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This article discusses how to install and use the open-source Radeon display driver for X11.

Introduction

Support for AMD (nee ATI) hardware is provided by the package xserver-xorg-video-ati (wrapper driver) which depends on three hardware specific drivers:

The ati wrapper driver autodetects whether your hardware has a Radeon, Rage 128, or Mach64 or earlier class chipset and loads the radeon, r128, or mach64 driver as appropriate.

Determining your hardware

Run this command to determine what kind of video card you have:

lspci -v | grep VGA

Supported Cards

The radeon driver in Squeeze supports R1xx to RV770 (Radeon 7000 – Radeon HD 4870) class chips. See the radeon page on the X wiki for more information.

First try the free radeon driver by installing xserver-xorg-video-ati which installs xserve-xorg-video-radeon by dependency.

Installing proprietary firmware

Proprietary, binary-only firmware was removed from the Debian kernel's radeon DRM driver in linux-2.6 2.6.29-1, to resolve Debian bug 494009. It can now be installed via the firmware-linux-nonfree package (autostart by kernel: dmesg |grep -i firmware)

Without this firmware installed, poor 2D/3D performance in the radeon driver is commonly experienced. Some cards may require this to run the X Window System.

For Debian Squeeze and later releases, you will need to install proprietary firmware if you have one of the following Radeon-based cards:

The firmware in question, id est the CP/PFP microcode, can be installed by first enabling the non-free repository for your Debian release and issuing the following command:

aptitude install firmware-linux-nonfree

Configuring the kernel

You will need Direct Rendering Manager as well as Accelerated Graphics Port support in your kernel, preferably as modules. If you are using the stock Debian kernel, you should already have these. To check for DRM support, issue this command:

grep DRM_RADEON /boot/config-$(uname -r) 

The output should be:

CONFIG_DRM_RADEON=m

If this value is n, then you will have to rebuild your kernel.

To check for AGP support, run:

grep AGP /boot/config-$(uname -r)

The output should be:

CONFIG_AGP=y
CONFIG_AGP_AMD64=y
CONFIG_AGP_INTEL=m
CONFIG_AGP_SIS=m
CONFIG_AGP_VIA=m

Note that you will only need support for your specific chipset.

If you do need to rebuild your kernel, you can find AGP under:

and DRM under:

Editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf

(xorg.conf does not exist in Squeeze and Sid) Essentially, you need to set your device's driver to "radeon" as such:

Section "Device"
    Identifier     "Device0"
    Driver         "radeon"
EndSection

There are also plenty of options for the driver too. You can find out about them in radeon's man page:

man 4 radeon

Enabling 3D acceleration

It is necessary to install driver libraries in order to utilize the card's 3D capabilities:

aptitude install libgl1-mesa-dri

These will automatically be installed as a dependency of the xserver-xorg-core package, so if you've installed that, you don't need to worry about this.

Troubleshooting

Radeon Xpress 200M (R300) on laptop

During a long time, on laptops with Radeon Xpress 200M (R300) you may get some random colored stripes (especially after suspending display power). This is problably due to a bug into free driver. A solution may be to switch off, then switch on the backlight with radeontool (eponymic package).

sudo radeontool light off
sleep 1
sudo radeontool light on

See Also