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Get Kernel Version for Linux: A Guide

Posted on by Neil Golden | Updated:
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Linux kernel is the core of the Linux operating system and is responsible for managing system resources such as the CPU, memory, and input/output devices. It is a program that interacts between the hardware and the software, enabling communication between them.

It also enables multi-tasking, where multiple processes can run at the same time, and time-sharing, where the CPU time is shared between running processes.

The Linux kernel is also responsible for providing security features, such as access control, memory protection, and user management. It ensures that only authorized users can access system resources and that processes cannot interfere with other processes' memory. 

A Linux kernel is composed of three key components: the process scheduler, the memory manager, and the device driver. Understanding the role of the Linux kernel is essential for ensuring the optimal performance and security of your Linux system.

Kernel version information is crucial for identifying and resolving issues related to hardware, software, and system stability. Linux distributions are known for their flexibility in customization and support for a range of hardware architectures. 

As a result, checking the kernel version on a Linux-based system is crucial in determining compatibility between software and hardware components.
Take a look at four methods for obtaining the kernel version on a Linux system: the uname command, the dmesg command, the /proc/version file, and the hostnamectl command.

uname Command

The first and most common method of obtaining the kernel version on a Linux system is to use the uname command. This command prints the kernel release, version, and a few other system-related details.
Get kernel version Linux by opening a terminal window and entering the following command.

uname -r

The output of this command will show the kernel version, as shown below.

6.2.15-300.fc38.x86_64

In the above example, the Linux kernel version is 6.2.15-300.fc38.x86_64.

You can obtain additional information by adding some of the additional flags to the uname command. In order to see all of the available flags for the uname command, enter the following command into your terminal.

uname --help

The command will output the following.

Usage: uname [OPTION]...
Print certain system information.  With no OPTION, same as -s.

  -a, --all            	print all information, in the following order,
                         	except omit -p and -i if unknown:
  -s, --kernel-name    	print the kernel name
  -n, --nodename       	print the network node hostname
  -r, --kernel-release 	print the kernel release
  -v, --kernel-version 	print the kernel version
  -m, --machine        	print the machine hardware name
  -p, --processor      	print the processor type (non-portable)
  -i, --hardware-platform  print the hardware platform (non-portable)
  -o, --operating-system   print the operating system
  	--help    	display this help and exit
  	--version 	output version information and exit
Full documentation <https://www.gnu.org/software/coreutils/uname>

dmesg Command

Another way to get the kernel version in Linux is to use the dmesg command. The dmesg command displays the kernel ring buffer messages, including the kernel version.

To use the dmesg command, open your terminal window and enter the following command.

dmesg | grep "Linux version"

This command will output the current kernel version, as shown below.

[0.000000] Linux version 6.2.15-300.fc38.x86_64 (mockbuild@9ce97d1fde5043c6a5e6af84f9091fb1) (gcc (GCC) 13.1.1 20230426 (Red Hat 13.1.1-1), GNU ld version 2.39-9.fc38) #1 SMP PREEMPT_DYNAMIC Thu May 11 17:37:39 UTC 2023

In the above example, the Linux kernel version is 6.2.15-300.fc38.x86_64.

Display the /proc/version File

The /proc/version file contains information about the current kernel version and the build details. This file can be used to get the kernel version in Linux.

To display information in the /proc/version file, open your terminal window and enter the following command.

cat /proc/version

This command will output the contents of the file, which includes the kernel version, build date, compiler version, and other build information, as shown below.

Linux version 6.2.15-300.fc38.x86_64 (mockbuild@9ce97d1fde5043c6a5e6af84f9091fb1) (gcc (GCC) 13.1.1 20230426 (Red Hat 13.1.1-1), GNU ld version 2.39-9.fc38) #1 SMP PREEMPT_DYNAMIC Thu May 11 17:37:39 UTC 2023

You can easily see, from the output above, that the Linux kernel version is 6.2.15-300.fc38.x86_64.

hostnamectl Command

The hostnamectl command is used to view or modify the system hostname and related settings. This command can also be used to display the Linux kernel version. The hostnamectl command is a component of systemd, so it wouldn't be available on a Linux distribution that isn't using systemd by default, such as Gentoo.

To use the hostnamectl command, open your terminal window and enter the following command.

hostnamectl

This command will output the current state of the system, including the operating system, kernel version, and other hardware-related information, as shown below.

Static hostname: linux-system
Icon name: computer-vm
Chassis: vm
Machine ID: 4a14033b41c64c5a81b269cf866c57b5
Boot ID: e05b4580aeaf44889be57a9cb9631d8b
Virtualization: vmware
Operating System: AlmaLiunux 8.3 (Purple Manul)
CPE OS Name: cpe:/o:almalinux:almalinux:8.3
Kernel: Linux 6.2.15-300.fc38.x86_64
Architecture: x86-64

In the example presented above, the Linux kernel version is 6.2.15-300.fc38.x86_64.

Final Thoughts

You have learned four methods for obtaining the kernel version on a Linux system: the uname command, the dmesg command, the /proc/version file, and the hostnamectl command. Now you have the knowledge of how to check the Linux kernel version in almost every way possible. These methods are simple and effective and can be used to determine the current kernel version and identify issues related to hardware, software, and system stability.

Knowing the kernel version is essential for testing software compatibility, vulnerability assessments, and troubleshooting system issues. By utilizing one of the methods mentioned above, you can obtain the kernel version on your Linux system and ensure seamless operation.

Make sure that you are keeping your kernel updated. By doing so, you are keeping your system secured. Without an updated kernel, you may encounter compatibility issues, reduced functionality, or even complete inoperability of certain hardware devices. By keeping your kernel up to date, you will ensure that your system is fully compatible with the latest hardware advancements.

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About the Author: Neil Golden

Neil contributed to solving the complex puzzle of evolution for a long time by obtaining his Ph.D. in Archaeology. These days, he digs the Linux servers in his role within the Liquid Web Monitoring Department instead of Paleolithic stone tools in the caves on archaeological sites. Instead of mammoths, he is now hunting for bugs on Linux servers. He has written numerous scientific and technical articles because writing is one of his biggest passions. In his free time, Neil composes music, reads novels, and travels the world.

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