I bought one of the best GPUs I could get for under $100. I determined this by using the benchmarks per dollar chart here and by watching Black Friday sales closely. I did not determine which GPU I should buy based on anything other than the above, and the games I wanted to play, and whether it fit my motherboard. Okay, so I did my research, I just didn’t take into account I’m running Linux and not Windows.

Big mistake.

As it turns out, NVIDIA and Linux don’t play nice together. At all. As it also turns out, there are approximately a billion problems that can go wrong when you try to install NVIDIA drivers on Ubuntu. I arrived at this estimate through science. And by science I mean approximately 24 hours of trial and error and googling linux forums.

I’m not even sure I could accurately describe all the problems, attempted fixes, bigger problems those “fixes” caused, more fixes, installing, uninstalling, reinstalling, updating, and otherwise hacking away at the command line and fiddling with components that I did.

If I were to do it all again, this is what I would do. First, I would go to NVIDIA’s website, click around, and figure out which driver is for my GPU by clicking each one and checking the supported products list. In my case, it was the 343 version. Next, I would not download the driver you find on the NVIDIA website. I would not attempt to install using the GUI. I also would not plug in the GPU into the GPU slot yet. These are all things I did do, and they seemed to cause problems.

What I would do is open up the terminal. Make sure your xserver is all ready and up to date:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa -y
$ sudo apt-get update

Install the drivers and update them. In my case, since my driver was the 343 version, I would write:

$ sudo apt-get install nvidia-343
$ sudo apt-get install nvidia-current

Change the number according to your GPU’s driver version. Now shut down, unplug your machine, actually put your GPU into its slot, and have cables coming out of both the motherboard and the GPU into your monitor. I had a DVI cable coming out of the GPU and a VGA cable coming out of the mobo. You might have to switch between the two as you fiddle with the settings. Get out (or google) your mobo’s instruction manual and figure out what key you should press on boot up to get into the BIOS. On most, it’s SHIFT or F2 but on mine it was DEL. So, button mash DEL, get into the BIOS, and change the default graphics card from the onboard graphics (IGFX) to the GPU (PCIe16).

Next, try to boot. Troubleshoot a billion things, including the possibility that Unity (the desktop GUI for Ubuntu) will need to be uninstalled and reinstalled (bonus challenge: you must fix this while you don’t have access to the desktop GUI). Fiddle with the cables. Fiddle with the settings in BIOS. Fiddle with the drivers. Fiddle with Unity. Become so frustrated you mentally and physically prepare to wipe your hard drive and reinstall your entire operating system from scratch. Refer to this guide when all else fails.

Eventually, it will work. I promise. Maybe.

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