Linux Mint 19.x: Cinnamon and AMD Graphics

If you’re just now updating to a new Linux distro running the latest Cinnamon DE and you have AMD graphics rendering, you may be running into some problems. This seems to be particularly common among those with older AMD graphics.

I have an R9 290X in my machine, and after initial testing and booting into Linux Mint 19.2, everything appeared fine. However, after running updates and rebooting, I was introduced to a Cinnamon has crashed and is running in fallback mode. Do you wish to restart Cinnamon? That is paraphrasing, as I did not screenshot the error and don’t remember it word-for-word any longer, but you’ll know exactly what error pop-up I’m referring to if you’re seeing it, as well.

At first, I thought it might be an issue with Cinnamon itself, and started searching for indications that I should restore the system backup I did before updating. But then I started seeing signs of the graphics rendering being the issue. Some forum threads had members suggesting that hardware others were using may no longer be capable of running Cinnamon any longer, but I could not see my R9 card being unable to run Cinnamon, so I decided to log out and start Cinnamon using software rendering instead. This allowed Cinnamon to run fine, so it told me the issue was definitely with my hardware.

Since hardware support is typically located at the kernel in Linux, I started looking at trying different kernels. I reverted back to the previous kernel used prior to the system update with no success, then moved to test out the newest kernel versions in 5.x branch with no success. The last thing I could do at this point was hope for some way to get drivers that would support my system. The solution was AMD’s proprietary drivers located here. Following the instructions of extracting the tar.gz and running the amdgpu-pro-install script, everything went smoothly and a reboot had my system working as expected with hardware rendering.

The instructions for installing the drivers was straight-forward as laid out by AMD in the documentation.

I hope this helps someone.