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?


3 Answers 3


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 ([email protected]) (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 Unix.com)

  • 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 Unix.com 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

  • 6
    If you are in a container, beware cat /proc/version will give the host distro, not the container one.
    – Dereckson
    Mar 24, 2015 at 20:10
  • 2
    Note that this should be cat /etc/*elease for centos unix.stackexchange.com/questions/54987/…
    – hawkeye
    Jul 31, 2016 at 11:48
  • @hawkeye I find ls /etc | grep release to be more effective, as it also will pick up files named release-XX, for example
    – user6297
    Aug 9, 2016 at 12:15
  • 1
    Note that most of these tell you about the KERNEL, not the distribution. As the files indicated above show, cat /etc/*release is probably the most general way of seeing the distribution.
    – Brad
    Sep 6, 2017 at 12:21
  • I have down voted this because cat /proc/version gives wrong answer, e.g. CentOS7 will claim it is "Red Hat 4.8.5". Please upvote the correct answer listed further down: cat /etc/*-release Sep 22, 2017 at 11:31

You'll want to use:

$ cat /etc/*-release

You'll get a response similar to this:

$ cat /etc/*-release
  • 5
    This should be the correct answer. Note that stuff in "/proc" tells you about the kernel (or in this case the distribution that the compiler was built with that built the running kernel), not the distribution itself. Since getting this information is in inherently distribution-specific, the /etc/*-release is the most general way.
    – Brad
    Sep 6, 2017 at 12:19
  • The Ubuntu-16.04 on my desktop has an /etc/os-release files, whereas the CentOS-7 on our number cruncher has an /etc/system-release file. At least they got the -release suffix in common.
    – Dohn Joe
    Apr 3, 2019 at 13:03

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.

  • 1
    lsb_release -a returns "-bash: lsb_release: command not found" on Raspberry with Raspbian (Debian 7.1 derived). Jun 5, 2014 at 11:30
  • 1
    You'll have to install the lsb-release package. Feb 20, 2017 at 17:49

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