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HowTo: Find Out My Linux Distribution Name and Version

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:


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) (ben@decadent.org.uk) (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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{ 62 comments… add one }
  • nitin November 4, 2007, 4:07 pm

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

    • vikash March 17, 2011, 12:13 pm

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


    • Aleks January 18, 2014, 11:58 am

      For FreeBSD uname -a works OK

    • Damocles May 24, 2014, 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.

  • al November 6, 2007, 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.

  • Richard Navarrete March 24, 2008, 5:48 pm

    You can also cat version in proc…

    :; cd /proc
    ;; cat version
    Linux version 2.6.9-42.0.3.ELsmp (brewbuilder@hs20-bc1-7.build.redhat.com) (gcc version 3.4.6 20060404 (Red Hat 3.4.6-3)) #1 SMP Mon Sep 25 17:28:02 EDT 2006

  • Kamal September 17, 2008, 2:12 pm

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

  • Dennisq Quek February 5, 2009, 6:58 am

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

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

    • Damocles May 24, 2014, 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. :-)

  • starioshka_Prokol March 16, 2009, 6:29 pm

    thanx richy!!!it works

  • scottavian October 12, 2009, 11:04 pm

    Thanks for the quick command. Worked perfectly.

  • maxx January 22, 2010, 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!

  • gomathi January 22, 2010, 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

    • rude_ass September 23, 2011, 9:40 pm

      would you also like a foot massage with that ??

      • ravi September 25, 2013, 4:11 am

        Ha ha.. Nice one Bro

  • Elambarithi February 9, 2010, 9:36 am

    Please specify the which Linux ? Redhat or else….

  • Daniel February 21, 2010, 1:42 pm

    Also try

    uname -a

    • Raj January 8, 2013, 11:20 am

      Thanks Daniel, that helped on FreeBSD

  • Tibi April 9, 2010, 8:09 am

    Worked perfectly ;)

  • jamos April 13, 2010, 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 myhostname.mydomanin.com 2.6.18-164.el5 #1 SMP Thu Sep 3 03:33:56 EDT 2009 i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux

  • takizo September 15, 2010, 8:11 am

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

  • Pietro December 4, 2010, 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??

    • nixCraft December 4, 2010, 12:14 pm

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

      Both are different.

  • Roshan.Ahtina December 8, 2010, 9:18 am

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

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

  • tommed December 22, 2010, 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
  • Bhaskar Rimmalapudi January 27, 2011, 6:16 pm

    This solution works perfect.

    uname -a

  • smarcell February 23, 2011, 5:18 pm

    Also try:

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

    • R October 24, 2012, 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 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.


  • ravi March 29, 2011, 4:22 am

    thnx… helps lot

  • Bryce H. April 17, 2011, 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.

    • Bryce H. April 17, 2011, 10:06 am

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

  • sams April 18, 2011, 11:51 am

    thank u .. it works

  • Atif Mehar June 2, 2011, 7:02 am

    Thanks, Its really a great tips

  • cm_R July 30, 2011, 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.

  • prasanna September 5, 2011, 5:45 am

    please send me linux versions and release dates

  • jp September 20, 2011, 12:15 pm


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

  • Betta September 26, 2011, 9:58 am

    Thanks a ton…
    lsb_release -a suited my requirements!

  • Carlos Santos January 24, 2012, 2:50 pm

    Thanks :)

  • greg April 10, 2012, 7:06 am

    Same problem on Centos 5.6.

  • Landis April 25, 2012, 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.

  • Mallesh May 26, 2012, 9:37 am

    Thanks Dear….. It helps me lot

  • Ali September 11, 2012, 2:21 pm

    thanx a lot

  • ice October 8, 2012, 8:03 am

    thank you!
    It nice!

  • santosh October 8, 2012, 11:53 am

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

  • snehal October 9, 2012, 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..

  • Sinclair J. October 25, 2012, 7:53 pm

    Thanks :)

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

    • Matt F. November 23, 2012, 10:06 am

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

      yum install lsb

  • bc November 5, 2012, 2:17 pm

    command not found

  • hottetdf March 13, 2013, 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.

  • Steve April 26, 2013, 3:01 pm

    Useful info, easy to understand, thanks!

  • mariane July 27, 2013, 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…

  • Vijay Kanta September 12, 2013, 8:03 am

    Superb, thanks again Vivek.

  • Marek October 22, 2013, 7:04 am

    Nice. Thank you :-)

  • Akila May 6, 2014, 3:53 am

    Thank you. Its very useful

  • Jeff September 26, 2014, 6:46 pm

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

  • Ganeshbabu December 17, 2014, 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…

  • ewinzkie February 24, 2015, 3:59 am


  • Pravin yadav August 6, 2015, 7:16 am

    Thanks Dear….. It helps me lot

  • Pravin yadav August 6, 2015, 7:17 am

    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..

  • Shamolkuece August 17, 2015, 7:54 pm

    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.

  • eric January 6, 2016, 10:01 pm

    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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