[HowTo] Set up PRIME (output offload) with NVIDIA proprietary driver

The latest versions of Xorg, kernel, and NVIDIA driver all support PRIME output but setting this up is a bit of a faff. What follows is a method to get this working on an Optimus-enabled laptop.


440xx update: If you have something which supports driver series 440xx then you should switch to video-hybrid-intel-nvidia-440xx-prime and ignore this guide (unless you want to use only the dGPU). Specify using the dGPU with e.g. prime-run glxinfo.


Note: Fermi-based GPUs should use nvidia-390xx instead of nvidia.

Method Advantages Disadvantages
bumblebee, using "render offload" Uses the dGPU only when requested, allows power saving, is the Manjaro default Some overhead so lower raw performance
PRIME, using "output offload" Uses the dGPU directly, better raw performance dGPU and iGPU both powered on constantly, needs manual configuration
optimus-manager Easy switch between iGPU and dGPU usage Very much pre-release and under rapid development
video-hybrid-intel-nvidia-440xx-prime NVIDIA's updated render offloading. Works perfectly on supported hardware. Only supported by 440xx and newer driver series

Note: The easiest way to switch to the dGPU is to disable the iGPU in your BIOS. If that option is available all of this is unnecessary and you can just go ahead and use the NVIDIA driver.

Note 2: While the package optimus-manager offers a semi-automated way of switching configuration between iGPU and dGPU, as of 2018-12-15T00:00:00Z it is still under heavy development.

Disclaimer: NVIDIA's support for Optimus under Linux is a right mess. There are many different hardware configurations so while this approach works for many it may not work for you. Read the Arch wiki for some options.

Step 1: remove bumblebee

If you installed with the non-free driver option mhwd will have set up bumblebee for you. This will get in the way so the first step is to remove it. Use the mhwd command-line or simply remove it via Manjaro Settings Manager.

Step 2: install the NVIDIA driver

Use mhwd or MSM to install the nvidia driver in the normal way.

Step 3: break fix mhwd's configuration

mhwd does the sensible thing and puts configuration in place as though the NVIDIA GPU was the only device available. We need to change this setup so PRIME will work.

Step 3.1: set up a new Xorg configuration

Firstly, remove /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/90-mhwd.conf and replace it with:

/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/optimus.conf
Section "Module"
    Load "modesetting"
EndSection

Section "Device"
    Identifier "nvidia"
    Driver "nvidia"
    BusID "PCI:1:0:0"
    Option "AllowEmptyInitialConfiguration"
EndSection

While the BusID value above should be correct for most Optimus laptops you should check your values with lspci | grep -E "VGA|3D" .

Step 3.2: Refine blacklisting

PRIME relies on nvidia-drm and mhwd puts it in a blacklist by default, but to ensure the nvidia kernel module will load we still need to blacklist certain other modules. Therefore, you'll have to do some editing of the files in /etc/modprobe.d.

To remove the existing blacklist, edit, move or remove any related mhwd-* files in /etc/modprobe.d/, e.g.

ls /etc/modprobe.d/mhwd*
sudo rm /etc/modprobe.d/mhwd-gpu.conf
sudo rm /etc/modprobe.d/mhwd-nvidia.conf

The end result must include a blacklist of the following modules, e.g. in /etc/modprobe.d/nvidia.conf:

blacklist nouveau
blacklist nvidiafb
blacklist rivafb

Step 4: enable nvidia-drm.modeset

Create a new file,

/etc/modprobe.d/nvidia-drm.conf
options nvidia_drm modeset=1

Step 5: Set the output source for your DM.

This is the most complicated part and the one which will take longest to get right. If you reboot now, your DM will load but display on the wrong output; the laptop display will be entirely blank (powered off).

We need to set a startup script to load the correct settings while the DM is loading.

NOTE: Use only the part which matches your current DM. You don't need to do all of these.

For LightDM

e.g. Xfce edition

Create a new file with the following content:

/usr/local/bin/optimus.sh
#!/bin/sh

xrandr --setprovideroutputsource modesetting NVIDIA-0
xrandr --auto

Make sure to set it world read-execute, chmod a+rx /usr/local/bin/optimus.sh.

Now you have to get this to load in LightDM's startup sequence, so edit /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf and set this at the [Seat:*] section

display-setup-script=/usr/local/bin/optimus.sh

For GDM

e.g. GNOME edition

Create a new file,

/usr/local/share/optimus.desktop
[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=Optimus
Exec=sh -c "xrandr --setprovideroutputsource modesetting NVIDIA-0; xrandr --auto"
NoDisplay=true
X-GNOME-Autostart-Phase=DisplayServer

Or using the same script as above ("for LightDM"),

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=Optimus
Exec=/usr/local/bin/optimus.sh
NoDisplay=true
X-GNOME-Autostart-Phase=DisplayServer

and link it into place so it starts with GDM and on login

sudo ln -s /usr/local/share/optimus.desktop /usr/share/gdm/greeter/autostart/optimus.desktop
sudo ln -s /usr/local/share/optimus.desktop /etc/xdg/autostart/optimus.desktop

You'll also have to use X, not Wayland.

For SDDM

e.g. KDE edition

Create a new file,

/usr/share/sddm/scripts/Xsetup
#!/bin/sh

xrandr --setprovideroutputsource modesetting NVIDIA-0
xrandr --auto

and make it executable.

Step 6: reboot

If everything is set correctly, when you reboot your DM will load, you can log in, and:

$ glxinfo | grep -i vendor
server glx vendor string: NVIDIA Corporation
client glx vendor string: NVIDIA Corporation
OpenGL vendor string: NVIDIA Corporation

Hooray! You're running X via the dGPU not the iGPU!

If you have multiple displays you may have to configure their layout again in the normal way.

References and reading

75 Likes
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Fantastic writeup! More people should be aware of the advantages. Once you leave bumblebee behind you never look back.

2 Likes

A bit off-topic, any idea when 390 will hit Stable branch?

With the next stable update. :wink:

Nice.

Will boot parameters replace the need for a startup script and modprobe configuration?

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT= "nvidia-drm.modeset=1

No.

Yes. It's a different way of setting the same option.

Are these extensions enabled by default? Are they even necessary?

Section "Extensions"
    Option "Composite" "Enable"
    Option "RENDER" "Enable"
EndSection

you can try ("Composite" "Enable" should work) and check xorg.log, it will say enabled or unknown option or something like that

e.g:

grep Composite .local/share/xorg/Xorg.0.log
[    12.470] (**) Extension "Composite" is enabled
[    12.803] (II)         Composite (RENDER acceleration)

be aware that xorg.log could be either in .local or in /var (depends if started as user or with root permissions)
if unsure check timestamp

1 Like

I was curious if these options are already on default and if setting through the extensions section is redundant. Also, for a compositing window manager like Cinnamon, would it even have an effect to enable through Xorg?

I have it set to run as root to ensure KMS is active.

remove it and check xorg.log if its still enabled
(or xdpyinfo|grep Composite)

I really dont know

So, according to arch wiki Composite isn't needed for window managers that already include. I assume that means Damage and Render extensions are redundant also.

ARCHWIKI: Some window managers (e.g. Compiz, Enlightenment, KWin, Marco, Metacity, Muffin, Mutter, Xfwm) do compositing on their own. For other window managers, a standalone composite manager can be used.

A post was split to a new topic: When will PRIME support be added to mhwd?

Can you please explain why you say so? :thinking:
From what I see in OP's table both gpus are enabled all the time, so I assume this is a PC only solution?

That's about it.

What kind of difference are we talking about? As far as I have read it is said that bumblebee is not reducing performance. So I am really curious.

Also, I assume on laptop it is a battery draining solution?

It's all hardware-dependent. The only way to see if it works better for you is to try it.

The point of the OP was not to discuss the relative merits, but the method of switching from render offload to display offload, only including a brief overview of the differences in the introduction.

There is a small mistake here the option requires a boolean as it is presented here it will hang the system.

Reference:

Option "AllowEmptyInitialConfiguration" "boolean"

    Normally, the NVIDIA X driver will fail to start if it cannot find any display devices connected to the NVIDIA GPU. AllowEmptyInitialConfiguration overrides that behavior so that the X server will start anyway, even if no display devices are connected.

    Enabling this option makes sense in configurations when starting the X server with no display devices connected to the NVIDIA GPU is expected, but one might be connected later. For example, some monitors do not show up as connected when they are powered off, even if they are physically connected to the GPU.

    Another scenario where this is useful is in Optimus-based laptops, where RandR 1.4 display offload (see Chapter 32, Offloading Graphics Display with RandR 1.4) is used to display the screen on the non-NVIDIA internal display panel, but an external display might be connected later.

    Default: off. The driver will refuse to start if it can't find at least one connected display device.

@jonathon following this tutorial using my modification did work here but the system started to overheat and I had to manually run the whole startkde to the gpu which was bad. I remmember I did not have to do it on my good setup so I dont know what I did have that differs from this that you posted

According to the NVIDIA driver documentation it does not require a boolean.

You might want to link to your source.

http://us.download.nvidia.com/XFree86/Linux-x86/390.48/README/xconfigoptions.html

if its working without should be logged in xorg.log

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