How to Get NVIDIA Optimus Working on Ubuntu Linux

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These days, most applications make use of your dedicated graphics card. Even running Ubuntu in its full glory requires you to have a decent graphics card. Oh and yeah, gaming is another area where you need to invest your hard-earned money into buying either an NVIDIA- or AMD- enabled laptop. The problem here is that graphic-intensive tasks, especially those that make full use of your graphics card consume a lot of your battery life. In fact, sometimes people feel that they'd be better off with a modest Intel graphics card.

Taking note of this problem, NVIDIA came up with an ingenious solution called NVIDIA Optimus. What Optimus does is that it dynamically switches between your onboard Intel graphics and your NVIDIA graphics card in order to save power. So, for example, when you're playing a game, Optimus will switch from Intel to NVIDIA so that you could have the best gaming experience. However, when you are working on that Excel Spreadsheet, Optimus makes sure that you are using your Intel graphics thus saving you a lot of power.

NVIDIA Optimus is already available on Windows with the default NVIDIA drivers set. On Linux, however, the Bumblebee project is responsible for bringing Optimus to your laptop. The following guide will help you get NVIDIA Optimus working on your Ubuntu desktop and hopefully make the most out of it. (This guide assumes that you have an Intel and an NVIDIA card on your laptop. For more information check the instruction manual accompanying your device).

Installing Bumblebee

Since the Bumblebee project is officially supported by Ubuntu, all you have to do is type in the following command in your terminal:

sudo apt-get install bumblebee bumblebee-nvidia

This will install the required drivers on your computer. Now, to run an application using NVIDIA drivers, all you have to do is type optirun before the app's name and enter it into the command line. Here's an example of how to run Firefox using Nvidia drivers:

optirun firefox 

Making the Most out of Bumblebee

To ensure that you can switch between your onboard graphics and your NVIDIA card anytime you want, all you need to do is install the Prime indicator applet for your desktop. Once installed, an indicator applet shows up that displays the graphics card that is currently in use. Upon clicking the icon, you can switch between the two cards. As simple as that.

To install Prime indicator on your Ubuntu computer, you'll have to add the Webupd8 ppa to your list of repositories. Enter the following commands to do that:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install prime-indicator

For all the perfectionists out there, you can download the Bumblebee configurator from a PPA. This tool allows you to configure Bumblebee to your liking and even troubleshoot it in case something doesn't go away. Type in or paste the following commands to install the tool:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alessandrofac93/bumblebee-config-gtk-dev
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bumblebee-config-gui

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.