HowTo: Find Out My Linux Distribution Name and Version

by on October 25, 2007 · 58 comments· LAST UPDATED December 29, 2013

in , ,

How do I find out what version of Linux distribution I'm using from the shell (bash) prompt?

You can use any one of the following method to find out your Linux distribution and name:

a] /etc/*-release file.

Tutorial details
DifficultyEasy (rss)
Root privilegesNo
Estimated completion time2 minute
b] lsb_release command.

c] /proc/version file.

Method #1: /etc/*-release file

To find out what version of Linux (distro) you are running, enter the following command at the shell prompt:
$ cat /etc/*-release
Sample output from my RHEL v5.x server:

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server release 5 (Tikanga)
Sample outputs from my Ubuntu Linux v7.10 server:


Method #2: lsb_release Command To Find Out Linux Distribution Name/Version

The lsb_release command displays certain LSB (Linux Standard Base) and distribution-specific information. Type the following command:
$ lsb_release -a
Sample outputs:

No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID:	Debian
Description:	Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.1 (squeeze)
Release:	6.0.1
Codename:	squeeze

How Do I Find Out My Kernel Version?

Type the following command:
$ uname -a
$ uname -mrs
Sample outputs:

Linux 2.6.32-5-amd64 x86_64


  1. Linux - Kernel name
  2. 2.6.32-5-amd64 - Kernel version number
  3. x86_64 - Machine hardware name (64 bit)

Say hello to /proc/version

Type the following command to see kernel version and gcc version used to build the same:
$ cat /proc/version
Sample outputs:

Linux version 3.2.0-0.bpo.1-amd64 (Debian 3.2.4-1~bpo60+1) ( (gcc version 4.4.5 (Debian 4.4.5-8) ) #1 SMP Sat Feb 11 08:41:32 UTC 2012

Related media

This tutorial is also available in a quick video format:

Video 01: Find The Linux Kernel Version Command Tutorial

Putting It All Together

Animated gif.01: Finding out Linux distribution name and version with various commands demo

Animated gif.01: Finding out Linux distribution name and version with various commands demo

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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nitin November 4, 2007 at 4:07 pm

But how to find version of other unix systems like FreeBSD. cat /etc/*-release won’t give it


2 vikash March 17, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Thanks for giving command cat /etc/*-release
Really this is useful



3 Aleks January 18, 2014 at 11:58 am

For FreeBSD uname -a works OK


4 Damocles May 24, 2014 at 1:03 am

Well, the article was entitled “HowTo: Find Out My Linux Distribution Name and Version”… :-)

Generally speaking, “uname -a” will tell you what you need to know. You may need to know a couple of quirks about the O.S. in question. For example, Solaris calls itself “SunOS” (long history there). AIX breaks the version number up into two different uname fields (“5 2″ instead of “5.2” – it might even be “2 5″ IIRC, which you then have to know to turn into “5.2”). Solaris has an /etc/release.

If you’re going to use /etc/*-release, I would loose the dash

cat /etc/*release

as you’ll pick up a couple more flavors of Unix like that.

“uname” was supposed to be the universal way to do this sort of thing, however, the output varies way too much from vendor to vendor.

PS: Technically, Solaris is a “package deal” consisting of an operating system, an X-Windows package, etc. – 5 things that previously they had not bundled together. So, technically, Solaris 10 (for example) contains an operating system called SunOS 5.10. So when Solaris says “SunOS” in uname, it’s not really incorrect.


5 al November 6, 2007 at 11:25 am

This isn’t exactly a general solution. It assumes the distribution supports some LSB stuff, I think.
For debian and slackware, one could try:

$ cat /etc/*version

On debian stable, lsb-release exists, but just isn’t in /etc/. There is an lsb-release package, and you can run:

$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Debian
Description: Debian GNU/Linux 4.0r1 (etch)
Release: 4.0r1
Codename: etch

By the way, lsb_release -a also works on the older Ubuntu version I have.


6 Richard Navarrete March 24, 2008 at 5:48 pm

You can also cat version in proc…

:; cd /proc
;; cat version
Linux version 2.6.9-42.0.3.ELsmp ( (gcc version 3.4.6 20060404 (Red Hat 3.4.6-3)) #1 SMP Mon Sep 25 17:28:02 EDT 2006


7 Kamal September 17, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Thanks Richard,
cat /proc/version worked for me..


8 Dennisq Quek February 5, 2009 at 6:58 am

Thanks alot ! all commands gave some good info about my sys.

And “cat /etc/issue” as well, for my ubuntu 8


9 Damocles May 24, 2014 at 12:51 am

Well, that’s all fine well and good for home use, but security people will tell you announcing your o.s. and version in /etc/issue is a bad idea (why give hackers that info?). They will want you to replace /etc/issue with some kind of warning notification (“This computer is only for use by authorized employees of company X. Usage is subject to monitoring. All users are expected to comply with company security policy Y. Unauthorized use is subject is grounds for termination and/or criminal prosecution.”, etc.). Any computer owned by a company that has security people or lawyers, this isn’t going to work on. :-)


10 starioshka_Prokol March 16, 2009 at 6:29 pm

thanx richy!!!it works


11 scottavian October 12, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Thanks for the quick command. Worked perfectly.


12 maxx January 22, 2010 at 3:45 am

hi guys,
can this kind of file which contains the version info be modified? for example when I want to remaster Ubuntu to new name with my name: Maxx

do we just to modify a file? or what should we do?

thanks in advance!


13 gomathi January 22, 2010 at 6:07 am

hai ,
i read ur information for linux.but, i want “what r the different versions available in linux”.please give ans immediately


14 rude_ass September 23, 2011 at 9:40 pm

would you also like a foot massage with that ??


15 ravi September 25, 2013 at 4:11 am

Ha ha.. Nice one Bro


16 Elambarithi February 9, 2010 at 9:36 am

Please specify the which Linux ? Redhat or else….


17 Daniel February 21, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Also try

uname -a


18 Raj January 8, 2013 at 11:20 am

Thanks Daniel, that helped on FreeBSD


19 Tibi April 9, 2010 at 8:09 am

Worked perfectly ;)


20 jamos April 13, 2010 at 11:50 am

Hi Daniel, I think your solution will only give the hostname, Kernel, arhitecture etc, but NOT the “distribution name” as is quoted on the question. Havent checked on anyother distro, but at least thats what happens on my CentOS 5.4, the other solutions seem to work.

[root@myhostname ~]# uname -a
Linux 2.6.18-164.el5 #1 SMP Thu Sep 3 03:33:56 EDT 2009 i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux


21 takizo September 15, 2010 at 8:11 am

Thanks. Was digging few old linux machines and found this works. Running very old ubuntu ;)


22 Pietro December 4, 2010 at 5:18 am

I’m on rhel .. if I type cat /etc/*release I get:
Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS release 4 (Nahant Update 3)

but if I type cat /proc/version I get:
Linux version 2.6.9-34.0.1.EL.ADSKsmp (root@oka) (gcc version 3.4.4 20050721 (Red Hat 3.4.4-2))

I’m confused :( so what’s my distribution??


23 nixCraft December 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Your distribution is RHEL and your kernel version is 2.6.9-34.0.1.

Both are different.


24 Roshan.Ahtina December 8, 2010 at 9:18 am

hi guys
please tyr
#cat /etc/issue
#cat /etc/*-release
#cat /proc/version
#uname -a

FOR Debai/slackware:
#cat /etc/*version


25 tommed December 22, 2010 at 10:15 am

/etc/issue works for Debian too! I use something like this:

if [ "`cat /etc/issue | grep Debian | wc -l`" == "1" ]; then
    echo "is debian"
   cat /etc/issue # write out distro name


26 Bhaskar Rimmalapudi January 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm

This solution works perfect.

uname -a


27 smarcell February 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Also try:

$ cat /etc/[A-Za-z]*[_-][rv]e[lr]*


28 R October 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm


Nice example!
Anyhow I can not see why needed the [A-Za-z] part. Please let me know.
So here are the roots of a brand new all platformer one-liner…. B-)

cd /etc && cat *_ver* *-rel* /proc/version && uname -a && lsb_release -a

Let us know what does it miss?? (I know – this must be considered as pre-alpha version. B-) some file and command availability should be implemented…)

…. OK – sorry for the OT-like summary here.



29 ravi March 29, 2011 at 4:22 am

thnx… helps lot


30 Bryce H. April 17, 2011 at 10:05 am

I typed this in and it worked: cat /proc/version

And this came up : Linux version 2.6.34houkouonchi-web100-ioat-vlan (root@houkouonchi) (gcc version 4.1.2 (Gentoo 4.1.2)) #1 SMP Thu Oct 14 16:27:09 PDT 2010

What distro would this be??? I am running my linux through a data center that I have access to.


31 Bryce H. April 17, 2011 at 10:06 am

Oh it would be Gentoo. THANKS! answered my own question =P


32 sams April 18, 2011 at 11:51 am

thank u .. it works


33 Atif Mehar June 2, 2011 at 7:02 am

Thanks, Its really a great tips


34 cm_R July 30, 2011 at 4:31 pm

smarcell – you are so clever. I am in awe.

but when I type that into the little white box thing, it just says “cat /etc/lsb-release.d: Is a directory”

and I still have no idea what my OS is ;-P

more seriously:

maxx – no you don’t want to change these files or try; what you want to do is something like (just an e.g.) in

#other stuff will be here probably, put your stuff at the end

echo “Hello, you’ve just successfully gained access to Maxx’s computer” > /etc/motd
cat /proc/version >> /etc/motd
echo `uname -a` >> /etc/motd

and so on. you are printing text and the output of programs to the file /etc/motd using shell syntax (the little backticks mean “interpret as a command to run” and echo means “print this” and > means “create a file and send this to it” and “>> means append this to the end of this file”

generally, motd will be printed on login (“message of the day”, quite old school, some systems might not have it I guess. My Scientific Linux 6.1 does. I think ubuntu does. maybe not.)

if not, you can make it yourself and have it in everyone’s .bashrc by editing /etc/skel. For that matter you can put anything you want in .bashrc or .profile and it will run whevever a shell is opened (a bash shell obviously).

/proc isn’t usually somewhere you want to write, unless you know why you are doing it.


35 prasanna September 5, 2011 at 5:45 am

please send me linux versions and release dates


36 no July 5, 2014 at 7:38 am
37 jp September 20, 2011 at 12:15 pm


thank you for cat /etc/*-release
and lsb_release -a
very helpful


38 Betta September 26, 2011 at 9:58 am

Thanks a ton…
lsb_release -a suited my requirements!


39 Carlos Santos January 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Thanks :)


40 greg April 10, 2012 at 7:06 am

Same problem on Centos 5.6.


41 Landis April 25, 2012 at 4:24 am

Thank you all! Спасибо,
You’d think ‘displaying kernel version number’ would be a simple, everyday command to find… I’m sure most of you know, that is not true. I search and check a hundred pages before finding this article. I should have now to check nixCraft (cyberciti) first or at lest in the top 5 sites..

Thanks again.


42 Mallesh May 26, 2012 at 9:37 am

Thanks Dear….. It helps me lot


43 Ali September 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm

thanx a lot


44 ice October 8, 2012 at 8:03 am

thank you!
It nice!


45 santosh October 8, 2012 at 11:53 am

I wish to update my linux distro…can you post the commands please..


46 snehal October 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm

i have linux RH 5, it shows kernal version some 2.6 and server version also 2.6
so which is my linux version or how can i check it..


47 Sinclair J. October 25, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Thanks :)

lsb_release -a => this command not work for me.
Which linux distribution support this command.
currently I have centOS


48 Matt F. November 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

lsb_release isn’t installed on CentOS by default. just install it.

yum install lsb


49 bc November 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm

command not found


50 hottetdf March 13, 2013 at 10:44 am

hi folks,

just fell into this thread, verified it and … got confused.
Well, my CentOS just updated from 6.3 to 6.4. Everything I verified showed up 6.4, except /etc/issue, which still contains 6.3. So my conclusion is, that this file is created at install time and may be left untouched by updates. And yes, /etc/issue can safely be ‘personalized’, ‘taylored’ or whatever you like to call such customizing.

So far just my few cents.


51 Steve April 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Useful info, easy to understand, thanks!


52 mariane July 27, 2013 at 11:17 am

Didn’t work for me. I’ve got a weird environment which does not know “cat” (nor a lot of other stuff, like “more” and “nano”). It does not even understand “man”! It says: “Invalid command”.
It understands “cd” and “ls”. So far that’s about it.

All I can tell is that it’s not bash. I would like to find out what I’m talking to in order to look up the relevant vocabulary…

If it’s any clue, I could not connect via ftp. When I tried ssh it told me to use sftp and closed the connection. Now I’m talking to it via sftp but getting nowhere…


53 Vijay Kanta September 12, 2013 at 8:03 am

Superb, thanks again Vivek.


54 Marek October 22, 2013 at 7:04 am

Nice. Thank you :-)


55 Akila May 6, 2014 at 3:53 am

Thank you. Its very useful


56 Jeff September 26, 2014 at 6:46 pm

This was so helpful, as was the adjacent discussion. Thanks!


57 Ganeshbabu December 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

Hi, i need to get the o.s. version of numbers of machines, how to writer the bash script to get the info…


58 ewinzkie February 24, 2015 at 3:59 am



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