Difference between revisions of "Nouveau"

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Revision as of 19:48, 18 September 2012

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This article covers installing and configuring the Nouveau open source driver for NVIDIA graphic cards. For information about the official proprietary driver, see NVIDIA.

Do not forget to check out the Nouveau driver FAQ if you have any questions, as there is a lot of valuable information there.


Before proceeding, have a look at the FeatureMatrix to see what features are supported for a given architecture, and the list of codenames to determine the card's category. You could also consult wikipedia for an even more detailed list.

If you already installed the proprietary NVIDIA driver, then remove it first:
# pacman -Rdds nvidia nvidia-utils
# pacman -S --asdeps libgl
Tip: If you want to keep Nvidia driver installed, then it requires some configuration to load the Nouveau driver instead of NVIDIA.
Note: If you are installing the nouveau drivers after uninstalling the nvidia ones, be sure to delete the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file the nvidia driver have created (or undo the changes) or else X will fail to properly load the nouveau driver.

Install the DDX driver with the xf86-video-nouveau package.

Also make sure you have Xorg properly installed.

If you want hardware-accelerated 3D support (to run GNOME Shell or KWin's effects for instance), install the DRI driver with the nouveau-dri package.

Warning: The DRI driver is experimental, and may cause rendering corruptions or random GPU lockups (especially on older cards that uses the classic Mesa driver). If you use it, it is recommended to enable the Magic SysRq key to be able to recover from a lockup. See http://nouveau.freedesktop.org/wiki/MesaDrivers before reporting bugs with the 3D drivers.


The nouveau kernel module should load fine automatically on system boot.

If it does not happen, then:

  • Make sure you do not have nomodeset or vga= in GRUB's menu.lst/grub.cfg kernel line, since Nouveau needs kernel mode-setting in order to run successfully (see below).
  • Also, check that you have not disabled Nouveau by using any modprobe blacklisting within /etc/modprobe.d/.


Kernel Mode-Setting (KMS) is required by the Nouveau driver. As the system boots, the resolution will likely change when KMS initializes the display driver. Simply installing the Nouveau driver should be enough to get the system to recognize and initialize it in "Late Start" mode (see below). Additional reading: KernelModeSetting.

Note: Users may prefer the early start method as it does not cause the annoying resolution change part way through the boot process.

Late start

With this choice KMS will be enabled when other kernel modules are loaded. You will see the text "Loading modules" and the size of the text may change, possibly with an undesirable flicker.

Early start

This method will start KMS as early as possible in the boot process, when the initramfs is loaded. Here is how to do this with the official packages:

Add "nouveau" to the MODULES array in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf:

MODULES="... nouveau ..."

Re-generate kernel image:

# mkinitcpio -p <kernel preset, e.g. linux>

If experiencing troubles with nouveau leading to rebuild nouveau-drm several times for testing purposes, do not add nouveau to the initramfs. It is too easy to forget to rebuild the initramfs and it will just make any testing harder. Just use late start until you are confident the system is stable. There might be additional problems with initramfs if you need a custom firmware (generally not advised).

Tips and tricks

Keep NVIDIA driver installed

If you want to keep the proprietary NVIDIA driver installed, but want to use the Nouveau driver, comment out nouveau blacklisting in etc/modprobe.d/nouveau_blacklist.conf modifying it as follows:

#blacklist nouveau

And tell Xorg to load nouveau instead of nvidia by creating the file /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-nouveau.conf with the following content:

Section "Device"
    Identifier "Nvidia card"
    Driver "nouveau"
Tip: You can use these scripts if you are switching between open and closed drivers often.

If you already used the NVIDIA driver, and want to test Nouveau without reboot, make sure the 'nvidia' module is no longer loaded:

# rmmod nvidia

Then load the 'nouveau' module:

# modprobe nouveau

And check that it loaded fine by looking at kernel messages:

$ dmesg

Installing the latest development packages

You may install the latest -git packages, through AUR:

  • You can use mesa-gitAUR which will allow the installation of the latest Mesa (including the latest DRI driver).
  • You can use xf86-video-nouveau-gitAUR which will allow the installation of the latest DDX driver.
  • You can also try installing a newer kernel version, through packages like linux-mainlineAUR in which the Nouveau DRM code would allow better performance.
  • To get the latest nouveau improvements, you should use the linux-gitAUR package from the AUR, edit the PKGBUILD and use nouveau's own kernel repository, which is currently located at: git://anongit.freedesktop.org/nouveau/linux-2.6.

Upsteam driver sources can be found here: http://nouveau.freedesktop.org/wiki/Source.

Tear-free compositing

Edit your /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-nouveau.conf, in the Device section add:

Section "Device"
    Identifier "nvidia card"
    Driver "nouveau"
    Option "GLXVBlank" "true"

Dual Head

Nouveau supports the xrandr extension for modesetting and multiple monitors. See the RandR12 page for tutorials.

Here is a full sample /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-nouveau.conf above for running 2 monitors in dual head mode. You may prefer to use a graphical tool to configure monitors like GNOME Control Center's Display panel (gnome-control-center display).

# the right one
Section "Monitor"
          Identifier   "NEC"
          Option "PreferredMode" "1280x1024_60.00"

# the left one
Section "Monitor"
          Identifier   "FUS"
          Option "PreferredMode" "1280x1024_60.00"
          Option "LeftOf" "NEC"

Section "Device"
    Identifier "nvidia card"
    Driver "nouveau"
    Option  "Monitor-DVI-I-1" "NEC"
    Option  "Monitor-DVI-I-2" "FUS"

Section "Screen"
    Identifier "screen1"
   Monitor "NEC"
    DefaultDepth 24
      SubSection "Display"
       Depth      24
       Virtual 2560 2048
    Device "nvidia card"

Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier "layout1"
    Screen "screen1"

Setting console resolution

Use the fbset tool to adjust console resolution.

You can also pass the resolution to nouveau with the video= kernel line option (see KMS).

Power Management

GPU Scaling is in various stages of readiness depending on the GPU. See the following link for additional info:


Enable MSI (Message Signaled Interrupts)

This may provide a slight performance advantage. It is only supported on NV50+ and is disabled by default.

Warning: This may cause instability with some motherboard / GPU combinations.

Place the following in /etc/modprobe.d/nouveau.conf:

options nouveau msi=1

If using early start, add the line FILES="/etc/modprobe.d/nouveau.conf" to /etc/mkinitcpio.conf, then re-generate kernel image:

# mkinitcpio -p <kernel preset, e.g. linux>

Reboot system to affect changes