Most of the time, using one of these two, I can tell which OS is running in my Docker container (alpine, centOS, etc)

But this time, I can't tell:

bash-4.2$ uname -a       
Linux 6fe5c6d1451c 2.6.32-504.23.4.el6.x86_64 #1 SMP Tue Jun 9 20:57:37 UTC 2015 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

bash-4.2$ more /etc/issue
Kernel \r on an \m

Any way to get a text version of the OS it is running ?


I like to use Screenfetch. You might want to try that.

If you look into the code you can see how it determines the distribution:

  • lsb_release -sirc
  • cat /etc/os-release

And to cover CentOS too:

  • cat /etc/issue
| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    "/etc/os-release" is indeed a good source, but is not present on some centOS. If you have only one shot to decide, I would say: "ls /etc/*release". But if one need the string way, you need both "cat /etc/os-release" and "cat /etc/issue" to cover all cases. Thank you both of you. – Bob Yoplait Sep 26 '16 at 21:02
  • Yeah on alpine they both work cat /etc/issue and cat /etc/alpine-release! – Julian Nov 15 '19 at 15:10

uname will tell you the kernel that's running, which is the host OS kernel (containers, unlike VM's, share the same kernel).

To identify the base image of the container, there's no guaranteed solution from inside the container. You can look for pointers from the major vendors like Janosch gives (/etc/os-release for most vendors like Debian, CentOS and Alpine, or /etc/lsb-release for Ubuntu). You can also check the package management tools if they are installed (/etc/apk, /etc/apt, /etc/yum).

Outside of the container, you can inspect the image and track down the layers to see where the image comes from, but that gets into locating sha256 checksums. The best method is to review the Dockerfile that was used the build the image.

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  • When I run this on windows with the latest Ubuntu image, as of today, uname just returns Linux, and uname -a just returns Linux 89e9cd67fc7a 4.9.125-linuxkit #1 SMP Fri Sep 7 08:20:28 UTC 2018 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux – David Culbreth Mar 1 '19 at 3:23
  • 1
    Linuxkit is the embedded Docker VM, which is the host OS with containers run on Docker for Windows. – BMitch Mar 1 '19 at 10:21
  • "uname" will give you details about the underlying host, not the container (even if you run it inside a container). – Trondh Oct 11 '19 at 9:58
  • @Trondh I believe that's what I said. Is there something in the answer that needs to be corrected? – BMitch Oct 11 '19 at 10:42

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