Introduction to Intel® Graphics for Linux
Jan 11, 2017
Intel®'s open source 3D graphics driver for Linux* operating systems, is among the most widely deployed graphics driver stacks in the industry. The driver is based on the Mesa 3D project and the Linux i915 kernel driver and is seamlessly integrated into many Linux client distributions, such as Ubuntu*, Fedora*, Google*’s Chromebooks*, and Valve’s SteamOS*. This driver is also integrated into a wide variety of embedded devices like printers and scanners, which add to the tens of millions of users worldwide.
The most common question people ask us is how to obtain this driver. One of the key benefits of Intel's open source driver is that it is already integrated into most Linux-based systems. In fact, if you are using a Linux system with Intel® Graphics, chances are you already have our driver!
Since different Linux-based operating systems (OSes) might use different versions of the Linux kernel or different software components, such as the display server, our driver allows various OS vendors to seamlessly integrate our core 3D graphics driver into their own software stacks. This open source approach allows OS vendors themselves to test, optimize, update, and support our driver in the context of their own chosen components and distribution. Users can then get updates from their OS vendor and can be assured that their driver is fully compatible with whatever OS they are using.
The other popular question is how to install the latest version of our driver. As a general rule, unless you are building your own custom OS stack, your OS vendor provides the latest supported version of the driver after completing their own QA testing. Because our drivers are based on open source projects, different OS vendors provide updates in different ways and on different schedules:
- Some OSes, like Google* Chrome OS*, Valve* SteamOS*, and the Clear Linux* Project for Intel® Architecture, get automatically updated on a cadence set by each individual vendor. Generally these OSes do not provide a mechanism for end users to update individual components, such as the graphics driver, on demand. When these OSes do automatically update, the updates could include newer supported versions of the Intel® Graphics for Linux driver along with other updates that the OS vendor deems necessary to provide the best user experience possible.
- Other OSes, like Canonical* Ubuntu*, Red Hat* Fedora*, and other traditional Linux client distributions, release complete stack updates on a regular schedule and might release intermediate updates between major stack releases. End users can update their graphics drivers in these OSes, but doing so requires intimate knowledge of the entire software stack. Changing or updating any component in the stack creates a custom version of the OS that will not be supported by the OS vendor and might be unstable. The best way to get the latest supported Intel® Graphics for Linux driver for these OSes is to use the version included in the latest OS distribution. You could also work with the OS vendor directly to obtain a vendor-tested upgrade.
As an important note, this site has historically provided experimental binary update packages. These packages are only meant to cover specific Linux distributions for specific limited-time circumstances. They are not meant to be used to update all Linux distributions due to the differences between distributions stated above. These updates are also not supported by the respective OS vendor. The best way to keep your driver updated is by using the latest release of your OS distribution. If you still choose to use these experimental binary update packages, be sure to read the description of each package to make sure it works for you. These downloads can be found at https://01.org/linuxgraphics/downloads.
If you are a developer who would like to experiment with the source code of the latest available components, and are content with the potential instabilities that might come with an experimental leading-edge stack, you are in luck! Linux projects are often collaborative, community-based endeavors that get contributions from both volunteers and commercially funded contributors. In some cases, individual developers provide updates to standard distributions to save time for other developers who experimenting with their preferred stack. Updates like these are provided solely for development purposes and are usually not supported by the base OS distribution unless the OS distributor explicitly states otherwise. Some examples of these experimental updates include https://launchpad.net/~oibaf/+archive/ubuntu/graphics-drivers and https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Releases/Rawhide.
Developers who would like to experiment with Google’s Android* with our driver already integrated should check out the Android on Intel Platforms project. This project provides an open reference implementation of Android on recent Intel platforms: https://01.org/android-IA.
And finally, we welcome and encourage contributions to our graphics driver code base. We are fortunate to have a vibrant community of developers and users, without whom we could not provide the driver that all major Linux distributions use today. If you would like to get involved or work with our driver source code, you can start at https://01.org/3dcollab. Welcome to the community!