How do I determine the version of a CentOS server without access to any graphical interface? I've tried several commands:

# cat /proc/version
Linux version 2.6.18-128.el5 ([email protected])
(gcc version 4.1.2 20080704 (Red Hat 4.1.2-44)) …

# cat /etc/issue
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server release 5.3 (Tikanga)

but which one is correct: 4.1.2-4 from /proc/version or 5.3 from /etc/issue?


10 Answers 10


In cases like CentOS the actual version is usually placed in /etc/*elease.

cat /etc/*elease

granted this file usually holds the version of the entire OS minus the kernel (since you can choose which to load). This file will have the same information as /etc/issue but with CentOS instead of RedHat

  • 1
    cat /etc/*release will work too, and you are not omitting a letter of what are you looking for ;) because elease is not always easy to guess. * can be nothing, all, one or more items at time. Thank you, i always forgot the way to get the release version.
    – m3nda
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 17:11
  • 9
    The reason I leave the "R" off is because in some cases the "R" in "release" is capitalized.
    – h3rrmiller
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 19:08
  • Just to say, doing ls /etc/*elease on my system gives /etc/centos-release /etc/redhat-release /etc/system-release. So I'm guessing from all this that the release files tend to be in /etc/*-release - but possibly with some capitalisation.
    – mwfearnley
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 12:35
  • 2
    This is correct. I find at many sites that /etc/issue has been overwritten with an MOTD or security disclaimer for use with the Banner option in sshd_config
    – batfastad
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 14:20
  • cat /etc/*os-release should yield more targetted results for CentOS and still work on Ubuntu and others.
    – webaholik
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 19:59

As you can see in /etc/issue, you're using CentOS 5.3. (It says Red Hat because CentOS is based upon the RH sources, and some software checks /etc/issue to identify the distro in use; thus, they'd fail if this was changed to CentOS).

The 4.1.2-4 in /proc/version refers to the version of the gcc C compiler used to build the kernel.

  • 3
    I'll just add, what You could use uname -a to detect, if it 32 or 64 bit compatible. Commented May 31, 2013 at 9:46
  • 18
    On CentOS 7, 'cat /etc/issue' yields gobbledygook: \S Kernel \r on an \m
    – Urhixidur
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 16:09
  • 11
    Correct answer should be the one by h3rrmiller... cat /etc/*elease. /etc/issue is often replaced by an organisation's MOTD/disclaimer
    – batfastad
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 12:52
  • The /etc/issue file shows that it is RHEL, not CentOS. Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 20:03
  • crappy answer. I dont know why is it accepted
    – swift2geek
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 18:19

The most reliable way of finding MAJOR version of CentOS (5 or 6 etc) is:

# rpm -q --queryformat '%{VERSION}' centos-release

For RHEL do this:

# rpm -q --queryformat '%{RELEASE}' redhat-release-server | awk -F. '{print $1}'

The only portable way of finding out a version without lsb_release or other tools is:

# grep -oE '[0-9]+\.[0-9]+' /etc/redhat-release
  • 3
    Can be simplified to: cat /etc/redhat-release | grep -o '[0-9]\.[0-9]' Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 23:22
  • 1
    +1 rpm -q centos-release is the only way I have yet found to get the minor version on older CentOS5 releases where /etc/redhat-release only contains the major version. Thanks for the hint. Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 6:54
  • 1
    To get the major version: cat /etc/redhat-release | grep -oP '(?<= )[0-9]+(?=\.)'
    – Rockallite
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 7:16
  • 1
    Just curious: why "cat file | grep pattern" instead of "grep pattern file"?
    – user2267
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 15:36
  • Right, digged that from shell history and was able to correct this. Fixed.
    – lzap
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 6:48

You can determine it by just calling the following command:


Which will return as the following:

Static hostname: mgbcctli01
     Icon name: computer-vm
       Chassis: vm
    Machine ID: de14d80a0900427894dbcf6137e058e7
       Boot ID: 6865f9839c064bc9be32281d0f262cc8
Virtualization: vmware
Operating System: CentOS Linux 7 (Core)
   CPE OS Name: cpe:/o:centos:centos:7
        Kernel: Linux 3.10.0-514.2.2.el7.x86_64
  Architecture: x86-64

You can also use rpm to find details about CentOS version:

rpm --query centos-release

Which will return in my case:

  • 1
    hostnamectl only returns the major release number
    – fpmurphy
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 11:48
  • 1
    That's right, using rpm, you can get a detailed version
    – hd84335
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 11:49

Correct way is lsb_release -d.

  • 9
    On CentOS 7: lsb_release: Command not found.
    – Dereckson
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 0:42
  • yum install redhat-lsb-core ...
    – gena2x
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 17:13
  • 8
    Sure, but I meant: I'm not sure is valuable to have to install a new package to get the current version.
    – Dereckson
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 19:07
  • 1
    If you want some command which is able to do so across multiple distributions it may still be worth installing.
    – gena2x
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 9:49

The most truly reliable (and short) way to get MAJOR version of either CentOS or RHEL is:

rpm -E %{rhel}

Will give you a value of e.g. 6, 7, or 8 (now that RHEL 8 is out).

# echo "I am running: `cat /etc/redhat-release` (`arch`)"

Outputs the following:

I am running: CentOS release 6.7 (Final) (x86_64)

It can be found at the location /etc, inside the file os-release. So type in:

cat /etc/os-release
  • Was this backported to CentOS 5 or 6? If not, this is mostly useful going forward....
    – mattdm
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 23:52
  • CentOS made this available starting with CentOS 7 - I've not seen a backport.
    – webaholik
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 19:54

Run rpm --eval '%{centos_ver}' to get MAJOR version of centos.


Here is some command I collected through google, may help someone:


cat /etc/*release*
cat /etc/centos-release


cat /etc/redhat-release


# the later two may need some package to install
rpm --query centos-release
lsb_release -d

I created a gist to record this, too.

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