A Few Ways to Determine Which Distro and Version You’re Using (4 min read)

This article will show you a few ways to determine which distro and version you’re using. There are many ways to learn this, but these are three easy ways to tell.

There are any number of reasons why you might not know this information off the top of your head. Perhaps you’re working in a multi-platform job? You might have many devices. It’s possible that you may have a bunch of virtual machines, each different. One can’t always tell by just looking at the desktop, especially if you’ve done any customizing.

Additionally, you may have upgraded and not know things like the point release. You may have different versions across your network, each for its own purpose. You might just be forgetful and so you’ll need to determine the distro you’re using, as well as which version of that distro you’re using. You might be in a position where you need support, and being able to share this information is essential.

No worries, there are a few easy ways to determine which distro you’re using. All of them are pretty easy.

Determine Which Distro (and Version):

All of these methods will rely on the terminal. So, before you begin, you can open your default terminal emulator by using your keyboard and pressing CTRL + ALT + T.

Once you have that open, you can try any combination of the following:

Method #1

The first method will involve a program known as ‘neofetch‘. Many distros actually provide this by default. If not, it’s probably in your default repositories and you can install it pretty easily. For example, with a Debian-based, or APT-using distro, the command to install it would be:

Once installed, you can simply run it with the name of the application. No modifiers are required. You simply run:

You’ll get an output similar to:

neofetch in action
This should be entirely self-explanatory. You can do more with neofetch, by the way.

See? Nice and easy. The information to determine which distro you’re using is right there in the output and on the top-most line.

Method #2

The following two methods need no additional software. You simply need to run the command in the terminal. 

The first of these two methods is:

Which will give you an output similar to:

Again, this is self-explanatory. The top-most is the major name, the second is the version, then the release number, and then the codename. With this information, you can determine which distro you’re using.

Method #3

Your distro may not have any LSB data and may not contain that information. That’s okay, there’s still one more command for you to try. Again, you don’t need to install anything, it just works out of the box.

This time, the command you’ll be running will be ‘cat’ and you’re looking for release data in the /etc directory. The command looks like this:

Your output should look similar to this:

As you can see, that contains a ton of information, including where to go for support and where to file bugs. 

Closure:

One of those is bound to work for you. I checked across a number of virtual machines and was able to determine which distro each was using. In many cases, all three of them will work for you.

At the end of the day, you can probably just pick your favorite (or the one that works) and commit it to memory. Personally, I try the ‘lsb_release -a’ first, as that one is firmly locked in my memory.

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Author: KGIII

Retired mathematician, residing in the mountains of Maine. I may be old and wise, but I am not infallible. Please point out any errors. And, as always, thanks again for reading.

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