Understanding UEFI and BIOS in Relation to Linux Nvidia Driver Installation

Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and Basic Input Output System (BIOS) are firmware interfaces responsible for starting your computer by initiating the hardware during the booting process. These technologies are crucial for the functioning of operating systems and their associated hardware, such as graphics cards. As the successors to BIOS, UEFI systems have introduced numerous advantages for Linux users and have altered the landscape for installing drivers, including those for Nvidia cards on Ubuntu/Debian. This article will explore these changes, offering a comparison of the pros and cons when installing Nvidia card drivers under UEFI and BIOS.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • The fundamental differences between UEFI and BIOS.
  • The impact of UEFI and BIOS on Linux systems.
  • The pros and cons of installing Nvidia drivers on UEFI.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of using BIOS for Nvidia driver installation.
  • The role of UEFI and BIOS in shaping the Linux user experience.
Understanding UEFI and BIOS in Relation to Linux Nvidia Driver Installation
Understanding UEFI and BIOS in Relation to Linux Nvidia Driver Installation
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Any Linux distro
Software N/A
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

Overview of BIOS and UEFI

Before diving into specifics, it’s important to understand what BIOS and UEFI entail and how they differ.

BIOS, the older of the two, relies on the Master Boot Record (MBR) for booting, which has a limit of 2 TB of disk space and a maximum of four primary partitions. Its boot process is rather complex and its compatibility with newer hardware is limited due to its 16-bit firmware and text-based interface.

In contrast, UEFI represents a significant shift in firmware interface technology, providing a multitude of benefits over its predecessor. UEFI employs a simpler boot process, can directly boot from an EFI executable file in the EFI System Partition (ESP), and supports the newer GUID Partition Table (GPT) scheme. GPT allows for handling of disks larger than 2 TB and permits up to 128 primary partitions in Windows. In addition, UEFI offers faster boot and shutdown times, advanced features like Secure Boot, and better compatibility with modern hardware thanks to its 32-bit and 64-bit firmware. Moreover, UEFI’s graphical interface provides a more user-friendly experience.

Linux, Nvidia Driver Installation, and UEFI/BIOS

When it comes to Linux systems, such as Ubuntu or Debian, both UEFI and BIOS have their distinct implications in the installation of Nvidia graphics card drivers.

Nvidia Driver Installation on UEFI


  1. Compatibility with Modern Systems: As UEFI has better support for recent hardware, it is easier to install Nvidia drivers on systems using UEFI. UEFI’s support for GPT also means that you can utilize disks larger than 2 TB and create more partitions if needed, providing more flexibility for your Linux installation and use.
  2. Secure Boot: UEFI comes with the Secure Boot feature, which protects the system against boot-level malware and unauthorized operating systems. When installing Nvidia drivers on a UEFI system, Secure Boot can provide additional security by only allowing signed drivers to be loaded. This ensures that the Nvidia drivers are authentic and haven’t been tampered with.
  3. Faster Boot Times: UEFI often provides faster boot and shutdown times, which can be advantageous when installing drivers or rebooting after installation.


  1. Compatibility Issues with Older Cards: While UEFI offers better support for modern systems, it might lead to issues when installing drivers for older Nvidia cards. Some older cards may not be compatible with UEFI and could require BIOS instead.
  2. Secure Boot Hurdles: Despite being a security advantage, Secure Boot can also pose challenges. Not all drivers are signed, and this could cause problems when trying to install unsigned Nvidia drivers. You might need to disable Secure Boot temporarily to install these drivers, which can complicate the installation process.

Nvidia Driver Installation on BIOS


  1. Better Support for Older Cards: BIOS is older and might be more compatible with older Nvidia graphics cards. If you’re using an older card, installing the drivers using BIOS might be easier and more straightforward.
  2. Less Secure Boot Complications: Since BIOS systems do not support Secure Boot, you won’t encounter problems related to driver signing. This can make the installation process smoother if you’re trying to install unsigned drivers.


  1. Limited Disk and Partition Support: BIOS supports MBR, which only allows for up to 2 TB of disk space and a maximum of four primary partitions. If you need to utilize a larger disk or create more partitions for your Linux system, BIOS could limit your options.
  2. Lack of Modern Features: BIOS lacks many of the modern features that UEFI provides. It doesn’t support Secure Boot or GPT, and it doesn’t offer as fast boot times as UEFI. This could make BIOS less desirable for use with modern Linux systems and Nvidia graphics cards.


Choosing between UEFI and BIOS when installing Nvidia drivers on Ubuntu/Debian comes down to your specific needs and the age of your hardware. For most modern systems, UEFI offers a wealth of benefits, making it the more favorable option. However, if you’re using older hardware or encountering issues with Secure Boot, BIOS might be a more viable choice.

In either case, the advent of UEFI has undoubtedly brought about changes in Linux and the process of installing Nvidia drivers. As firmware interfaces continue to evolve, users can look forward to more streamlined and secure experiences with Linux and hardware installations.

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