Finding the OS version & Distribution in Linux

A simple trick on finding out the OS version and Distribution of a Linux system you have command line access to

Written by Benjamin Cane on 2013-08-28

When supporting systems you have inherited or in environments that have many different OS versions and distributions of Linux. There are times when you simply don't know off hand what OS version or distribution the server you are logged into is.

Luckily there is a simple way to figure that out.

Ubuntu/Debian

$ cat /etc/lsb-release 
DISTRIB_ID=Ubuntu
DISTRIB_RELEASE=13.04
DISTRIB_CODENAME=raring
DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION="Ubuntu 13.04"

RedHat/CentOS/Oracle Linux

# cat /etc/redhat-release
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server release 5 (Tikanga)

Catchall

If you are looking for a quick way and don't care what the output looks like, you can simply do this as well.

$ cat /etc/*-release
DISTRIB_ID=Ubuntu
DISTRIB_RELEASE=13.04
DISTRIB_CODENAME=raring
DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION="Ubuntu 13.04"
NAME="Ubuntu"
VERSION="13.04, Raring Ringtail"
ID=ubuntu
ID_LIKE=debian
PRETTY_NAME="Ubuntu 13.04"
VERSION_ID="13.04"
HOME_URL="http://www.ubuntu.com/"
SUPPORT_URL="http://help.ubuntu.com/"
BUG_REPORT_URL="http://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/"

Picture of Benjamin Cane

Benjamin's specialty is keeping the lights on for mission critical systems. He is currently building applications that enable high concurrency financial transactions.

Recently Benjamin published his first book; Red Hat Enterprise Linux Troubleshooting Guide. In addition to writing, he has several Open Source projects focused on making Ops easier. These projects include Automatron, a project enabling auto-healing infrastructure for the masses.


Publications

Identify, capture and resolve common issues faced by Red Hat Enterprise Linux administrators using best practices and advanced troubleshooting techniques

What people are saying:
Excellent, excellent resource for practical guidance on how to troubleshoot a wide variety of problems on Red Hat Linux. I particularly enjoyed how the author made sure to provide solid background and practical examples. I have a lot of experience on Red Hat but still came away with some great practical tools to add to my toolkit. - Amazon Review