Running Linux with RX Radeon 5500 XT

3 minute read

TL;DR: I have done the following, it is unclear to me exactly what is required. Maybe one day I’ll do a fresh install and try one thing at the time…

1) Use the latest Linux 5.5 Kernel. DO NOT USE 5.6.*

2) Install the latest mesa drivers (added the kisak-mesa PPA and upgraded, I got mesa 20.0.3)

3) Add all navi_14 binaries from linux-firmware to /usr/lib/firmware/amdgpu/.

4) Downloaded and installed Radeon Software for Linux 19.50 from AMD.


Last week I put together my first gaming PC in a decade. Hearing that AMD is the new black, I decided to go for a red-team-build. My previous build was running a Intel 2600k and a Nvidia GTX 580 (actually two, in SLI, but that never worked in Linux), but my new build has a AMD Ryzen 5 3600 and a AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT.

Even though this is a gaming machine, running Linux was natural. I have been using nothing but Linux and FreeBSD for the past 7 or 8 years, and I used to game on the aforementioned desktop machine running Arch Linux. The plan for this new machine, however, was that it should be wife-friendly and stable. So I opted for Pop!_OS, because I heard it was good.

The First Problem

Upon first boot, Pop!_OS only gave me one resolution option for my QHD display: 1024x768.

Ugh. Well, I looked around and soon realized that the Kernel that comes with Pop!_OS (and Ubuntu 19.10, which Pop!_OS is built upon) was (probably) too old. Nothing weird with that, the 5500 XT is a very new graphics card. Soooo, I off to Kernel land it was. I downloaded the latest stable Linux Kernel (at the time of writing this is 5.6.4) from the Ubuntu PPA and installed it.

For more info about how to install an additional Kernel, see my post on this HERE.

I rebooted the computer and voilà, glorious 2560x1440 pixels!

The Second Problem

When launching a game (DotA 2) it became apparent that something was still wrong. I literally had only 1Hz options in my graphics settings, and the game updated ~1 FPS.

I checked dmesg, and surely – an error message:

Failed to load gpu_info firmware "amdgpu/navi14_gpu_info.bin"

I had gotten a Kernel that supported Navi 14 (I assumed) but I was still running VESA drivers, not the AMD Drivers.

A quick look at inxi -SG confirmed this, as I had no active driver for my graphics card.

At this point, I tried a bunch of things, in various orders, so I am not really sure what eventually solved my problem… However, I will give you the verbatim solution, and maybe at one point I’ll have time to reproduce my problem, do a fresh install, and come back and revise these instructions.

Update the drivers

I installed the latest mesa drivers (20.0.3) by adding the kisak-mesa PPA. apt upgrade then did the rest.

This did not help.

Add the firmware binaries

I then found that I had no Navi 14 firmware in /lib/firmware/amdgpu/ so I downloaded all navi14_*.bin files from the linux-firmware repository and added them to the aforementioned path.

This did not help either. I got an error message asking for navi14_ta.bin, but the repository did not contain such a file (but there was one named navi10_ta.bin).

Install amdgpu from AMD

I opted to download the drivers straight from the horse’s mouth instead. I went to AMD and downloaded Radeon Software for Linux 19.50. It is easily installed by extracting the archive and running ./amdgpu-install.

Unfortunately this did not work.

Downgrade the kernel

At this point I started to get frustrated. I recalled that one article I read online had explicitly said that one must not run Linux 5.4.*, but should use 5.5.*. I had presumed that 5.6 would be even better, but everything was already a mess, so why not try?

I installed the latest 5.5-kernel (5.5.17), upgraded, rebooted, and Bob is sure your uncle. It worked!!

Now, xrandr showed the different output options of my GPU (previously it had only showed default output) and I could play DotA!