How to use a Radeon graphics card on Debian 9

I have previously blogged about Radeon graphics cards on different Debian installs.

ATI has now released a new free driver which works brilliantly on Debian. In the past, Debian users had to choose between using the community-provided free software driver, or the proprietary one. Generally the proprietary driver was more feature-rich, but the free driver worked more reliably across upgrades. So now, you can safely ignore old guides and start using it.

Here’s how:


Make sure you are on Debian 9 (Stretch) or newer.

These steps apply to a fresh install.


You should use lspci to confirm that you have an ATI card.

$ lspci | grep Radeon
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI] Tahiti XT [Radeon HD 7970/8970 OEM / R9 280X]

Install firmware

You need to install a package called firmware-linux-free to get the driver working at all. If you want decent graphics performance, you will need firmware-linux-nonfree as well, which involves adding non-free sources:

nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Add the words “contrib non-free” to the end of your mirror:

deb http://.../debian/debian/ stretch main contrib non-free

Add the packages:

apt-get update
apt-get install firmware-linux-free firmware-linux-nonfree

And reboot:


What, that’s it?

Well, yes, for a fresh install that’s it. If your install is old, you might also have to remove old drivers or install the xserver-xorg-video-amdgpu and xserver-xorg-video-ati packages (in my case, these were already installed).

The Debian Wiki AtiHowto contains some more detailed information, most of which is not relevant for a simple desktop setup.

7 Replies to “How to use a Radeon graphics card on Debian 9”

  1. Thank you so…so…much Mike, for sharing your knowledge!!!
    your excellent & precise instructions helped me to install AMD firmware on Debian 9(Stretch). I appreciate your time to help/contribute the Linux community!
    I opted for email alerts for the new posts…

  2. So I’ve done that. I’m on a hp laptop model: 14-cm0045nr. I’ve got AMD’s Radeon E2-9000e r2 onboard grahphics. When I install this my screen flickers like crazy. Then after a couple of minutes the screen goes black but I can still hear everything working in the background (hdd, etc.) Any help would be appreciated.

  3. Thanks a lot, Mike, for your helpful instructions. Finally, the Desktop of my Debian 10(Buster) now is loading successfully. I didn’t know about firmware-linux before.

  4. I am wondering if it is then a “free” driver as you suggested or it is a “non-free” driver as suggested by the inclusion in the non-free repository of Debian.

  5. The amdgpu driver is free. The non-free package involved here is for firmware, which is still difficult to avoid.

  6. Thanks for the clarification. I can confirm this on Debian 10, where i, in order to install the AMD Rx560 properly, resorted to amdgpu , which was not sufficient. Had to include the Firmware-Linux-Nonfree package , then after reboot finally a Graphical Desktop appeared.

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