Nvidia GEForce 8500GT on Ubuntu 9.04

A quick how-to on getting 3d graphics working in Ubuntu with an Nvidia 8500GT.  This process has been tested on both x86 and x64 distros and has also been tested with an Nvidia 8400GS.  I have also successfully used a similar process on Fedora 11 x64, but the step-by-step was slightly different. It appears that all Nvidia 8000 and 9000 series graphics cards use the same set of drivers, so I would hazard a guess that this process would work on any of these, but I don’t have the cash to find out.

  1. Make sure that all updates are installed
  2. Go to System – Administration – Hardware Drivers and check X. Make sure that the installation disc is in the optical drive, or that the CDROM drive has been disabled in Software Sources. Otherwise, the installer will just sit there at the Downloading phase without asking for the disc.
  3. Once the installation is complete, restart the computer and log back in.

At this point, 3d acceleration should be enabled and applications like Compiz can now be used. However, Xorg and/or the Nvidia driver may not be able to correctly detect your monitor which will lead to a max resolution of 800×600, as was the case with my Dell SE197FP.  To fix this, you need to find the vertical and horizontal refresh rates for your monitor and enter them manually.  This information is usually located on the manufacturers web site, in your monitor documentation if you still have it, or sometimes it is listed on a sticker on the back.  Once you have this information, open up the Nvidia Control Panel with sudo as follows:

sudo nvidia-settings

Note: Going to System – Preferences – Nvidia also opens the control panel but it does not use sudo or gksu so it cannot edit xorg.conf or make any permanant changes. Also, the built-in Detect feature in the Nvidia Control Panel ignores and values from xorg.conf so don’t bother doing this step before you install the Nvidia driver and don’t use Detect afterward because it will overwrite your work without asking.

Click on the Save settings to xorg.conf button and then click on the Preview button on the next screen. Scroll down to SubSection Monitor and replace the existing hsync and vsync values with the ones for your monitor and save it. Click the Apply button back on the Nvidia Control Panel and a bunch of new values should be available on the Resolution dropdown.  Grab the one that you want (your monitor documentation should indicate which resolution looks the best), click Apply and then save xorg.conf again.

You should now be able to enable Desktop Effects, turn them all the way up and turn on Water Effects and other fun plugins at full resolution!