How to set up your graphics card in Zorin OS

Most modern Linux distributions have out of the box outstanding support for most of the available hardware components, like your graphics card, printer and WiFi adapter. Even for many relatively new hardware technologies there is support with the help of Hardware Enablement. But it is always possible that the setup procedure doesn’t come up directly with the correct or most optimized drivers for your specific internal or external devices. In this article as part of my Zorin OS tutorial series I will focus on the support of graphics cards and will show you how to install or update graphics drivers in Zorin OS.

Article details:

Distro version: Zorin OS 16.x Core

Tutorial series: Zorin OS Tutorial Series

Note: This tutorial series is still in progress, so not all chapters are finished yet.

Initial graphics options during installation

In my tutorial “How to install Zorin OS on a PC or Mac“, I already briefly mentioned the initial setup options as a starting point for the installation of Zorin OS. In the image below you see these options and then mainly the option “Try or Install Zorin OS (modern NVIDIA drivers)”.

This option suggests that a distinction is apparently made between graphics technology based on an NVIDIA chip versus all other non-NVIDIA types of graphics support like dedicated graphics cards from AMD or integrated graphics support in CPUs from Intel and AMD.

So if you have not installed Zorin OS yet and you have an NVIDIA based GPU (Graphics Processing unit), you can choose for the option “Try or Install Zorin OS (modern NVIDIA drivers)”, or choose “Try or Install Zorin OS” if you have other types of graphics technology in your system. One more thing to keep in mind is that you can only use the “Try or Install Zorin OS (modern NVIDIA drivers)” option if your NVIDIA based GPU is produced after 2013.

Note: There is a lot to say, to agree and disagree on the topic of graphics cards and how to drive them in the most perfect way. The internet is filled with heated discussions on what is better and what is not. In this article I am not going into the real depths of this topic and all its details on optimization and what is good hardware and what not, simply because I am not equipped for that. I have no gaming background, no background in high end graphics workstations, etc., so I don’t know enough about all kinds of optimizations. So, this article is written for the average or beginning Linux user who just wants a good running system with a stable running graphics device.

Check if your graphics device has been recognized

The first step to see if during the Zorin OS installation your graphics device has been recognized, is by opening the about section in your settings.

1) Open the Zorin OS applications menu.

2) Search for “Settings’ and click on it.

3) Now scroll down in the left section of the Settings window till you see the About option. Click on it.

Now you see a kind of a summary of your system with information about your system like the device name, memory, processor, but also graphics. Here you hopefully see if your graphics card has been recognized. In my case an NVIDIA GTX 750 Ti.

Check the current driver for your graphics card

So now that you installed Zorin OS and you actually see icons and colors and text on your display after the first boot, and you see that your GPU has been recognized, you would probably conclude that your new operating system is installed with correct and properly working support for your NVIDIA, Intel or AMD based graphics card. And the chances are that the correct support has indeed been installed. But it is advisable to check if that is actually true, because it is possible that during the installation process some generic driver has been chosen that will work ok, but will not give you the best possible performance or the most optimal support for your specific hardware. To see what choices Zorin OS made for your specific graphics card you can go through the following steps:

1) Connect your computer with the internet.

2) Open the Zorin OS applications menu.

3) Search for “Additional Drivers’ and click on it.

Now it first searches for available drivers.

When it is finished you see something like this:

In my case, I have an old NVIDIA GTX 750 Ti graphics card, during the installation of Zorin OS it was decided to install the 470 driver. But you see that there are multiple options here that are version wise lower or higher then the one initially selected. You also see a Nouveau display driver from xserver-xorg-video-nouveau, which is an open source driver, while all other drivers are NVIDIA proprietary.

If you prefer to run open source drivers then you should choose the nouveau driver, but a lot of discussions on the internet, mainly among gamers, conclude that if you want maximum performance out of your NVIDIA graphics device you should go for the proprietary drivers. In my case it selected the 470 driver, but there is a newer version available, so I will select the 510 version.

The above example screenshots are about an NVIDIA graphics card, but in case you have an AMD based or Intel based graphics card and you did the previous steps, then your graphics card probably has been recognized as well as Linux has outstanding support for both AMD and Intel graphics.

Install latest NVIDIA driver via PPA

When you have a very new graphics card it is possible that the Driver Manager in Zorin OS will not give you the most recent driver available. A sign for that can be if the Driver Manager only shows an open source option for your graphics card. But also in the before mentioned example of my GTX 750 Ti, which is already from 2014, there could be newer drivers available than offered via Driver Manager. You can check if there is a newer version available for your GPU via the NVIDIA drivers page.

1) Go to the NVIDIA driver page.

2) Fill in your product type, product series, product and operating system.

3) Click on search.

Here we see the 510 driver, so there is no newer driver for my specific card, but it is always handy to check if there is a more up to date driver available for your specific card.

The most convenient way to get access to the newer driver is not by downloading and installing the driver from the NVIDIA website, but by using the PPA “ppa:graphics-drivers”. PPA stands for Personal Package Archive, which allows software developers to provide new or very up to date software, like in our case a recent graphics driver, that is not yet available in the official Ubuntu software repository.

Although I said in earlier tutorials that I want to stay away as much as possible from the command line in my tutorials, to include the above PPA in our system the most convenient way is via the terminal.

To add the PPA via the terminal do the following:

1) Open the Terminal via Ctrl + Alt + T.

2) Copy the following command and paste it in the terminal and hit enter:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa

3) You will get the message “Press Enter to continue or Ctrl+C to cancel”. Hit enter to continue.

4) When the command has been finished copy the following command and paste it in the Terminal and hit enter:

sudo apt-get update

When the command has been finished you can set the correct driver.

5) Open the Zorin OS applications menu.

6) Search for “Additional Drivers’ and click on it.

Now you will see that there are more driver alternatives available, including the newest NVIDIA driver.

7) Select the newest driver and click Apply Changes.

8) When changes have been applied click on Restart.

After your operating system has been restarted the newest driver for your GPU should be active.

Install latest AMD driver via PPA

Although your AMD graphics card will probably work fine out of the box in Zorin OS, there could be different reasons to install a more recent driver. It is possible to install AMD proprietary drivers that can be downloaded from the AMD drivers page, but in Linux it is a bit of a tricky process. Much easier is to add the available PPA “ppa:oibaf/graphics-drivers” to your operating system.

To add this PPA do the following:

1) Open the Terminal via Ctrl + Alt + T or by search for Terminal in the Zorin menu search bar.

2) type the following command in the terminal and hit enter:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:oibaf/graphics-drivers

You will get the message “Press Enter to continue or Ctrl+C to cancel”.

3) Hit enter to continue.

4) When the command has been finished type in the terminal the following command and hit enter:

sudo apt-get update

When the command has been finished you can set the correct driver.

5) Open the applications menu.

6) Choose Driver Manager under the Administration category and enter your password.

Now you will see that there are more driver alternatives available.

7) Select the newest driver and click Apply Changes.

8) When changes have been applied click on Restart…

After your computer has been restarted the newest graphics driver should be active.

Installing a newer version of Zorin OS

Another option to have better driver support for your GPU, in case you currently use an older version of Zorin OS, is installing the latest version of Zorin OS. This maybe sounds like an open door, but the fact is that the newer your operating system (and underlying kernel), the better the chance is that your hardware is properly supported. If you are already on a recent release of your Linux distribution, you already have very up to date GPU support, but if you are using for example Zorin OS 12, which was released in November 2016, it is based on an old kernel. Please read my tutorials “How to download Zorin OS“, “How to create a Zorin OS Live USB stick in macOS and Windows” and “How to install Zorin OS on a PC or Mac“, if you want more information on how to setup the most recent Zorin OS.

Final words

Although people have the tendency to always want the newest and greatest, with everything it is advisable to think first about why you actually want to update to the latest drivers or the most recent Linux distribution or the most recent application. If it is not broken don’t fix it, is a frequently recurring saying. If your current distribution recognizes your graphics card out of the box and everything works fine, just be happy. But only if it doesn’t work properly or if you have specific performance related or feature related requirements for your graphics card, of course then you should try to set up the latest drivers.

 

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