More games support Linux than ever, thanks to Steam for Linux. But, like on Windows, many of these games require the latest graphics drivers for optimal performance and the fewest bugs. The latest versions of Ubuntu may include fresher drivers, but not necessarily the most recent ones.
You can install the most recent drivers yourself, but be careful: you may run into issues if you do this. Ubuntu packages and tests certain versions of the graphics drivers for each release, and doesn’t perform major updates. For maximum stability–particularly if you don’t care about gaming–stick with the graphics drivers Ubuntu provides. You may bump into bugs even if you download the latest graphics drivers directly from the manufacturer.
Are You Using a 32-bit or 64-bit Version of Ubuntu?
You’ll need to know whether you’re using a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Ubuntu before continuing. To check this on Ubuntu’s default Unity desktop, click the gear in the top-right corner of the screen and select “About This Computer.” You’ll see this information displayed to the right of “OS type.” You can also check this from the terminal.
You should also install any available updates for Ubuntu from Update Manager before continuing. You’ll see an “Install Updates” button that will take care of this for you in the About This Computer window.
The official Graphics Drivers Team PPA–that’s short for personal package archive–is designed to solve this issue in the long term. It’ll provide updated graphics drivers. Gamers will be able to enable this optional repository and get an updated graphics stack without hunting it down, and normal Ubuntu users will be able to ignore it and continue using the stable version included with the current version of Ubuntu.
That’s the long-term goal, anyway. For now, this PPA is in testing. It also only provides NVIDIA drivers at the moment, so you’ll have to get your drivers elsewhere if you have AMD or Intel graphics hardware.
To add this PPA to your system, open a terminal window and run the following command:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa
After you have, run the following command to download the latest package lists:
sudo apt-get update
Updated NVIDIA graphics drivers will now be available for installation. You can check the PPA’s description page to see what the latest version available is, or type the following command and press the “Tab” key to see a list:
sudo apt-get install nvidia-
For example, at the moment version 361 of the NVIDIA graphics drivers is the most recent one available. You’d run the following command to install it:
sudo apt-get install nvidia-361
It’s also possible to download and install graphics drivers directly from NVIDIA using NVIDIA’s own installer. This tool is designed to be distribution-agnostic, compiling and installing the latest drivers on any Linux distribution. There’s a README for each graphics driver version that provides installation instructions and much more information.
However, it’s best to stick with packages built specifically for your Linux distribution, if possible. We recommend the PPA unless that doesn’t work for you for some reason.
AMD’s Catalyst driver–now known as Radeon Crimson, but still just the old fglrx driver–is required for the best Linux gaming performance on AMD hardware. AMD is working on a new open source driver architecture for the future, but it’s not competitive with the old fglrx driver yet.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t currently seem to be a PPA with that latest version available. They should eventually be part of the Graphics Driver Team PPA mentioned above, but for now, it isn’t.
You’ll have to install use the official fglrx driver packages provided by AMD. Visit AMD’s Linux download center and download the drivers for your graphics processor.
The exact method you’ll use to install these drivers depends on the version of Ubuntu you’re using. AMD currently provides pre-built .deb packages for Ubuntu 15.04, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. If you’re using an older version of Ubuntu, or a new one (AMD doesn’t yet support Ubuntu 15.10), you’ll need to select the generic “Linux” option on the download page and use AMD’s tool to compile and build the packages yourself. AMD’s official Linux graphics driver installer notes will walk you through the process of downloading the drivers, installing them, and troubleshooting any issues that might occur.
Intel provides an “Intel Graphics Installer for Linux,” which will download and install the latest open source Intel graphics stack on Ubuntu. At the time of writing, the latest version was Intel Graphics Installer for Linux 1.2.1, which supports Ubuntu 15.10. Intel’s graphics installer doesn’t support any other version of Ubuntu, including Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. It’s likely to always support only the latest version of Ubuntu. There’s no PPA with this stuff, either.
Thankfully, it’s at least a graphical tool. Download and install the package and you’ll be able to launch the “Intel Graphics Installer” from your applications menu. It’ll download the latest graphics packages from Intel and install them for you.
There’s a good chance you’ll need to reboot after this. At the very least, you’ll have to sign out and re-launch the graphical X server before the new drivers will function. Rebooting is the fastest way to ensure your system is using the new graphics drivers and libraries.
If you used a software repository to install the drivers, you’ll receive updates in Update Manager when new versions are added to the PPA. If you used a manufacturer-provided installer, you won’t receive updates automatically–you’ll have to re-download and re-run the installer in the future to get the latest releases.
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