Long time ago I have installed a few Linux distros on various drives / partitions.

Now I need to know what a distro is on a specified drive / partition, without to have to boot it.

I have mounted and I can use, e.g., the directory /boot.

Earlier, a distro KNOPPIX had in this directory (or perhaps in dir with other name) a file showing the knoppix-version. Other distros don't have such a file.



I can read what grub would offer to boot. But this is not what I want.

vmlinux... has information about the kernel


but this is a binary.

I there a tool to extract more information than the filename says?

But this is not the name, version, release of the distribution.

How can I get that without to boot?

  • Many, but not all, will have /etc/os-release files, those can be a start. Do you need the distribution name or the kernel info?
    – terdon
    May 27 at 10:52

1 Answer 1


Multiple ways:

  1. Run file /path/to/vmlinuz-something which will tell you the exact kernel version which you can then google to find out what the distro you're using, e.g.
$ file /boot/vmlinuz-5.16.15-201.fc35.x86_64 
/boot/vmlinuz-5.16.15-201.fc35.x86_64: Linux kernel x86 boot executable bzImage, version 5.16.15-201.fc35.x86_64 (mockbuild@bkernel01.iad2.fedoraproject.org) #1 SMP PREEMPT Thu Mar 17 05:45:13 UTC 2022, RO-rootFS, swap_dev 0XA, Normal VGA
  1. strings /bin/any_binary | grep gcc which show you a GCC release which is normally unique for a specific distro.

  2. cat /etc/os-release but this doesn't always work and isn't always present.

  3. Multiple files in /var/log could contain info about your distro.

  • thanks, I will try. Regards anttondhidh May 29 at 12:17

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