If you have an Nvidia video card you’re in luck. They perform exceptionally well on the Linux platform. However, most Linux-based operating systems come with the open-source driver preinstalled. The performance is poor, and 3D capabilities are usually non-existent. To get the most out of your video card, you need to install Nvidia’s proprietary driver.
Install Recommended Nvidia Driver
This will install a fairly recent driver, but not the absolute latest. If you want bleeding edge software, skip to the next section.
The advantages of following the procedure in this section are:
- Older video cards (4+ years) may not work with the latest driver. The utility will automatically find and recommend an older driver (if necessary) that still works with your card.
- These drivers are tested more and have fewer bugs than bleeding edge drivers.
- It’s the easiest way to install a proprietary driver.
- In most cases, performance is top notch.
If your card is already two years old or more, it’s better to go with the recommended driver. Developers already had a few years to improve software for your card. Newer releases usually deal with removing bugs and improving performance on newer cards.
On the flipside, if your card is extremely new, you may have a lot to gain by using the most recent driver.
To proceed, press the Super key. On most keyboards, this is the key with the Windows logo on it. Type “software” and click on the “Software & Updates” utility. Its icon is a cardboard box with a flat globe on it (the first icon in the next picture).
In the top bar go to the “Additional Drivers” tab. In most cases the Nouveau open-source driver is preselected here. Click on “Using NVIDIA driver metapackage …” to switch to the proprietary driver. Next, click “Apply Changes,” and wait for the driver to install.
Reboot and enjoy the high performance driver which will let you use the full capabilities of your card.
Install the Latest Nvidia Driver
You have a very recent card, launched just a few months ago. In this case you don’t want to wait until Ubuntu includes a better driver in their main repositories. To get the most recent software for your card, you can use a third-party repository.
Open a terminal emulator and enter the following command:
Update the package repository information.
Upgrade all packages on your system. Even if you know you have your system up to date, don’t skip this step. It is important and helps avoid some scenarios where packages from the PPA can conflict with other packages.
Find out what proprietary driver packages are available.
Install the latest, the one with the highest version number at the end. For example, in the previous picture “nvidia-driver-415” is the latest. Replace the name of this package in the next command, with what is the latest in your case.
Reboot your computer so that the new driver is loaded.
Upgrading Your Nvidia Driver
Periodically, new packages will be released with newer Nvidia drivers.
Important: before upgrading the driver, you should always perform a general system upgrade first with
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade.
Without following this step, you may get conflicts between older and newer packages from the PPA.
It’s worth mentioning that you can also use “Software & Updates” to upgrade your driver. It’s easier to use a program with a graphical user interface. However, it does come at a price. If there is a problem with installing the driver, you can’t see what the error is.
To upgrade the driver from the terminal, first list available drivers:
If a newer driver is available than what you have installed, upgrade to it with:
Replace VERSION_NUMBER_HERE with the latest version number you saw in the output of the previous command.
How to Purge Nvidia Driver
In some cases you may get package conflicts which may be hard to solve manually. You can purge all Nvidia packages (and related) from your system with:
Reboot and then try your preferred method of installing an Nvidia driver (recommended, latest, from terminal or from “Software & Updates”).
Performance of the closed-source, proprietary driver is miles away from the open-source one. In fact, with most of the modern cards and drivers, you will usually get between 90% and 100% of the performance you have on Windows. And with Steam’s Proton compatibility layer, that lets you play Windows games on Linux, and there’s plenty to enjoy.