Common Video Driver Problems
A common complaint with fresh Linux installs on modern hardware is the lack of
an acceptable device driver to take advantage of the capabilities that modern graphics
cards possess. While numerous possibilities exist to harness these capabilities,
both the ATi and Nvidia companies provide binary drivers that enable the 3D
portions of their graphics chips to work under Linux.
Specific information regarding ATi graphics cards can be found
Linux drivers for ATi graphics cards can be found
Specific information regarding NVidia graphics cards can be found
here (Intel x86 Platform)
Linux drivers for NVidia graphics cards can be found here:
(Intel x86 Platform)
Driver distribution among ATi and NVIDIA varies significantly. ATi provides a
single RPM containing its drivers. Inside this RPM are a number of pre-compiled
drivers for specific versions of the RedHat distribution. For setups sporting a
custom kernel, or a distribution other than RedHat, ATi provides a script that
compiles a driver suitable for the specific configuration. This compilation
process will only work with the gcc compiler, version 2.96 or greater.
ATI provides only two driver downloads. One driver is designed for
distributions running XFree86 version 4.1.0, and the other is designed for
distributions running 4.2.0. Most recent distributions include 4.2.0. It is
recommended that you check the specifics of your distribution to determine which
version of XFree86 it uses.
Upon downloading the RPM, navigate to /lib/modules/fglrx , where the unpacked
drivers now reside. As root, run the "make_install.sh" script. This can be
accomplished by issuing the command "./make_install.sh". This script detects
whether an appropriate driver exists for your kernel. There are several
mainstream kernels that are supported. On computers with unsupported kernels,
make_install.sh will stop with an error message, indicating you need to build a
custom module. Navigate to the build_mod directory, and type "make". This will
produce a module compiled specifically for your kernel. Now
/lib/modules/fglrx/build_mod can be run without error.
ATI's driver is now ready to be installed. Navigate to /usr/X11R6/bin. From
there, run "fglrxconfig". This script will update your xconfiguration to
properly reflect the new drivers. Upon completing that, restart XFree86.
NVIDIA provides in two parts. The first is called the "GLX File." This
provides the OpenGL software layer to applications in Linux. To avoid version
uncertainty with regards to these files, NVIDIA suggests downloading and running
the "NVChooser" script available at their website.
The second part of NVIDIA's driver is called the kernel driver. The kernel
driver provides an interface between Linux's "guts" (the kernel) and the
hardware of your graphics card. Given that the kernel can be compiled numerous
ways, NVIDIA provides distribution-specific drivers. These drivers are
compatible with the default kernel of a number of versions of Redhat, Suse,
Mandrake, and United Linux. If you have one of these distributions, sporting the
original kernel, then simply download the driver appropriate for it. If you have
compiled a custom kernel, or have a distribution other than those supported by
NVIDIA, then download the Source Driver. The Source Driver provides a way to
create drivers appropriate for your kernel, no matter which it is. The README
file found in the Source Driver tarball gives directions for compiling this
To make sure that new graphics drivers for 3D equipment have been properly
installed, run "glxgears" from an X-Terminal. A frame rate around 2000fps
indicates that hardware acceleration is being used. Also, "glxinfo" will display
information regarding the 3D acceleration XFree86 is using. When 3D drivers have
been installed, glxinfo will usually provide the name of the card and
information about it. If 3D drivers have not been installed, it will simply
display information about the Mesa 3D software library.