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Activate the best driver for your “old” AMD GPU on Linux

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Do you use that somewhat old AMD GPU on Linux and are not able to run games with Vulkan, or achieve satisfactory performance? Perhaps what you need is just to activate the correct driver. Here’s how to enable the best driver for GPUs from the ‘Sea Islands’ and ‘Southern Islands’ families on Linux.

Drivers for your AMD GPU on Linux

AMD video cards have two drivers that can be enabled by default in Linux distributions, being ‘Radeon’ and ‘Amdgpu’. What defines which one is enabled by default is your GPU model. Very old GPUs are generally only compatible with the ‘Radeon’ driver, while the most current models use ‘Amdgpu’. However, there are two of AMD’s GPU families that are compatible with both drivers. I’m talking about ‘Sea Islands’ and ‘Southern Islands’.

In these GPUs the compatibility with ‘Amdgpu’ is in an experimental phase, so it is not activated by default, it is necessary to activate it manually through a simple and quick procedure.

If you want to gain a broader understanding of the types of drivers that exist for AMD GPUs on Linux before performing the procedures shown below, read This article that we wrote about it.

Identifying your AMD GPU and driver in use

Below is a list of all GPU models from the ‘Sea Islands’ and ‘Southern Islands’ families. If your GPU is on that list, then the procedure is likely to be necessary.

Tahiti, Bonaire, Hawaii, Pitcairn, Cape Verde, Oland.

There is a very simple command that will tell us whether the GPU in use at the moment is or is not compatible with ‘Amdgpu’. Simply copy the command below, paste it into the terminal and press’Enter‘:

lspci -k | grep amdgpu

Two lines similar to these will appear:

Kernel driver in use: radeon

The driver that appears in the “Kernel driver in use” line is the one that is currently activated, whereas the contents of the “Kernel modules” line are the drivers that are available for use. If the command above did not return anything, then your GPU is only compatible with the ‘Radeon’ driver.

If in your case the driver in use at the moment is ‘Amdgpu’, then you don’t need to do anything else, the best option is already activated. However, if the driver currently in use is ‘Radeon’, and ‘Amdgpu’ is appearing as available, follow the procedure below to activate it:

How do I activate ‘Amdgpu’ on my ‘Sea Island’ or ‘Southern Island’?

First let’s edit the settings file for Grub so that during the boot the system knows that it should use ‘Amdgpu’.

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

You will have a similar, but not necessarily identical, screen below:

activating-the-best-driver-amd-1

At the end of the line “GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX”, Before closing quotes, paste the line:

radeon.cik_support=0 amdgpu.cik_support=1 radeon.si_support=0 amdgpu.si_support=1

It should look like the example below:

activating-the-best-driver-amd-2

Now to save press the key combination “Control + O» and «Enter”. Then close the text editor with “Control + X”.

To activate the new settings, it is necessary to update Grub with the command below:

On Linux Mint, Ubuntu and derivatives:

sudo update-grub

In Fedora:

sudo grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg

In Manjaro, Arch and derivatives:

sudo grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

Restart the machine, and you’re done!

If you run the command “lspci -k | grep amdgpu”You will see that the driver in use is now ‘Amdgpu’.

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