So my question is simple, I often flash a couple of different OSes to try in different Rpi's and often don't label the actual SD cards to distinguish then from each other. So days later I end up mixing them up. It's especially kinda hard to write on a microSD card.

I stumbled upon this which offers a few suggestions, but I was wondering if it wasn't possible to just examine the flashed files to determine what OS and version I have in there. For example for an Ubuntu SD card I created, I can clearly see find a README.diskdefines which tells me.

enter image description here

Is there any default files on a raspbian image-flashed SD card that identifies this?

2 Answers 2


/etc/os-release should be on Linux distributions. This may be a link to /usr/lib/os-release

Current Raspbian shows:-

PRETTY_NAME="Raspbian GNU/Linux 8 (jessie)"
NAME="Raspbian GNU/Linux"
VERSION="8 (jessie)"

/etc/rpi-issue will show when the image was created (at least for Raspbian), but does not change with upgrades.

  • Sweet. this is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks! Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 4:49
  • This would only appear to work on Linux, is there a way to do this from only what can be seen in /boot partition (which would work across all OS's)? Perhaps instead of labeling the SD card adding a file to the /boot partition. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 5:11
  • @SteveRobillard the OP was (implicitly) about mounting on a Linux system. AFAIK there is no means of getting any useful info from the boot partition. There is issue.txt, and I make use of the dates of kernel files, but this only tells you when last updated, and not even the kernel version.
    – Milliways
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 5:20
  • When you make a the SD card couldn't you rename the volume to be something meaningful? Or is the name "boot' required.
    – PaulF8080
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 0:47

The content of /etc/rpi-issue will give you the precise git commit of the pi-gen repo that was used to create the image. It is unfortunate that you have to be able to mount/read the EXT volume in order to see it. I have created an issue for that.

Here is how you can use that file. I have a device deployed 2,300 miles away that is experiencing an issue, but I am still able to SSH in. The content of /etc/rpi-issue is:

Raspberry Pi reference 2017-04-10
Generated using pi-gen, https://github.com/RPi-Distro/pi-gen, acc4f56597e75225b93be3e1e20504a40565a9b9, stage2

I can take that hash and use it for browse the state of the source code at the time this image was created. To do this I put that hash at the end of this URL:

to get this URL:

I can also go to https://github.com/RPi-Distro/pi-gen/releases to see if the first 6 digits of the hash acc4f5 matches a release that is ready to download.

screenshot of github

Hey look it does! That means I can probably find a copy of the image at http://downloads.raspberrypi.org/raspbian_lite/images/ I can now download that image and run it on a local device and experiment with possible solutions. My day now looks like

Apollo 13 screenshot

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