Upgrading Debian kernel to gain support for Intel graphics card.

After installing Debian Jessie with the MATE desktop environment my monitor (Dell) was not detected and I could only select a resolution of 1024x768. I have an on-board graphics card connected via HDMI.

Manually adding a new video mode using xrandr did not help. I tried many other things too.

On the same machine I also had a Ubuntu install, by booting in to Ubuntu I was able to see which graphics card I had:

lspci -knn | grep -A4 VGA
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller [0300]: Intel Corporation Sky Lake Integrated Graphics [8086:1912] (rev 06)
	DeviceName:  Onboard IGD
	Subsystem: ASUSTeK Computer Inc. Skylake Integrated Graphics [1043:8694]
	Kernel driver in use: i915_bpo
	Kernel modules: i915_bpo

On Debian it was being reported as only, “Intel Corporation Device” and the Kernel module was reported as “xhci_hcd”.

The kernel on Ubuntu was 4.4 and on Debian 3.16. I decided to update the kernel, this was suprisingly stright forward.

I knew this could result in an unbootable system. I have two drives, one with the OS’s and another with my data. I knew that if all was to go horribly wrong I could just reinstall over the OS drive, mount the data drive and be back to work in next to no time. With that said…

The first step is to add backports to apt sources by adding deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian jessie-backports main to /etc/apt/sources.list.

And then install the latest 64 bit kernel:

apt-get install -t jessie-backports linux-image-amd64

linux-image-amd64 is a meta-package and installed the 64 bit kernel, 4.7.

This is safe, the existing kernel is not replaced and will still be used when rebooting.

Linux kernels are 100% backwards compatible so there was no need to reinstall any software. It should just work.

Finally (if only) I needed to add the newly installed kernel as a bootable option in GRUB bootloader:

install-grub /dev/XXX

update-grub generates /boot/grub/grub.cnf and install-grub makes it active.

XXX is the device which has the boot partition, in my case it was nvme0n1 since I have an M.2 Drive. If you have any other type of drive it is more likely to be sdX, e.g. sda1 if you only have one drive. If you have multiple drives use the “Drives” app in Ubunut or install gparted to check. You will see a partition at the beggining which has the type EFI and is mounted at /boot/efi. Another option is to run grub-probe -t device /boot/grub.

After rebooting and choosing Debian with kernel 4.7 from the GRUB menu I got a blank screen with a cursor flashing in the top left. Pressing the power button gracefully powered down.

The solution, thanks to this hint, was to boot without setting the video mode. To do this I placed my cursor over the Debian option in GRUB and pressed e to edit the boot options.

I then added nomodeset at the end of the line starting linux and pressed F10 to boot.

I got a desktop and confirmed using uname -r I was running the kernel 4.7 - Progress!

After this I installed the “Intel graphics drivers” from backports:

apt-get install -t jessie-backports xserver-xorg-video-intel

After a reboot I had a resolution of 3440x1440. :)