Determine Linux version

When visiting a new Linux system, it may not be known which of the many flavors and versions the system is. This recipe describes a couple of techniques for determining the version of Linux running on a host.

The command uname -a will generate output like

Linux 2.6.5-1.358 #1 Sat May 8 09:04:50 EDT 2004 i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux

This can be interpreted as:

kernel name: Linux
kernel release: 2.6.5-1.358
kernel version: #1 Sat May 8 09:04:50 EDT 2004

The specific distribution information is missing from the uname output. Many distributions put this information in a file in /etc like /etc/redhat-release, /etc/debian_version, /etc/gentoo-release, and so on. For the system described by the uname output above, the file /etc/fedora-release contains the following text:

Fedora Core release 2 (Tettnang)


About Quinn McHenry

Quinn was one of the original co-founders of Tech-Recipes. He is currently crafting iOS applications as a senior developer at Small Planet Digital in Brooklyn, New York.
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6 Responses to “Determine Linux version”

  1. December 26, 2008 at 12:46 pm, Miladinoski said:

    Thanks for the second part of the info :)


  2. February 20, 2009 at 7:14 pm, reader said:

    exactly what I was looking for. It’s useful to be able to determine this kind of information for automated scripts that connect to and perform tasks on multiple machines of various flavors, versions and distros.


  3. April 20, 2009 at 12:18 pm, Lexa Puzikoff said:

    cat /proc/version
    cat /etc/issue


    • October 08, 2009 at 7:28 am, Anonymous said:

      I like this output a lot better than “uname -a”output.
      Ideal for reports/inventory/presentations.

      Thanks a lot!


  4. April 20, 2009 at 4:39 pm, uellue said:

    Thx, short and useful info. :-)


  5. February 03, 2010 at 7:36 am, Anonymous said:

    It works better than uname -a for me
    cat /proc/version

    I can get more accurate information, correct?


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