Even though the AMD drivers are open source, they still depend on closed binary firmware. Therefore, AMD drivers won't work by default on a Debian system. Installing them is fairly simple, though, and so is installing key software like Vulkan.

In this tutorial you will learn:
  • How to Enable the Non-Free Repository
  • How to Install the AMD Drivers
  • How to Install Vulkan
  • How to Install OpenCL
AMD Drivers on Debian
AMD Drivers on Debian.

Software Requirements and Conventions Used

Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Debian 10 Buster
Software AMDGPU Drivers
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # - requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ - requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Enable the Non-Free Repository

Because the AMDGPU drivers rely on non-free firmware, you're going to need to enable the non-free Debian repository to access the non-free firmware packages.

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Debian Non-Free Repos
Debian Non-Free Repos.

Use your favorite text editor to open /etc/apt/sources.list. Modify each line to add the contrib and non-free repositories. The end result should look like the example below.

deb http://deb.debian.org/debian/ buster main non-free contrib
deb-src http://deb.debian.org/debian/ buster main non-free contrib

deb http://security.debian.org/debian-security buster/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/debian-security buster/updates main contrib non-free

Save and exit. Then, update Apt.

# apt update

Install the AMD Drivers

Now, you can install the non-free Linux firmware from the Debian repository. In addition to that, it's a good idea to install several other key Mesa packages to ensure that your system has everything that it needs.

# apt install firmware-linux firmware-linux-nonfree libdrm-amdgpu1 xserver-xorg-video-amdgpu

How to Install Vulkan

Vulkan support isn't strictly necessary, but with the widening support that its receiving in the gaming world, it can't hurt to have, and the performance improvements it promises are substantial enough to make it worth using whenever possible. Actually, Wine and Lutris are relying on Vulkan more and more to increase compatibility and performance on a wide range of games. Install Vulkan support with the following.

# apt install mesa-vulkan-drivers libvulkan1 vulkan-tools vulkan-utils vulkan-validationlayers

How to Install OpenCL

If you plan on using OpenCL with your AMD card too, you should include support for it. Now, this support through Mesa isn't the same as professional grade support. If that's what you need, consider an officially supported distribution like Ubuntu. However, if you're just using it for basic tasks, the Mesa support will suffice.

# apt install mesa-opencl-icd


Now, you're ready to make the most of your AMD card on Debian. Remember to restart your computer to load the necessary modules before using your card.

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