Is there a command for finding out the distribution of the OS I'm logged on to through SSH? uname can be used to print a whole lot of info, but apparently not the distribution (e.g. RedHat, Ubuntu etc.) nor the version of that distribution.

6 Answers 6


I am afraid, there is no standarized way to check it. Every distribution seems to have its own way of announcing its version. You may try: cat /etc/*release, it may work on a few systems. Also, /etc/issue may contain distribution information.

  • Thank you, both cat /etc/*release and /etc/issue give me the precise info I need.
    – vahidg
    Mar 4, 2010 at 13:03
  • On a base install of Debian (Lenny), /etc/*release doesn’t exist, but /etc/issue does (and has the right info).
    – David
    Mar 4, 2010 at 21:43
  • This is one of the only solutions that has worked for me consistently. Sep 7, 2012 at 18:14

lsb_release -a should work on most distributions.

  • Doesn’t seem to work on a base install of Debian (Lenny).
    – David
    Mar 4, 2010 at 21:42
  • Looks like lsb_release -i -s works across most of the systems I have just to get the vendor ID. Unfortunately lsb_release is not part of the base install on my smaller / embedded systems, so it has to be tested for first.
    – Caleb
    Jul 21, 2010 at 20:29
  • @Dave It's in the lsb-release package, which, indeed, is not default. It's absence is a strong Debian indicator, though. :-) Nov 26, 2010 at 11:41
  • Neither on OpenSuse.
    – ychaouche
    Aug 26, 2012 at 15:14
  • lsb_release doesn't exist on some new RHEL6 derivatives, such as Scientific Linux 6.1 or Fedora Linux 16. Sep 7, 2012 at 18:02

lsb_release and more /etc/redhat-release for redhat and fedora i dont have idea about ubuntu and all other distro

  • 1
    lsb_release -a works on Ubuntu too.
    – user8602
    Mar 4, 2010 at 20:57

Generally /etc/motd gives the distribution name too...


uname -o

The uname binary is found on almost every linux system and the -o flag does it's best to give you the operating system back. lsb_release works too but isn't quite as ubiquitous.

  • This fails on Ubuntu (lucid), however ubuntu has lsb_release, so first testing with uname -o, then if that comes back as just GNU/Linux, run lsb_release -i -s seems to work across all my systems.
    – Caleb
    Jul 21, 2010 at 20:31
  • This gives me "GNU/Linux" on RedHat, Debian and Ubuntu. On what does it work? Nov 26, 2010 at 11:43
  • GNU/Linux isn't very helpful. Most distros are GNU/linux ones.
    – ychaouche
    Aug 26, 2012 at 15:15
  • @ychaouche: See comment above. First test with uname and if all you get is generic, test for lsb_release and use that.
    – Caleb
    Aug 26, 2012 at 15:51

If you use the -a flag on uname, it should work most of the time. For example, on my current Ubuntu machine uname -a prints:

Linux clark-laptop 2.6.35-25-generic #43-Ubuntu SMP Thu Jan 6 22:25:21 UTC 2011 x86_64 GNU/Linux

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