How to Install FOSS ATI Radeon Drivers on GNU/Linux Debian

After reinstalling my GNU/Linux Debian system I encountered problems with my ATI Radeon graphics drivers. I have always used the Free (FOSS) drivers, so it was unsettling that it now seemed to not be working; the screen resolutions were all wrong and couldn’t be changed.

After a bit of time I discovered that the FOSS ATI Radeon drivers were installed, but the proprietary non-free firmware blob wasn’t, which lead to this problem.

To fix this problem you need to:

  • install the non-free firmware for the graphics card from the non-free repository; and
  • install the FOSS ATI Radeon drivers if not already installed.

To add the non-free repository edit the “/etc/apt/sources.list” file as root. If nano is not available on the system you can fall back to “vi” for editing.

# nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Add the words contrib non-free after the word main where it appears in the file. Save the file and exit. I have previously done a more detailed explanation of the sources.list file and how to add non-free repositories.

Now you need to update and then install the required firmware and drivers as root:

# apt-get update 
# apt-get install firmware-linux-nonfree 
# apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-ati