Ubuntu 13.10 essentials: Nvidia setup

Updated: November 16, 2013

If everything works out for you well, then you will never have to read this tutorial, or at least, never read it in anger. Which means you have successfully installed your graphics drivers without any hitches or glitches or problems in the latest release of Ubuntu, the one dubbed Saucy Salamander, the one I happened to like quite a bit.

If not, then please read on. This guide will teach you how to install your Nvidia drivers, so that your can enjoy your expensive card properly. It is very similar to the two guides provided for Quetzal and Ringtail, so those should work for you, too. Links further below. Either way, enjoy.


Initial steps

Before we begin, here's a handful of useful tips and tricks that you should take into consideration before installing the desired drivers. One, backup all your stuff, because if you're not really sure how to recover, you're in a tight spot. Second, consider full system imaging. CloneZilla is your friend here. Third tip of the day, perform full system update before dabbling, just to make sure any last-minute bugs are fixed. Now, work.

Install via Ubuntu Software Center

In the last two releases, this did not really work. You would end up with a black screen and whatnot. Most surprisingly, the problem only affected the Unity-flavored stock Ubuntu, but not Kubuntu or Xubuntu. However, in Ubuntu 13.10, this issue  seems to have been fixed based on my limited but awesome testing, so in theory, you will never to consider reading anything below this paragraph. But please, try this option first.

Open the Ubuntu Software Center, and under the global file menu, click on Edit > Software Sources. Then, in the rightmost tab that reads Additional Drivers, select the best version of the driver for your card, and hit Apply Changes. Wait until the driver is installed and reboot. If all goes well, you will see Nvidia logo splash and you will log into a fully functional desktop with the Nvidia settings panel available for use.

Additional drivers

Nvidia works

Does not work for you? Other methods

I do not wish to copy & paste my own material, so I will kindly ask you to consult the existing two guides written for Ubuntu 12.10 and Ubuntu 13.04. The instructions apply 100% to Salamander, too, so you should be just fine.

My Ubuntu Ringtail Nvidia guide - read first please!

My Ubuntu 12.10 Nvidia guide - just in case, but the above has everything

General troubleshooting

Fourth tip of the day, let's call this a carry over from the initial steps above, remember these few simple rules, and thou shalt prosper, Vulcan style. If your system does comes with a black screen, the reason is probably that the driver cannot be loaded. You may have a conflict with Nouveau or a corrupt xorg.conf file.

Useful commands

Please consult this tutorial. But in general, lsmod, insmod, rmmod, and modprobe are your friends when trying to check, load and unload kernel modules. Depmod (lowercase) is also useful for recreating all module dependencies properly. If you want to manually run scripts and binaries, do make them executable.

How to stop/start/restart the desktop environment

You can do this from any one virtual console - Ctrl + Alt + F1-6.

sudo /etc/init.d/lightdm <desired action>

Backup of configuration files

Back up and restore of xorg.conf file under (if present), as root or sudo:


Blacklisting Nouveau

As sudo or root, edit the following file:


Populate the following file with following information:

# This file was installed by nvidia-current-updates
# Do not edit this file manually

blacklist nouveau
blacklist lbm-nouveau
blacklist nvidia-173
blacklist nvidia-96
blacklist nvidia-current
blacklist nvidia-173-updates
blacklist nvidia-96-updates
alias nvidia nvidia_current_updates
alias nouveau off
alias lbm-nouveau off

Recreate the initrd file:

sudo update-initramfs -u

Add/edit the following to your GRUB2 default config under /etc/default/grub:


And that would be all for this section.

Side note: Hybrid graphics card support

Do you happen to have systems with two adapters, one built in your CPU, and the other a discrete card? In that case, you're in a bit of a spot, because the hybrid support is still somewhat flaky in Linux. That's life.

Just so you know, there are several concepts that you should know, in case you want to experiment. Now, all that said, I've tried to compile a handful of resources that ought to help you, until I decide I ever want to convert any one of my systems to also use the the internal, el-cheapo CPU graphics unit.

Ubuntu Bumblebee project for Nvidia Optimus support

Official if limited Nvidia support available in driver 319.12 and above

Nvidia-prime package for those too lazy to switch the internal GPU in BIOS off


I tried to make this tutorial short, but I can't seem to be able to do that. I must give my readers everything, including the material that is way beyond the initial mission goal of this article. That's my curse.

But you've learned a bunch today. First, always look at what I've written before, it's most likely useful and quite relevant. Second, graphics drivers can sound scary, but if you're careful and methodical, it's easy. Backup your stuff, work slowly, try simple things first. Then, make sure you are comfortable working on the command line, so you can recover from possible errors during the installation. Lastly, manual compilations are extremely powerful. We're good. And that would be all.


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