Right since NVIDIA named their switchable graphics solution as Optimus the whole graphics scene on Linux has been a veritable bedlam of Transformer names.

I have been a fan of Bumblebee from the early stages of it’s development, and on my earlier Lenovo Z580 having a GT 740M, it was my goto solution and worked seamlessly right from Ubuntu 12.04 to 14.04.

Times have changed. I have a new laptop now - A Lenovo Y50-70 that has the GTX 860M. And now another project has gained momentum called ‘NVIDIA Prime’.

After wrestling with Bumblebee and Primus for over a week, I finally gave up because there was no stable solution in sight, and the closest I had come to was to manually unload and load the nvidia and bbswitch modules every time I wanted to use the NVIDIA GPU. Without the ease of having `optirun glxgears` available on my shell, without having to do multiple modprobe-fu, I considered there was little benefit of using Bumblebee.

So I have been able to get this work with Bumblebee too, and I will mention how to use both Prime and Bumblebee.

At the outset let’s discuss a few basic differences.

Bumblebee NVIDIA Prime
A long running older project A relatively newer project
Needs command-line invocation Is a GUI solution (CLI method available too)
A per-process implementation A session-wide implementation
Focus on power saving Focus on high performance from discrete GPU
Have to explicitly run each process
with bb to benefit from NVIDIA GPU
All processes in current session
run either on NVIDIA or all on Intel

NOTE: Before installing any kernel level drivers (either prime or bumblebee), always make sure you have updated linux-headers-generic

Using NVIDIA Prime (nvidia-prime)

So I set off on path to use NVIDIA Prime. Using nvidia-340-updates driver from the xorg-edgers ppa, as of 30th Nov, 2015, this works perfectly. So let’s go through the steps to make it work.
UPDATE: The latest drivers for 860M is 352.63, and you can hence use nvidia-352-updates instead of nvidia-340-updates

First let’s do away with bumblebee if you’ve installed it

sudo apt-get remove --purge bumblebee* primus nvidia*

Perform a reboot here, so your system safely configures itself to run on Intel/mesa.

Let’s add edgers’ repo and install nvidia-340.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-340-updates

Again, it is safe to perform a reboot here.

Let’s get the prime and settings packages now.

sudo apt-get install nvidia-settings nvidia-prime

Now before we reboot, we need to make sure of one thing, that is nvidia is loaded before bbswitch always. For that, edit /etc/modules and add these two lines


Now reboot your system. If all has gone right, you can switch between NVIDIA and Intel using the nvidia-settings configuration utility. You have to logout and login every time you switch graphics cards. Also unlike optirun/primusrun, when you have enabled NVIDIA, everything in your current sessoin works with NVIDIA and similarly for Intel. To switch graphics, you have to open the nvidia-settings panel and switch graphics card, and logout and login back again..

Using Bumblebee (bumblebee-nvidia)

After sorely missing bumblebee for some days, I took another hit at it. And was able to make it work with NVIDIA’s 352.63 drivers. The reason was that, I mainly prefer to run on Intel HD Gfx, and for certain cases (like the OBS broadcaster, Lightworks, Android emulators) need NVIDIA, as an on-demand solution (and not a login/logout solution).

Here were the steps to get it to work. First need to purge away nvidia-prime as they both don’t work together

sudo apt-get remove --purge nvidia-prime

Now install nvidia-352-updates

sudo apt-get remove --purge nvidia*
#optional, not really needed as any nvidia driver uninstalls the previous
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-352-updates

Let us go forward and now install bumblebee

sudo apt-get install bumblebee bumblebee-nvidia bbswitch-dkms primus
sudo systemctl enable bumblebeed #Enable bumblebee daemon in systemd
sudo gpasswd -a $USER bumblebee #add yourself to bumblebee group

We need to make sure the i915 and bbswitch drivers get loaded to the kernel, so edit the file /etc/modules and the following


Now is the important part where we need to make sure that Bumblebee handles loading/unloading of Gfx modules. So it has to be made sure that all installed graphics drivers including nouveau and nvidia-352-updates is blacklisted. Check the file /etc/modprobe.d/bumblebee.conf and ensure the following lines present

blacklist nouveau
blacklist nvidia-352
blacklist nvidia-352-updates
blacklist nvidia

If these lines are not present, the kernel will automatically load the modules and bumblebee won’t be able to handle the load/unload of modules.

Now as a final step we need to inform Bumblebee which version of Nvidia drivers are we using, for doing that check the contents of the file /etc/bumblebee/bumblebee.conf

# Configuration file for Bumblebee. Values should **not** be put between quotes

## Server options. Any change made in this section will need a server restart
# to take effect.
# The secondary Xorg server DISPLAY number
# Should the unused Xorg server be kept running? Set this to true if waiting
# for X to be ready is too long and don't need power management at all.
# The name of the Bumbleblee server group name (GID name)
# Card power state at exit. Set to false if the card shoud be ON when Bumblebee
# server exits.
# The default behavior of '-f' option on optirun. If set to "true", '-f' will
# be ignored.
# The Driver used by Bumblebee server. If this value is not set (or empty),
# auto-detection is performed. The available drivers are nvidia and nouveau
# (See also the driver-specific sections below)
# Directory with a dummy config file to pass as a -configdir to secondary X

## Client options. Will take effect on the next optirun executed.
# Acceleration/ rendering bridge, possible values are auto, virtualgl and
# primus.
# The method used for VirtualGL to transport frames between X servers.
# Possible values are proxy, jpeg, rgb, xv and yuv.
# List of paths which are searched for the primus libGL.so.1 when using
# the primus bridge
# Should the program run under optirun even if Bumblebee server or nvidia card
# is not available?

# Driver-specific settings are grouped under [driver-NAME]. The sections are
# parsed if the Driver setting in [bumblebeed] is set to NAME (or if auto-
# detection resolves to NAME).
# PMMethod: method to use for saving power by disabling the nvidia card, valid
# values are: auto - automatically detect which PM method to use
#         bbswitch - new in BB 3, recommended if available
#       switcheroo - vga_switcheroo method, use at your own risk
#             none - disable PM completely
# https://github.com/Bumblebee-Project/Bumblebee/wiki/Comparison-of-PM-methods

## Section with nvidia driver specific options, only parsed if Driver=nvidia
# Module name to load, defaults to Driver if empty or unset
# colon-separated path to the nvidia libraries
# comma-separated path of the directory containing nvidia_drv.so and the
# default Xorg modules path

## Section with nouveau driver specific options, only parsed if Driver=nouveau

You need to change the lines highlighted in red accordingly. And finaaaaaaly, reboot, and enjoy bumblebee.

To run any program with NVIDIA use primusrun <program name>. By default everything runs with Intel HD Graphics, and NVIDIA card stays off.