HowTo: Find Out My Linux Distribution Name and Version

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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.

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:

DISTRIB_ID=Ubuntu
DISTRIB_RELEASE=7.10
DISTRIB_CODENAME=gutsy
DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION="Ubuntu 7.10"

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
OR
$ uname -mrs
Sample outputs:

Linux 2.6.32-5-amd64 x86_64

Where,

  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) ([email protected]) (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

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

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63 comment

    1. 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.

  1. 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.

    1. 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. :-)

  2. 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!

  3. 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.


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

  4. 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 ([email protected]) (gcc version 3.4.4 20050721 (Red Hat 3.4.4-2))

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

    1. Hi!

      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 ver.sh 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.

      R

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

    And this came up : Linux version 2.6.34houkouonchi-web100-ioat-vlan ([email protected]) (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.

  6. 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

    /etc/rc.local
    #!/bin/sh
    #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.

  7. 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..

    Learning.
    Thanks again.
    Landis.

  8. 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.

  9. 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…

  10. 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..

  11. This is an important post.It is difficult to find out the version .but this post make it simple .At last i am successful in finding the my Linux distribution and version. Thanks a lot.

  12. It is very instructive to see how distros vary from one another just by looking at solutions to the simple problem of finding out the distribution being used; it reveals how a given set of branches have made higher level decisions to optimize on this or that dimension. The variation is inspiring, actually.

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