How to Install Proprietary Drivers in Ubuntu 10.10 - Guest Post

By Dr. Muhammad Saleem, PhD

Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering

With past versions of Linux, it was relatively difficult to work with third-party hardware. The era has changed now and, like many other Linux distributions, UBUNTU has made it easy to use any kind of proprietary hardware with your computer.

Thinkserver TS200V (0981) - Server - Tower - 1 - Core I5 - 650 - 3.2 Ghz - 2 GbThe operating system provides a broad range of open-source drivers for commonly available hardware. However, if the open-source drivers are not going to meet your requirements e.g. advanced graphics you can install the proprietary drivers. These drivers are generally required for specific applications e.g. games which have heavy graphics, animations and sound effects. Furthermore, proper drivers enable the software programs to run at their best.

When a hardware device is plugged into a PC, UBUNTU automatically detects it and installs the associated driver in most cases. For example, your UBUNTU machine will detect your WiFi network adaptor automatically and install the correct driver.  However, UBUNTU doesn’t have proprietary drivers by default and popular brands like NVIDIA and ATI etc. need drivers from their original manufacturers to enjoy their full-strength performance under the Linux environment. The UBUNTU 10.10 operating system can install and activate drivers for such third-party hardware. Here is a list of few such methods.

  1. On startup, if UBUNTU detects proprietary hardware on your system, you will be prompted “restricted drivers available”. This message points to the installed hardware that requires non-open source drivers for optimum and efficient performance. There is a dark green rectangular button in the “Title Bar” of this dialog box. Click it and then click “Install Drivers”. This will install the required driver for your device.
  2. Subsequent to the first dialog mentioned in the previous paragraph, a second dialog box appears that displays the type of driver to be installed, for example, “NVIDIA accelerated graphics driver”. This second dialog also allows you the option to install the relevant driver for the detected hardware. There are two buttons on this dialog box: CANCEL and ENABLE. Clicking the CANCEL button aborts whereas clicking the ENABLE button directly initiates the downloading and installation process of the required driver. If you don’t want to play games, you can skip enabling the desktop effects. But if the driver is not enabled, the games that require 3D acceleration will either malfunction or may not run at all.
  3. Now come to the third and last method of driver installation. If you skipped installation at system startup, you can proceed by Clicking “System > Administration > Hardware Drivers” from the main desktop environment. As a result, UBUNTU starts scanning your computer for installed hardware. After the scan is complete, a dialog box is prompted that shows all available drivers for the installed proprietary hardware. Select the driver and click the ACTIVATE button at the bottom of this dialog box. After entering your administrative password, UBUNTU 10.10 starts downloading the required driver from the web and installs it automatically. This process will take some time. Be patient while the files are being downloaded and installed subsequently.

After completion, you will be prompted to restart your computer.  Computer reboot is essential for properly activating the newly installed driver. If you want to remove any installed driver, invoke the drivers’ dialog box as mentioned in step 3; select the driver and click the REMOVE button. Uninstall will also require computer reboot. Now, wait a minute: have you noticed some hidden instruction in this article. If not, then go ahead and try out these steps. If every effort fails, it means, you do not have a working Internet connection. “Oops, I must have figured it out before”.

Editor's Note: Dr. Muhammad Saleem has a PhD from the Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering, Islamabad, Pakistan. He spends his spare time writing as a freelance writer. He is also the author/co-author of several research publications in the area of Ad Hoc networks. You can view more about his work over at:

The article above does not reflect the opinions, observations and recommendations of and are the sole views of the author. Always confirm information before you do something with your computer. 

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