Why GUI on Debian is slow on Intel PCs, and its solution

Debian GNU/Linux on amd64 has a bit problem on its GUI.

This is because of the legacy driver; xserver-xorg-video-intel.

Rev 2

Add buster GNOME/Wayland case (you do not have to purge the package).


This is a spin-off article from our Debian base install guide's

An Example: GNOME installation case

Suppose we install GNOME, via installer or tasksel or command such as,

root# apt install gnome-core

You would soon notice the video motion quality is bad, with Intel CPUs;

  • Later than around 2008; in other word, Intel 1st gen. Core CPUs.
  • Such as Intel Core i3/5/7-GXYZ where,
    1. G = the generation of Intel Core architecture.
    2. X = major class; corresponds with i3/i5/i7.
    3. Y,Z = expresses performance range.
  • For Pentium and/or Celeron, refer the section below.

The reason

Take a look at what xserver-xorg-video-intel says.

The use of this driver is discouraged if your hw is new enough (ca. 2007 and newer). You can try uninstalling this driver and let the server use it's builtin modesetting driver instead.

—from "xserver-xorg-video-intel" package, Debian GNU/Linux

It's for old Intel iGPUs, about 12 years ago.


Just remove it, and you would get better quality.

Rather, we have to remove it for modern Intel CPUs (with X.org).

root# apt purge xserver-xorg-video-intel

This is all you need.

Debian buster and the driver package

Even Debian 10 buster (current "stable" release), the package would be installed, because of the complicated APT dependencies.

However, buster applied GNOME/Wayland. It's not X.org any longer.

The video motion quality of buster (with GNOME/Wayland) seems okay without doing the package removal.

For the other window managers and/or desktop suite, you should still be careful about X.org Intel video driver issue.

How to check when your CPU released

Take a look at the Intel's CPU specification page.

  1. Go to Processors.
  2. Find yours in Intel Core/Pentium/Celeron processors, or
  3. Use the search box on top-right.

The Launch Date shows when the SKU released.

e.g.) Intel® Core™ i5-650 Processor

Launch Date Q1'10 (= 2010Q1)

This means almost all available Intel CPUs does not need the package.

Thank you for reading. Have a nice day.

published: MODIFIED: