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Information on Intel graphics cards/chipsets and the intel video driver.

Since Intel provides and supports free software graphics drivers, Intel graphics are now essentially plug-and-play.

Note: For use within the console without X, see Uvesafb.

1 Models

It is a popular mistake to think of "Intel 945G" and "Intel GMA 945" as being the same graphics chip with different names. As a matter of fact, the latter does not exist. Intel uses "GMA" to indicate the graphics core, or the GPU. Anything other than that is actually the model of the motherboard chipset, like "915G", "945GM", "G965" or "G45".

The more common GPUs and their corresponding motherboard chipsets are:

GPU                Chipset/Northbridge
Intel GMA 900         910, 915
Intel GMA 950         945

The "i810" chipset (again, motherboard; not GPU) is actually really old and was manufactured long before the 9xx product line with which the GMA onboard-graphics branding began. Similarly, alternative names for the 910, 915 and 945 chips may include the i prefix.

See this for a list.

2 Driver

3 Installation

Prerequisite: Xorg

Install the xf86-video-intel package which is available in the official repositories.

4 Configuration

There is no need for any kind of configuration to get the Xorg running (an xorg.conf is unneeded, but needs to be configured correctly if present).

One thing that you should have already done from the start (not a configuration step per se) is to add your user to the relevant group:

# gpasswd -a username video

5 Early KMS (kernel mode setting)

Note: This part is useful only to boot in high resolution, using plymouth for example. If you're not sure about that, you probably don't need it.

KMS is required in order to run X and a desktop environment such as GNOME, KDE, Xfce, LXDE, etc. KMS is required by the xf86-video-intel driver and enabled by default. KMS is typically initialized after the kernel is bootstrapped. It is possible, however, to enable KMS during bootstrap itself, allowing the entire boot process to run at the native resolution.

Note: When using KMS, you must remove any references to vga or nomodeset from the kernel line in /boot/grub/menu.lst

To proceed, add the i915 module to the MODULES line in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf:

Note: If you have a first generation Core i{3,5,7} series processor with an integrated GPU, failure to add i915 to the MODULES array in /etc/mkinitcpio.conf will likely cause the error kernel: intel ips [...]: failed to get i915 symbols, graphics turbo disabled.
Note: You may need to add the intel_agp module too if the system complains at boot time.

Now, regenerate the initramfs:

# mkinitcpio -p linux-libre

and reboot the system. Everything should work now. If you are having problems, try explicitly enabling KMS by adding i915.modeset=1 to your kernel line in /boot/grub/menu.lst:

# (0) Parabola GNU/Linux-Libre
title  Parabola GNU/Linux-Libre
root   (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-linux-libre root=/dev/... i915.modeset=1
initrd /boot/initramfs-linux-libre.img

and make sure that you do not use the vga=... property nor nomodeset. Now, reboot and Xorg will work.

If you ever want to disable KMS, you can change the i915.modeset option to 0 in GRUB's /boot/grub/menu.lst, without rebuilding anything:

# (0) Parabola GNU/Linux-Libre
title  Parabola GNU/Linux-Libre
root   (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-linux-libre root=/dev/... i915.modeset=0
initrd /boot/initramfs-linux-libre.img

i915.modeset=0 is the Intel equivalent to nomodeset for other video cards.

Note: Adding nomodeset to the kernel boot line might prevent GNOME 3's gnome-shell or KDE's desktop effects from running.

For disabling it without having to edit /boot/grub/menu.lst, turn on the machine and when you see GRUB's screen, hit a key to disable the timeout. Select the kernel you want to boot (probably the one already selected) and hit e for "edit". Now select the line starting with "kernel" and hit e again for editing. You can now add the i915.modeset option and disable KMS by setting it to 0. Press Enter and then b to boot. Note that this will be temporary, so it will be enabled again upon rebooting.

Note: Disable modesetting with kernel boot parameter if you get a blank screen during boot process with the Intel GMA 950. Use the xf86-video-vesa driver then.

5.1 See also

  • KMS — Parabola wiki article on kernel mode setting
  • Xrandr — If you have problems setting the resolution

6 Tips and tricks

6.1 Setting scaling mode

This can be useful for some full screen applications.

xrandr --output LVDS1 --set PANEL_FITTING param

where param can be

  • center: resolution will be kept exactly as defined, no scaling will be made,
  • full: scale the resolution so it uses the entire screen or
  • full_aspect: scale the resolution to the maximum possible but keep the aspect ratio.

If it does not work, you can try

xrandr --output LVDS1 --set "scaling mode" param

where param is one of "Full", "Center" or "Full aspect".

6.2 KMS Issue: console is limited to small area

One of the low-resolution video ports may be enabled on boot which is causing the terminal to utilize a small area of the screen. To fix, explicitly disable the port with an i915 module setting. For example, add the following to the end of the kernel line in /boot/grub/menu.lst:


If that does not work, you may also try disabling TV1 or VGA1 instead of SVIDEO-1.

6.3 Hardware acceleration

If you want to enable hardware accelerated video decode/encode in multimedia applications (such as VLC or MPlayer) for Intel HD graphics controllers (G45, Sandybridge), install the libva-driver-intel package, available in the Official Repositories.

7 Supported hardware


8 Troubleshooting

8.1 Glxgears shows low performance results

If you run glxgears in order to check your system's graphics performance, you may notice that glxgears shows results around 60 FPS:

311 frames in 5.0 seconds = 61.973 FPS
311 frames in 5.0 seconds = 62.064 FPS
311 frames in 5.0 seconds = 62.026 FPS

That is happening not because there is a performance regression, but because your system graphics are using vertical sync (vsync), that means, your display's native frames per second.

Note: glxgears is not a benchmark for performance comparison between two or more systems.
Note: To disable VSync just add in your /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf in Section "Device" string Option "SwapbuffersWait" "false"

8.2 Blank screen during boot, when "Loading modules"

If you are using "late start" KMS and the screen goes blank when "Loading modules", it may help to add i915 and intel_agp to the initramfs. See KMS above.

Alternatively, appending the following to the kernel command line seems to work as well:


8.3 External monitor connected to laptop flashes black every 30 seconds

If your laptop uses Intel HD graphics and your external LCD is flashing to black every 30 seconds, upgrading your video driver and kernel may help. As of now using xf86-video-intel version 2.14.0-1 and kernel 2.6.37-5 have solved this issue.

8.4 Video tearing

Install VA-API support by installing the libva-intel-driver package. Use a VAAPI supported video player. If you use mplayer, install mplayer-vaapi-libre, and use -vo vaapi parameter.

8.5 X freeze/crash with intel driver

If you have issue with X crashing, or GPU hang, or problem with frozen X, then the fix may be to use the "Shadow" option:

 Section "Device"
    Identifier "old intel stuff"
    Driver "intel"
    Option "Shadow" "True"
    Option "DRI" "false"

Because it disables (most) video acceleration functions, using this fix (Option "Shadow" "True") may cause problems with gnome-screenshot and similar programs like gimp, or gcolor2.

Another option that can help on some implementations is to enable semaphores in the kernel video driver, by adding i915.semaphores=1 to the kernel command line. To make this change permanent on GRUB2 installations, changing the kernel command-line entry in /etc/default/grub and re-running grub-mkconfig will make that change permanent.

 GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash i915.semaphores=1"

8.6 Adding undetected resolutions

This issue is covered on the Xrandr page.

9 Acknowledgement

This wiki article is based on ArchWiki. We may have removed non-FSDG bits from it.