AMDGPU-PRO is AMD’s proprietary driver for its latest graphics cards. That means that it mainly covers the Polaris cards, the RX 4XX series and the RX 5XX series. It does work with older cards too, but they won’t see as much continual improvement and development.
Like its name suggests, AMDGPU-PRO is intended for professional use. Don’t worry. You can absolutely game with these drivers. AMD branded them for workstation users. As a result, AMD only releases the AMDGPU-PRO drivers for long-term support (LTS) releases and “Enterprise” distributions. For Ubuntu this means that you can only install these drivers on the latest LTS release. In this case, it’s 16.04.2.
Running an LTS release has some drawbacks. For starters, you won’t get the latest releases of new software on your system. You will get security fixes and some backports. You can get around a lot of these constraints in other ways, like importing applications such as Firefox from other releases, but it can be a pain to do so.
If you don’t want to run the LTS release or you already aren’t, you can always install the open-source AMDGPU drivers. In the latest releases of Ubuntu, they may even work out of the box, depending on your card. The open-source drivers don’t get all the new features of the proprietary ones, though, and are lacking in Vulkan support.
Getting the Packages
So you’ve chosen the Pro drivers. How do you get them? Since these drivers are AMD’s territory, they aren’t available in the Ubuntu repositories. You have to go to AMD’s website to download them.
Open your browser and head over to the release notes on AMD’s website. Once you’re there, scroll down to the section that starts with, “The AMDGPU-Pro Driver can be downloaded…” The link for Ubuntu will be right below. Click it to download the drivers in a tar archive.
Navigate into your download folder and unpack the archive.
Your version number may be different depending on when you’re reading this, so make sure to use the right one.
Unpacking the archive will give you a folder with the same name. Change into the folder and get ready to install.
Once you’re in the folder, take a look around.
There are a lot of .deb packages in there. AMDGPU-PRO is odd when it comes to proprietary drivers on Linux. In the past proprietary graphics drivers just contained some Linux kernel modules to interact directly with the kernel and the drivers themselves. This is still the way that NVIDIA does it.
AMD took a very different approach recently. All of AMD’s drivers are tightly integrated with the open-source software that makes graphical displays on Linux possible. There are a number of parts in that chain including the kernel itself, the Xorg Server, and direct rendering managers. AMDGPU-PRO is the open-source AMDGPU but with added bits that AMD doesn’t want to open-source yet.
Because AMD doesn’t want to open-source all of this code, they had to take over maintaining their own versions of the open-source packages that the drivers rely on to ensure that everything works well. That’s why there are so many packages with the driver. When you install the AMDGPU-PRO drivers, you are replacing the Ubuntu versions of your graphics packages with the AMD ones. They’re essentially the same, but this gives AMD a controlled environment to ensure that the drivers work perfectly.
Now for the simple part: AMD has included a convenient script to install everything for you in the folder. Just run the script with sudo.
The script will run and install all of the packages that are required for your system. If you want it to ask you questions during the install, leave the “-y” off the end. That’s just there for convenience, and it’ll work fine most of the time.
When the script is done, restart your computer and enjoy your new drivers!