Slow desktop performance on Ubuntu 11.10 with nvidia graphics cards

11.10 has been a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side it has Gnome 3, giving me a practical (and in my opinion superior) alternative to Unity. On the minus side I had upgrade glitches on both my work and personal machines, and they were unrelated issues! Might be wise to wipe and reinstall for this one (you did separate your home partition when you installed didn’t you :)).

Anyway after getting it working on my work PC (which has an 8400GS), the desktop was quite laggy in both Unity and Gnome3. It was still usable but I didn’t realise how bad it was until I went home and noticed how much smoother my laptop was, with its lowly 2009-era Intel integrated graphics…

The solution was to install the latest 285.05 Nvidia driver, but trust me when I tell you that you do not want the hassle of using the Nvidia installer from the Nvidia website.

It is much simpler to use the X Updates ppa.

So assuming you already have the default binary Nvidia driver installed and activated (nvidia-current), the quick command line solution to your performance woes should hopefully be:

sudo -i
add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
apt-get update && apt-get upgrade
reboot

You should notice an update for the nvidia-current package being installed.

That wasn’t too bad was it? :)

30 thoughts on “Slow desktop performance on Ubuntu 11.10 with nvidia graphics cards

    1. Alex Post author

      No problem!

      Anyone doing this should note that you will need to purge this ppa before upgrading to 12.04 as it could cause problems. To do this you’ll need the ppa-purge package which is available in the same ppa.

      But that’s 6 months away so who cares ;)

      Reply
  1. Pingback: Install the newest Nvidia Graphics Driver on Ubuntu 11.10 | ahnbk.com

  2. Cason

    Hi, Linux Noob here need your help. my nVidia GeForce Go 6150 is stable with driver 173 listed in “Additional drivers” (Actually, it automatically installed during OS installation) but I am experiencing sluggishness in drag/drop/maximize/minimize…and the video performance is just horrible. Is there anyway you could help me out? My hardware is Pavilion dv2210us. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Alex Post author

      What you’re seeing is exactly the issue this blog post describes, and moving to the 280/290 series driver should solve it, which is what the instructions above were meant to do.

      However if the OS installed the 173 series driver on install it wouldn’t auto-upgrade, as has its own package, nvidia-173, which is different to nvidia-current.

      Release notes indicate that the nforce 420 is supported by the latest 290.1 driver though, so try this:

      sudo -i
      add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
      apt-get remove nvidia-173
      apt-get install nvidia-current

      Or in what might be an easier and safer method, open the “Additional Drivers” applet from settings and active the “version current” driver from the list. <--- this assumes you already have done the "add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates" line as per the blog post above as it needs the ppa for the latest 290-series driver.

      Reply
      1. Cason

        Thank you for your prompt reply, Alex. Before doing this, I want to make sure I understand your instruction correctly.

        1. In order for me to install the 290.1, I must uninstall 173 by using this:

        sudo -i
        add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
        apt-get remove nvidia-173
        apt-get install nvidia-current

        2. Then use the command above to install the 290.1

        sudo -i
        add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
        apt-get update && apt-get upgrade
        reboot

        3. Also, in case it does not work as expected, how do I uninstall it and go back to 173 since it seems to be the most stable except for the sluggishness performance in watching YouTube, videos, and GUI?

        Reply
        1. Alex Post author

          Your step 1 should both uninstall 173 and install 290.1. I would recommend the following:

          sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
          sudo apt-get update
          sudo apt-get upgrade

          (this should not change anything, just install updates, if any)

          Open the Additional Drivers control panel, and the 290 driver should be an option. Activate it and reboot.

          To revert you would simply active the 173 driver again in the same way that you activated the 290 driver.

          Reply
          1. Cason

            Hi Alex, I am really confused on this. I have tried my best to follow the instruction, but the problem is still there. Furthermore, I do not see any 290.10 package listed in Additional Drivers unless it is listed as a current-version. I’m sorry for the trouble, but I think I need to be spoon-fed on this. Thanks.

          2. Alex Post author

            There’s not much more I can do without writing a whole new article complete with screen shots and arrows :-)
            But it sounds like you’re almost there. With the ppa installed, current-version should be 290.10. Activate it and try!

            On my laptop which does not have the ppa I ran the command “sudo apt-cache showpkg nvidia-current|grep xorg-driver-video“, which gave:
            280.13-0ubuntu6 – xorg-driver-video

            On yours if you followed the directions in the post above it should give something like:
            290.10-0ubuntu1 – xorg-driver-video

            If so, activate it in additional drivers and you should be done. I hope it solves your problem!

          3. Cason

            Alright, I saw the package in Software Center as 290.10 and 173 then I uninstalled 173, install 290.10 and restarted. Nothing. Applied the commands
            sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
            sudo apt-get update
            sudo apt-get upgrade

            Still nothing…It is just as sluggish as 173. I am lost. Perhaps I should retreat back to Windows 7. :roll:

          4. Cason

            I did it, Alex. I did a fresh install and read your instruction again, again, and again. Now it’s much better, although full screen YouTube is still laggy; however, I can live with it. Many thanks to you for being patient with me.
            Cheers,
            Cason :razz:

          5. Alex Post author

            You’re welcome, glad you got it sorted. Youtube i.e. flash is always laggy on anything other than Windows :)

          6. Mihai

            Hello Alex! I used “sudo apt-cache showpkg nvidia-current|grep xorg-driver-video“ to find the nvidia-current version currently installed in my system and got:
            295.20-0ubuntu1~oneiric~xup1 – xorg-driver-video
            280.13-0ubuntu6 – xorg-driver-video
            Do you know how to find which version is in fact used? nvida-settings points to 295.20, because I’m still dealing with very laggy and slowly responses when I open several programs. System monitor shows above 90% processor activity to Xorg…

          7. Alex Post author

            Easiest way is to run “NVIDIA X Server Settings” (nvidia-settings), which should be on the application menu. On the X Server information section it shows the driver version.

    1. Cason

      Thanks but I am looking for a full fix, not a work around method. Anyhow, I appreciate your response. So in my case, my video driver 290.10 is installed correctly but video acceleration is not enable. Great! More problems. :shock:

      Reply
  3. EmperorMingTheMerciless

    Thanks very much! I was having terrible problems with Linux Mint 12. Installing nvidia-current took performance from hellishly unusable to very annoying, but this upgrade seems to have made all well.

    Reply
  4. علی

    i have this problem but in openSUSE,
    i asked for this in many forums but i find nothing,
    May you guide me how to solve the problem in openSUSE?
    Thanks.

    Reply
        1. Alex Post author

          What fixed the problem here was installing the latest driver. From the looks of it you are already running the latest driver, so it must be a different issue. Unfortunately I don’t run OpenSUSE so I can’t help you on this. Good luck solving it!

          Reply
  5. Joachim

    Finally some good advice. After having had a regular update of my Linux Mint 12, the computer became so sluggish that it was unusable. I was using the 173 driver. Tried the “current” version to no avail. Then I tried downgrading to the 93 driver which resulted in an unability to even starts the xterm. Ended up doing a fresh install, lost a full days of work, and I was still facing the similar problem. Was ready to give up and migrate to some other system when I came across your blog. You really made my day! I am now the proud user of a snappy Linux Mint 12 that uses Nvidia’s 295 driver.

    Thank you! :lol:

    Reply
  6. Goliat

    PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW:

    which modules and drivers they are using, and what version (the manufacturer’s or the open source?) and what version number.
    How to uninstall and install the different drivers to try them all.

    Reply
  7. Piotr

    Have the same problem with ubuntu 12.04 LTS with my Quadro FX 1600M graphic card and your solution works like a charm. thanks !

    Reply

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