How to install Plymouth in Debian, a graphical boot animation while the boot (and shutdown) process happens in the background

Plymouth is an application that runs very early in the boot process (even before the root filesystem is mounted!) that provides a graphical boot animation while the boot process happens in the background.

It is designed to work on systems with Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) modesetting drivers. The idea is that early on in the boot process the native mode for the computer is set, plymouth uses that mode, and that mode stays throughout the entire boot process up to and after X starts. Ideally, the goal is to get rid of all flicker during startup.

For systems that don’t have DRM mode settings drivers, plymouth falls back to text mode.


Before installing, check the manufacturer website if your graphic card drivers supports modesetting or check the project page of the free/open drivers of your graphic card.

Debian 6 (Squeeze), 7 (Wheezy) and Testing (Jessie)

$ su -
# aptitude install plymouth


Edit the file /etc/initramfs-tools/modules:

# nano /etc/initramfs-tools/modules

And add the modesetting…

For Intel:

  i915 modeset=1

For Nouveau (nVidia):

  nouveau modeset=1

For ATI:

  radeon modeset=1

Also you need configure the bootloader (as Grub2) for that charge the splash and change the resolution.


Please edit the file /etc/default/grub and change the resolution:

# nano /etc/default/grub

Search the line #GRUB_GFXMODE=640×480 and uncomment. You can set a best resolution. For example:


In netbooks you can put 1024×600 or 1024×576. For example:


You can also write the color depth. For example:


Please also search the line GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet” and change to:


Update Grub2:

# update-grub2


As root user run the next commands:

# /usr/sbin/plymouth-set-default-theme --list

To display all installed themes.

# /usr/sbin/plymouth-set-default-theme THEME

To set one theme, where THEME is one of listed in the previous command.

If you get the error “/usr/lib/plymouth/ does not exist”, install plymouth-drm.

# aptitude install plymouth-drm

And try again to set the theme.

Apply changes

# update-initramfs -u

You might as well have to download firmware for your graphic card, so if the last command brings an error pointing out lack of firmware files do the following:

# apt-get install firmware-linux-nonfree

Then repeat the command to apply changes.


During boot you can press on the “Home” (“Esc” for me) key to view the underlying messages (kernel, messages from the startup scripts, services, etc.).

Miguel Menéndez

SysAdmin, Network & Security Auditor.