A guide to Video on Dell PCs with an Ubuntu Operating System

Summary: This article is a guide to video on Dell PCs using an Ubuntu Operating system.

Article Content


This article provides information about video as it applies to Dell PCs using the Ubuntu operating system.

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Video Types
  3. Video Issues
  4. Video Solutions




This article takes you through the various video types and how they work in a Dell system using an Ubuntu operating system. It covers common issues and fixes and link to further articles that deal with some of the topics in greater detail.

This article is provided more as a reference than a troubleshooting guide and sometimes point elsewhere for further support. Remember that Dell supports the Hardware that ships with the unit and the reinstall or recovery of the Operating system that came with the unit. I hope you find the following information useful.

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Video Types


There are 4 basic types of video that is used on both Dell PCs and on the Ubuntu Operating System.

Check your PCs' hardware list to see which modes you need to configure:

Integrated Video

Integrated Video is the GPU built into your Motherboard. (Most commonly Intel.) This can also include Add-on cards in Desktops. The BIOS is set up to disable the Integrated GPU when a Card is fitted and it becomes the default video GPU.

Hybrid Graphics

Hybrid Graphics is where there is an additional GPU in addition to the Integrated GPU. (Most commonly either Radeon or Nvidia on Notebooks and AIO (All in One) systems.)

Nvidia Optimus Technology

Nvidia Optimus is technology from Nvidia. The integrated and discrete GPUs are linked so that you can use both GPUs for separate applications - saving power and battery life.

Webcam Video

Notebook and AIO systems come with integrated Webcams and there are various external ones available. They are used for video capture, video streaming, and Chat.

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Video Issues


There are some common video issues that can be seen on any GPU and operating system over time. I have listed some below:

Check out the section below for some common troubleshooting to resolve the kind of issues listed above.

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Video Solutions


SLN49706_en_US__1icon Note: Dell only supports the hardware that they ship with the PC and the factory installed version of the Ubuntu Operating system. Does the hardware pass our checks? Does an OS reinstall from the recovery partition fail to resolve the issue? Then you could be directed to contact Canonical for further Software support. If the hardware in question is a third-party device, you may be directed to contact the manufacturer for further help. If you are looking for a specific driver, you may be directed to contact the Ubuntu community forums. They need information about your hardware for further support. I give some general troubleshooting steps in the section below, but this information is used at your own risk.

No Display (i.e. nothing seen on screen.)

Are you experiencing the issue outside of the Ubuntu operating system?

  1. Do you see the issue outside the operating system? Then go to either article for an External Screen or article for an Internal Screen to troubleshoot further.

  2. If you are not seeing the issue outside the operating system, then:

    1. In the Grub bootloader menu - select boot your computer into recovery mode

    2. Choose resume normal boot from the recovery menu (This starts a normal boot with failsafe video settings.)

    3. If the normal boot does not resolve the issue, then you can go back into recovery mode and select the run in failsafe graphic mode option.

    4. Do you still have no video? You may be looking at an operating system reinstall. You can also drop to the root shell prompt if you have the experience. Alternatively, you can use a guide to troubleshoot further using Terminal.

Distorted Display (i.e. you can see something on the screen, but not make it out.)

Are you experiencing the issue outside of the Ubuntu operating system?

  1. Do you see the issue outside the operating system? Then go to either article for an External Screen or article for an Internal Screen to troubleshoot further.

  2. If you are not seeing the issue outside the operating system, then:

    1. Performance Issues and Video Stability can be helped by disabling the visual effects. (This means changing to the 2D desktop environment.)

    2. Open Terminal (CTRL + ALT + T) and install compiz settings manager:

      sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

    3. On Ubuntu Dash, search for compiz settings manager and open the application and disable or uncheck:

      • Effects > Animations, Fading Windows, Windows Decoration

    4. If you still have distorted video, then you may be looking at an operating system reinstall to resolve.

Resolution Issues (i.e. the screen is too big or too small.)

The default resolution for Ubuntu 16.04 is 640x480 at the low end and 1024x768 at the top.

If you have an additional discrete GPU, please refer to the Hybrid Graphics article for more information.

If you are using the default video GPU and only see the low end of 640x480. It is recommended that you run Xdiagnose and tick all 3 Debug options. This has been known to restore the screen to the upper default 1024x768.

To get resolutions above 1024x768, you must use the xrandr command in Terminal to add a new mode with the new resolution. (This is not kept past a Reboot.)

If you are an experienced Ubuntu user and are looking to keep the changes past a reboot. You can look to add the xrandr newmode and addmode commands into /etc/gdm/Init/Default just before "initctl ..."

It should look similar to the code below:

xrandr --newmode "1280x1024_60_new" 138.54 1280 1368 1504 1728 1024 1025 1028 1069 -HSynch +V
xrandr --addmode VGA-0 1280x1024_60_new

Settings issues (i.e. Brightness.)

If the Fn shortcut keys for adjusting the brightness do not work. Or you need more control than they provide. There are applets that you can install that gives you a GUI (Graphical User Interface) window with various display settings. If you are an experienced Ubuntu user, Terminal commands such as gksu and leafpad enable you to create a file to resolve the Fn shortcuts. You can even use xrandr to affect the brightness output. (You should be sure about the hardware in your machine. Be confident in whichever guide you find to use. Before you attempt too much in Terminal with the sudo command.)

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Additional Information:


SLN49706_en_US__1icon Note:
Software support is provided by Canonical through the following methods:
Technical Support is provided by Dell:

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Article Properties

Affected Product

Inspiron, Latitude, Vostro, XPS, Fixed Workstations

Last Published Date

21 Feb 2021



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