Moving From nVidia To ATI In Ubuntu Karmic Koala

A bit ago I got an almost-free computer from work with a couple of parts I wanted to upgrade my home system, bumping the CPU a bit and replacing the video card that goes WRRRAAAAAAWWWRRRRRRR-ER-ER-ER WRRRRRAAAAAWWWWRRRR with something a little quieter. Last night I finally got around to switching the parts, and found a couple of issues moving from the nVidia TI-4200 video card to an ATI Radeon 9250, so I figured I’d document it as an excuse to get something on this page so it doesn’t completely stagnate.

First of all, I did it completely wrong, and simply shut down the system, swapped the video cards and booted it up. The graphics, which were configured for the nVidia card completely failed when booting up, giving me just a flashing console as it tried to run X11 with a driver for a card that wasn’t installed at all.

I was lucky and had a computer next to me that I could ssh into the linux system and do maintenance remotely, however if you don’t have this, read this to find out how to edit the GRUB config on boot to enter single user mode.

To recover the video, the first step was to remove that customization from the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. I have no idea why I had device specific configuration in there, as the last couple of Ubuntu releases have required only a skeleton file and will figure out your video cards for you. So the section I had at the bottom which looked like this:

Section "Device"
Identifier "Configured Video Device"
Driver "nvidia"
Option "NoLogo" "True"

was removed.

Next I removed the nvidia packages I had installed:

$ dpkg -l | grep nvidia | grep ii
[list of packages, for me they were the "173" version, you might have different ones]
$ sudo apt-get remove nvidia-settings nvidia-glx-173 nvidia-common nvidia-173-kernel-source

And then install the non-free, evil, binary only packages for the ATI drivers (in theory I could have rebooted, let the system boot up with the default video drivers and install the restricted drivers from the ‘hardware’ application under the system configuration menu).

$ sudo apt-get install fglrx-kernel-source xorg-driver-fglrx

Packages install, reboot, and voila, the system should boot up as normal.