Configuring a NVIDIA graphics chip for Debian GNU/Linux 5.0


Bill Giannikos


This guide will help you configure the proprietary nvidia module under Debian GNU/Linux 5.0. I will not be covering the open source nv module included with Xorg because its configuration is normally handled automatically by most Linux distributions.

Licensing Issues

NVIDIA provide their own license for their driver. You will need to read and accept this license before proceeding. You can read this license here.


We will be using 'nano' as our text editor of choice but you can use whatever you wish.

While this guide is mainly focused to laptop users there isn't any difference for desktop users.


You should run a full update for your installation of Debian to ensure you have all the latest packages installed.

You will require an active internet connection for this to work.

Installing the NVIDIA driver

Here are the steps required to install and configure the NVIDIA driver in Debian.

1. Load up a terminal window if you are in the graphic interface.

2. Switch to the root user by entering the command “su -” (without the quotes) and typing in your root password.

3. Debian include parts of the nvidia driver in both the 'contrib' and 'non-free' repositories. You will need to enable both of these to install this driver. If you have already done this skip to step 7, otherwise continue on.

4. Edit your /etc/apt/sources.list file. With nano you would use:

nano -w /etc/apt/sources.list

5. Append “contrib non-free” to the end of every line starting with deb. It should look something like this (except with a different mirror):

deb lenny main contrib non-free
deb-src lenny main contrib non-free

deb lenny/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src lenny/updates main contrib non-free

If you don't see anything similar to the first two lines (which you may not depending on how you installed Debian) you will need to add them.

6. Save the file. In nano you press Ctrl-X, answer yes to the “Save modified buffer” question and then press enter on the file name to write.

7. Run the following command:

apt-get update

8. Execute the following commands:

apt-get install build-essential nvidia-glx module-assistant nvidia-kernel-common nvidia-settings nvidia-xconfig
m-a update
m-a prepare
m-a a-i nvidia

Some of these command may take a few minutes to complete and will require some packages to be downloaded from the internet.

9. Reboot and you will be using the NVIDIA driver.


Normally after installing the nvidia driver with the steps above your xorg.conf file should have automatically been updates to use the newer driver. If this did not happen or for some reason it has reverted then, as root, enter the following command:


This will switch you back to the nvidia driver.


Light, 2009/04/28 14:19

Thank you very much.

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configuring_a_nvidia_graphics_chip_for_debian_gnu_linux_5.0.txt · Last modified: 2009/03/02 02:48 by billg
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