Linux Mint – Troubleshooting in Software Rendering Mode

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The Software Rendering Mode is specifically related to the Cinnamon edition of Linux Mint, and it is a mode in which you run the system when there’s some sort of a problem with Cinnamon being able to directly access your video card, or acquire the resources it needs in order to run efficiently. When this occurs, you’ll see a message after you log in, informing you that there was a problem and that Cinnamon has resorted to the Software Rendering Mode. This mode of Cinnamon gives you the opportunity to still be able to use your computer while you troubleshoot the underlying cause. Unfortunately, while the Software Rendering Mode gives you access to your programs and files, it’s likely to be missing features you may be accustomed to. The following screenshot shows the Software Rendering Mode notification, which appears when there’s a problem:

In most cases, issues that cause Cinnamon to resort to the Software Rendering Mode are typically due to drivers or your video card not having enough power to support Cinnamon. Most computers sold today, even those without dedicated graphics, should not have an issue running Cinnamon. Problems with hardware support typically arise when someone tries to use a very old computer with the Cinnamon edition of Mint (such as those that initially shipped with Windows XP). Computers from the XP era, including some from the Vista era, may be unable to run Cinnamon. If you have an older computer, you should consider a different version of Mint, such as the Xfce edition or the Mate edition.

Assuming that your computer is new enough to run Cinnamon, your video card may require proprietary drivers. You may want to open the Driver Manager and see if a proprietary driver is available for your computer. Although proprietary drivers are not preferred (developers don’t have direct access to their code in order to fix bugs), the performance benefit may be just what you need. If you’re already using the proprietary driver for your card, consider going back to the open source driver for your hardware, as these are typically better supported.

Another pain point with video drivers is switchable graphics, which some computers ship with today. Switchable graphics essentially utilize an integrated card (such as Intel) and then switch to dedicated graphics when the need arises (for example, you start performing a graphics-intensive task). One example of switchable graphics is NVIDIA’s Optimus technology, which switches from Intel graphics to NVIDIA graphics when extra performance is needed.

While this technology saves power and handles resources more efficiently, support for switchable graphics in Linux is not perfect at the time of writing this tutorial. Mint 16, for example, ships with Linux kernel 3.11. Switchable graphics was introduced in kernel 3.12. This was finalized after Mint 16 was released, but since Mint 16 doesn’t ship with kernel 3.12, you won’t benefit from this change until a newer version of Mint is published. In addition, since support for switchable graphics was only just recently introduced, it may not be completely stable in Linux yet, even if you were running kernel 3.12. If all else fails, you may consider changing the settings of your PC to disable switchable graphics, either enabling only your integrated graphics card or your dedicated graphics card.

Note

Enabling dedicated graphics as your primary card will increase your average system temperature, and not all systems that ship with switchable graphics will allow you to change the settings.

If you still have no luck, consider searching online for others who may be experiencing a similar issue, to see how they might have fixed it. However, first, you’ll have to gather important information. For starters, if you don’t already know which type of video card you have, you should run the following command to find out:


inxi -G

It will be helpful if you include information regarding your video card, model, and what steps you’ve performed to try to solve the problem if you are creating a forum post. In addition, searching for the model number of your computer along with the symptom will usually fetch useful results. For example, searching for Thinkpad T430 Software Rendering Mode may retrieve relevant results on Google.

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