Where does uname really get its information from?

I figure this is something that should be straightforward. Unfortunately, I can't find any header containing just that information.

Say someone wanted to change the basic output of uname/uname -s from Linux to something else (essentially, renaming the kernel).

How would he/she go about doing that the proper way (that is, changing the source)?

8 Answers 8


The data is stored in init/version.c:

struct uts_namespace init_uts_ns = {
        .kref = {
                .refcount       = ATOMIC_INIT(2),
        .name = {
                .sysname        = UTS_SYSNAME,
                .nodename       = UTS_NODENAME,
                .release        = UTS_RELEASE,
                .version        = UTS_VERSION,
                .machine        = UTS_MACHINE,
                .domainname     = UTS_DOMAINNAME,
        .user_ns = &init_user_ns,
        .proc_inum = PROC_UTS_INIT_INO,

The strings themselves are in include/generated/compile.h:

#define UTS_MACHINE "x86_64"
#define UTS_VERSION "#30 SMP Fri Apr 11 00:24:23 BST 2014"

and in include/generated/utsrelease.h:

#define UTS_RELEASE "3.14.0-v2-v"

UTS_SYSNAME may be defined in include/linux/uts.h

#define UTS_SYSNAME "Linux"

or as a #define in makefiles

Finally, the hostname and domainname can be controlled by /proc/sys/kernel/{hostname,domainname}. These are per UTS namespace:

# hostname
# unshare --uts /bin/bash
# echo test > /proc/sys/kernel/hostname 
# hostname
# exit
# hostname
  • 1
    This is generally a good and complete answer, but it may be worth while answering the poster's question directl. I believe this would amount to - change the relevant entry in the relevant file and recompile. You wrote "or as a #define in makefiles". Can you elaborate? Jun 16, 2014 at 18:12
  • +1 for unshare. Somehow I managed to miss this command until today. Thanks!
    – Tino
    Jan 20, 2017 at 11:39
  • 3
    And include/generated/compile.h is generated by scripts/mkcompile_h: unix.stackexchange.com/a/485962/32558 Dec 5, 2018 at 7:54

The uname utility gets its information from the uname() system call. It populates a struct like this (see man 2 uname):

       struct utsname {
           char sysname[];    /* Operating system name (e.g., "Linux") */
           char nodename[];   /* Name within "some implementation-defined
                                 network" */
           char release[];    /* Operating system release (e.g., "2.6.28") */
           char version[];    /* Operating system version */
           char machine[];    /* Hardware identifier */
       #ifdef _GNU_SOURCE
           char domainname[]; /* NIS or YP domain name */

This comes directly from the running kernel. I would assume all of the information is hard-coded into it, except perhaps domainname (and as it turns out, also nodename, machine, and release, see comments). The release string, from uname -r, can be set via configuration at compile time, but I doubt very much the sysname field can -- it's the Linux kernel and there's no conceivable reason for it to use anything else.

However, since it is open source, you could change the source code and recompile the kernel to use whatever sysname you want.

  • 2
    The domainname field is set by the domainname command, using the setdomainname system call. Similarly, the nodename field is set by the hostname command, using the sethostname system call. (The nodename / hostname value may be stored in /etc/nodename.) Jun 13, 2014 at 19:15
  • 3
    This is irrelevant — the question asked where to change this. So yes, the uname command gets its information from a system call. And where does the system call get its information? (Answer, provided by other posters here: it's hard-coded in the kernel at compile time.) Jun 14, 2014 at 22:35
  • @Gilles: What's irrelevent? If the answer is "provided by other posters here: it's hard-coded into the kernel..." note I've said the exact same thing: "This comes directly from the running kernel. I would assume all of the information is hard-coded into it...since it is open source, you could change the source code and recompile the kernel to use whatever sysname you want. It is not a config option.
    – goldilocks
    Jun 16, 2014 at 12:14
  • 3
    @goldilocks Why would machine ever change? It might not be hardcoded into the kernel because it might adapt to the hardware, but surely then it would be set at boot time and wouldn't change after that. But no: it can be set per process (e.g. to report i686 to 32-bit processed on x86_64). By the way, release can also be customized per process to some extent (try setarch i686 --uname-2.6 uname -a). Jun 16, 2014 at 13:20
  • 1
    @Gilles I've edited machine, nodename, and release into the question with a reference to the comments. Again, the question wasn't actually about all those fields.
    – goldilocks
    Jun 16, 2014 at 13:30

With the help of a Linux Cross Reference and your mention of /proc/sys/kernel/ostype, I tracked ostype to include/linux/sysctl.h, where a comment says that names are added by calling register_sysctl_table.

So where is that called from? One place is kernel/utsname_sysctl.c, which includes include/linux/uts.h, where we find:

 * Defines for what uname() should return 
#define UTS_SYSNAME "Linux"

So, as the kernel documentation states:

The only way to tune these values is to rebuild the kernel



As commented elsewhere, the information come with the uname syscall, which information is hard-coded in the running kernel.

The version part is normally set when compiling a new kernel by the Makefile:


when I had time to play compiling my kernels, I used to add things over there in EXTRAVERSION; that gave you uname -r with things like 3.4.1-mytestkernel.

I do not fully understand it, but I think that the rest of the information is setup in the Makefile also around line 944:

# ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

# KERNELRELEASE can change from a few different places, meaning version.h
# needs to be updated, so this check is forced on all builds

uts_len := 64
define filechk_utsrelease.h
    if [ `echo -n "$(KERNELRELEASE)" | wc -c ` -gt $(uts_len) ]; then \
      echo '"$(KERNELRELEASE)" exceeds $(uts_len) characters' >&2;    \
      exit 1;                                                         \
    fi;                                                               \
    (echo \#define UTS_RELEASE \"$(KERNELRELEASE)\";)

define filechk_version.h
    (echo \#define LINUX_VERSION_CODE $(shell                         \
    expr $(VERSION) \* 65536 + 0$(PATCHLEVEL) \* 256 + 0$(SUBLEVEL)); \
    echo '#define KERNEL_VERSION(a,b,c) (((a) << 16) + ((b) << 8) + (c))';)

$(version_h): $(srctree)/Makefile FORCE
    $(call filechk,version.h)

include/generated/utsrelease.h: include/config/kernel.release FORCE
    $(call filechk,utsrelease.h)

PHONY += headerdep
    $(Q)find $(srctree)/include/ -name '*.h' | xargs --max-args 1 \
    $(srctree)/scripts/headerdep.pl -I$(srctree)/include

For the rest of the data, the sys_uname syscall is generated using macros (in a quite convoluted way), you can start from here if you feel adventurous.

Probably the best way to change such information is writing a kernel module to override the uname syscall; I never did that but you can find info in this page at section 4.2 (sorry, no direct link). Notice however that that code is referring to a quite old kernel (now Linux kernel has uts namespaces, whatever they mean) so you will need to change it probably a lot.

  • Thanks, everyone. I already knew it had something to do with uname. However, what I can't fathom is how and where inside the source the string "Linux" is defined. All I know is where I can find that information during runtime (it's contained inside /proc/sys/kernel/ostype). Finding out how exactly the kernel itself knows it's proper name would be one of the more interesting things, I'd say.
    – user237251
    Jun 13, 2014 at 17:48
  • @user237251 how many instances of the word "Linux" occur in the kernel source in string contexts? If it's not that many, you could just examine the results of a textual search and see where that leads you.
    – JAB
    Jun 13, 2014 at 17:55
  • @JAB Way too many. Fortunately, someone on kernelnewbies.org helped me solve the "mystery". Linux gets its sys name from /include/Linux/uts.h. See here: lxr.free-electrons.com/source/include/linux/uts.h?v=3.10
    – user237251
    Jun 17, 2014 at 17:14


In v4.19, this is the file that generates include/generated/compile.h, and contains several interesting parts of /proc/version: https://github.com/torvalds/linux/blob/v4.19/scripts/mkcompile_h

  • the #<version> part comes from the .version file on the build tree, which gets incremented whenever link happens (requires file / config changes) by scripts/link-vmlinux.sh.

    It can be overridden by the KBUILD_BUILD_VERSION environment variable:

    if [ -z "$KBUILD_BUILD_VERSION" ]; then
        VERSION=$(cat .version 2>/dev/null || echo 1)
  • the date is just a raw date call:

    if [ -z "$KBUILD_BUILD_TIMESTAMP" ]; then

    and similarly the username comes from whoami (KBUILD_BUILD_USER) and hostname from hostname (KBUILD_BUILD_HOST)

  • The compiler version comes from gcc -v, and cannot be controlled it seems.

Here is a how to change stuff version of the question: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/23424174/how-to-customize-or-remove-extra-linux-kernel-version-details-shown-at-boot


While I couldn't find anything in the source to indicate this, I believe it uses the uname syscall.

man 2 uname

should tell you more about it. If that's the case it's getting the information directly from the kernel and changing it would probably require recompilation.

You could change the binary for you uname to do whatever you want though, just write over it with w/e program you please. The downside being some scripts rely on that output.

  • 4
    If you do strace uname, it will confirm that the uname system call is used.
    – Graeme
    Jun 13, 2014 at 14:11

Proper way to change uname would be to change compile headers and re-compile like others suggested. But I am not sure why you would want to go through that much trouble when you can do something like,

alias uname 'uname \\!* | sed s/2.6.13/2.6.52/'

or even

alias uname 'echo whatever'

Rmano's answer got me partway, but the real magic is easier discovered by passing the Q= option in your make commandline in the kernel source directory. it lets you see the details, one of which is a call to a script: echo "4.4.19$(/bin/sh ./scripts/setlocalversion .)". executing that same snippet gives the kernel release number, 4.4.19-00010-ge5dddbf. if you look at the script, it determines the number from the versioning system, and running it with bash -x shows the exact process:

+++ git rev-parse --verify --short HEAD
++ head=e5dddbf
+++ git describe --exact-match
++ '[' -z '' ']'
++ false
+++ git describe
++ atag=release/A530_os_1.0.0-10-ge5dddbf
++ echo release/A530_os_1.0.0-10-ge5dddbf
++ awk -F- '{printf("-%05d-%s", $(NF-1),$(NF))}'
++ git config --get svn-remote.svn.url
++ git diff-index --name-only HEAD
++ grep -qv '^scripts/package'
++ return
+ res=-00010-ge5dddbf
+ echo -00010-ge5dddbf

what this shows me is that if I want to build a kernel module to work with my running kernel, I'm on the wrong tagged release and the wrong commit. I need to fix that, and build at least the DTBs (make dtbs) in order to create the generated files with the right version number.

turns out, even that wasn't enough. I had to replace scripts/setlocalversion to one that simply does:

echo -0710GC0F-44F-01QA

then rebuild the autogenerated files:

make Q= ARCH=arm64 CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-linux-gnu- dtbs

then I could build Derek Molloy's sample driver and was able to insmod it successfully. apparently the warning about Module.symvers not being present didn't matter. all Linux was using to determine if the module would work was that localversion string.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .