Device"
         Identifier      "Device 0"
         Driver          "nvidia"
# This is a trailing line, it is needed so that End Section is not the last line

If you have more than one graphics card you will need ascertain the PCI and to include it in the 20-nvidia.conf:

lspci | grep -i vga

This should return syntax similar to this:

01:00.0 VGA compatible controller:

Add the 01:00.0 busid as an extra line under the 'Driver' line, however note that the syntax is PCI:x:y:z: with zeros dropped and colons added, therefore:

BusID		 "PCI:1:0:0"

Installing the nvidia drivers

NOTE: Use apt-cache search nvidia and apt-cache show <package> to ascertain the correct driver for you. There are basically 2 types of nvidia drivers, the current Debian Sid 3D drivers and the legacy Debian Sid 3D drivers.

For current 3d nvidia drivers ≥ GeForce 6xxx :

Prepare the module:

apt-get install nvidia-kernel-source nvidia-kernel-common dmakms

Then activate Dynamic Module-Assistant Kernel Module Support (dmakms) for nvidia, so that the next time the Linux kernel is updated a nvidia module is prepared for it too, without manual intervention. To do that, add nvidia-kernel-source to the /etc/default/dmakms configuration file:

echo nvidia-kernel-source >> /etc/default/dmakms


m-a a-i nvidia-kernel-source

Followed by:

apt-get install nvidia-glx

Reboot PC for installation of the module to take effect.

When xorg updates you only need to reinstall nvidia-glx:

apt-get install --reinstall nvidia-glx

When the nvidia-kernel-source is updated:

m-a a-i nvidia-kernel-source
apt-get install --reinstall nvidia-glx

Reboot PC for installation of the module to take effect.

Naming scheme for legacy nvidia drivers in Debian

Example for legacy 3d nvidia drivers using ≤ GeForce 5xxx :

For other legacy drivers just replace 173xx number with your driver number.

m-a a-i nvidia-kernel-legacy-173xx-source && apt-get install nvidia-glx-legacy-173xx dmakms

Alter dmakms:

echo nvidia-kernel-legacy-173xx-source >> /etc/default/dmakms

When xorg updates you only need to reinstall nvidia-glx-legacy:

apt-get install --reinstall nvidia-glx-legacy-173xx

Module load failure

Should nvidia fail to load, for whatever reason:

modprobe nvidia

Then reboot the computer.

Should the module still fail to load:

 m-a a-i -f nvidia-kernel-source


 m-a a-i -f nvidia-kernel-legacy-173xx-source

This rebuilds the module then reboot.


$ /usr/share/doc/dmakms
Page last revised 21/11/2011 0815 UTC