Installing nVidia Drivers on KDE Neon

I’ve decided to try and make a full time switch to Linux after 20+ years of debating whether to try and I’ve picked KDE Neon as my distro of choice. I picked Neon because it fulfilled my requirements of being based on Debian or Ubuntu, having KDE as a first class option, having Flatpak, and being a general purpose distro. I don’t game much any more, but I do like to kick back occasionally, so getting the nVidia drivers installed was a bit of a priority. I’ve used Ubuntu a bit in the past and Mint a few times so I expected it to be easy like it is there. I suppose it was easy enough once I’d dug the appropriate commands out of the Internet.

First things first, don’t install or try to install kubuntu-driver-manager. It no longer exists and was never really suitable for KDE Neon anyway. It gets mentioned everywhere but the posts are wrong. Some suggest trying to use software-properties-qt instead, the application that replaced Kubuntu’s driver manager. That is at least installable but it’s not the right way to get the drivers for KDE Neon.

It seems the appropriate way is via the command line using the “ubuntu-drivers” utility.

ubuntu-drivers devices

This will provide an output like this which lists all the devices that need a driver and the driver options that can be used with them.

== /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:03.1/0000:09:00.0 ==
modalias : pci:v000010DEd00001E84sv00001458sd00004008bc03sc00i00
vendor   : NVIDIA Corporation
model    : TU104 [GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER]
driver   : nvidia-driver-515-open - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-470-server - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-515-server - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-530-open - distro non-free recommended
driver   : nvidia-driver-515 - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-510 - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-470 - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-525-open - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-525 - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-530 - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-450-server - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-driver-525-server - distro non-free
driver   : xserver-xorg-video-nouveau - distro free builtin

Notice that nvidia-driver-530-open is marked as recommended, that’s a lie as far as I can tell. I installed that initially and the driver crashed on boot. More on that in a moment. To install a driver simply issue the following command.

sudo pkcon install nvidia-driver-530

If you are installing the drivers on a fresh install of KDE Neon then expect a fair sized download. Later installs will likely be smaller. Notice I use pkcon rather than apt, this is recommended on KDE Neon. Once the install is complete reboot and cross you fingers that it worked.

Failed Drivers

As I mentioned above I initially tried the recommended nvidia-driver-530-open driver but this wouldn’t load. I looked in dmesg and it mumbled something about failing to load the driver and mentioned the dreaded DRM. This post on the Ubuntu forums discussed the same issue, or at least had the same error message. Fortunately the fix was just to install the non-open drivers as shown above. I’m not entirely sure why this worked, I suspect it might be something to do with SecureBoot. Upon installing non-opon drivers the open version was removed. After rebooting text scaling was different, other than that everything was the same (I actually like the larger text, my eyes are old).