NVIDIA Optimus is a technology that allows an Intel integrated GPU and discrete NVIDIA GPU to be built into and accessed by a laptop. Getting Optimus graphics to work on Arch Linux requires a few somewhat complicated steps, explained below. There are several methods.
Disabling switchable graphics
If you only care to use a certain GPU without switching, check your BIOS. There should be an option to disable one of the cards. Some laptops only allow disabling of the discrete card, or vice-versa, but it is worth checking if you only plan to use one of the cards. If you want to use both cards, or cannot disable the card you don't want, see the options below.
The open-source NVIDIA driver (), allows for dynamic GPU switching using a technology called PRIME. First, install the Intel and nouveau drivers:
# pacman -S xf86-video-intel xf86-video-nouveau
Next, install, which allows setting the NVIDIA card as an offload sink of the Intel:
# pacman -S xorg-xrandr
Reboot to load the drivers. You should now be able to start X. The next step is to run the following
xrandr command while X is running:
$ xrandr --setprovideroffloadsink nouveau Intel
You can now run programs with the NVIDIA card by adding
DRI_PRIME=1 before a command; i.e.
$ DRI_PRIME=1 glxgears
To check if programs are using the NVIDIA graphics and not Intel, installand run
$ DRI_PRIME=1 glxinfo
You should see a line that says
OpenGL vendor string: nouveau.
If you don't want to manually run the
xrandr command every time you start X, you can add it at the beginning of your
~/.xinitrc. If you want to run every program using the NVIDIA graphics, you can add the line
export DRI_PRIME=1 to your
The proprietary NVIDIA driver () does not support dynamic switching like the nouveau driver (meaning it can only use one driver at a time), and has several other disadvantages, but does allow use of the discrete GPU and has (as of October 2013) a marked edge in performance over the nouveau driver. To enable Optimus, you must install the modesetting and nvidia drivers:
# pacman -S xf86-video-modesetting nvidia
# pacman -S xorg-xrandr
Next, you must create a custom
xorg.conf. You'll need to know the PCI address of the NVIDIA card, which you can find by issuing
The PCI address is the first 7 characters of the line that mentions NVIDIA. It will look something like
01:00.0. In the
xorg.conf, you'll need to format it as
01:00.0 would be formatted as
1:0:0. Also, if the NVIDIA card has no display devices attached to it (all video goes through the Intel chip), uncomment the line that reads
Option "UseDisplayDevice" "none".
# nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf
Section "ServerLayout" Identifier "layout" Screen 0 "nvidia" Inactive "intel" EndSection Section "Device" Identifier "nvidia" Driver "nvidia" BusID "PCI:PCI address determined earlier" # e.g. BusID "PCI:1:0:0" EndSection Section "Screen" Identifier "nvidia" Device "nvidia" #Option "UseDisplayDevice" "none" EndSection Section "Device" Identifier "intel" Driver "modesetting" EndSection Section "Screen" Identifier "intel" Device "intel" EndSection
Next, add the following two lines to the beginning of your
$ nano .xinitrc
xrandr --setprovideroutputsource modesetting NVIDIA-0 xrandr --auto
Now reboot to load the drivers, and X should start.
If you get a black screen when starting X, make sure that there are no ampersands after the two
xrandr command in
~/.xinitrc; if there are ampersands, it seems that the window manager can run before the
xrandr commands finish executing, leading to the black screen.
As with the nouveau drivers, you can check if the NVIDIA graphics are being used by installingand running
$ glxinfo | grep NVIDIA
For more information, look at NVIDIA's official page on the topic here.