How do I identify which Linux distro is running?

We have some new hardware in our office which runs its own customized Linux OS.

How do I go about figuring which distro it’s based on?

Asked By: mrTomahawk


As a first guess, try lsb_release -a. E.g. on an Arch Linux system it gives

LSB Version: n/a
Distributor ID: archlinux
Description: Arch Linux
Release: rolling
Codename: n/a

However, this might fail, then you will have to poke around /etc (most likely it is inside a file whose name ends with -release). Also cat /etc/issue might help.

Answered By: Renan

A question very close to this one was posted on Unix.Stackexchange HERE
Giles has a pretty complete | cool answer for the ways he describes.

# cat /proc/version

Linux version 2.6.32-71.el6.x86_64 ( (gcc version 4.4.4 20100726 (Red Hat 4.4.4-13) (GCC) ) #1 SMP Fri May 20 03:51:51 BST 2011  
# uname -a

Linux system1.doofus.local 2.6.32-71.el6.x86_64 #1 SMP Fri May 20 03:51:51 BST 2011 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
# cat /etc/issue

CentOS Linux release 6.0 (Final)
Kernel r on an m

cat /proc/config.gz cat /usr/src/linux/config.gz cat /boot/config*

Though I did some checking and this was not very reliable except on SUSE.

# zcat /proc/config.gz | grep -i kernel

Release Files in /etc (from

  • Novell SuSE—> /etc/SuSE-release
  • Red Hat—>/etc/redhat-release, /etc/redhat_version
  • Fedora–>/etc/fedora-release
  • Slackware—>/etc/slackware-release, /etc/slackware-version
  • Old Debian—>/etc/debian_release, /etc/debian_version
  • New Debian—>/etc/os-release
  • Mandrake—>/etc/mandrake-release
  • Yellow dog–>/etc/yellowdog-release
  • Sun JDS—>/etc/sun-release
  • Solaris/Sparc—>/etc/release
  • Gentoo—>/etc/gentoo-release

There is also a bash script at the link someone wrote to automate checking.

Figuring out what package manager you have is a good clue.

rpm yum apt-get zypper +many more

Though this is by no means foolproof as the vendor could use anything they want. It really just gives you a place to start.

# dmesg | less

Linux version (geeko@buildhost) (gcc version 4.3.4 [gcc-4_3-branch revision 152973] (SUSE Linux) ) #1 SMP 2010-05-20 11:14:20 +0200

pretty much the same information as cat /proc/version & uname

Answered By: 2bc

You’ll want to use:

$ cat /etc/*-release

You’ll get a response similar to this:

$ cat /etc/*-release
Answered By: rwc
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