Knowing which operating system (OS) you have on your computer or device is important for several reasons. The OS manages software and hardware resources and provides services for applications. Identifying your OS allows you to get updates, find compatible programs, and troubleshoot problems. There are a few simple ways to determine which OS you’re running.
Check the System Information
One way to find your OS is to check your system information. Here’s how to do this on common operating systems:
On Windows, press the Windows key + R to open the Run dialog box. Type “winver” and click OK. A popup will show the Windows version, edition, and OS build number. For example, it may show “Windows 10 Home Version 21H2.”
On a Mac, click the Apple menu and select “About This Mac.” A window will open showing the macOS name and version number. For instance, it may show “macOS Monterey Version 12.3.”
On Linux, open the Terminal app and type:
This will print system information including the distribution name and version. For example:
NAME="Ubuntu" VERSION="22.04 LTS (Jammy Jellyfish)"
On a Chromebook, click the status area in the lower-right corner and select “Settings.” Click “About Chrome OS” to see the version number. For example, it may show “Chrome OS 106.0.5249.119.”
Examine the User Interface
The look and feel of the user interface can provide clues about your OS. Here are some distinguishing features:
– Colorful window frames with rounded corners
– Taskbar along the bottom with Start button
– File Explorer with drive letters for storage
– Menu bar along the top
– Dock running along the bottom
– Finder app for files and folders
– Apps and files accessed through browser windows
– Shelf along the bottom with pinned apps
– Files app with Google Drive integration
– Variety of desktop environments (GNOME, KDE, Xfce, etc)
– Menu button in the upper-left corner on most desktops
– Terminal app for command line access
If you recognize the interface as Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, or a common Linux desktop, you can safely assume that’s the OS.
Use Diagnostic Tools
There are a few tools that can identify your operating system:
System Information Apps
Many Windows and Linux distributions come with system information tools like msinfo32 or inxi that show OS details. On a Mac, applications like System Information provide similar data.
Running the “ver” command at the Windows command prompt or “uname -a” in the Linux/Mac terminal prints out the OS name and version.
Websites like https://www.whatismybrowser.com/detect/what-version-of-windows-do-i-have can detect your OS and version based on browser data. However, these may not work perfectly on all systems.
Check for Default Apps
The presence of default applications can indicate which OS you have:
|Windows||Edge, File Explorer, Paint|
|macOS||Safari, Finder, Preview|
|Chrome OS||Chrome Browser, Files, Google Drive|
|Linux||Firefox, Terminal, LibreOffice|
Of course, default apps can be changed so this isn’t a foolproof method. But if the defaults are intact, it helps eliminate some possibilities.
Use the Install/Recovery Media
If your computer came with OS installation or recovery media, you can identify the OS from that. Look for:
– A Windows or Office product key indicating Windows
– A “Mac OS X Install” DVD or USB drive indicating macOS
– Recovery media with Chrome OS indicating a Chromebook
Of course this only works if you still have the original media. But it can definitively tell you the pre-installed OS.
Check the Hardware
Certain operating systems are designed to work with specific hardware:
Chrome OS only runs on Chromebooks from select manufacturers like Samsung, Acer, and Asus. So if you have a Chromebook hardware, you must be running Chrome OS.
Mac desktops and laptops can only run macOS or Windows via Boot Camp. So while a Mac could dual boot Windows, it will be running macOS otherwise.
Check for Manufacturer Customizations
Many PC manufacturers customize the Windows interface and apps on their computers. Recognizing these customizations can confirm you have Windows installed.
Use the Purchase Information
If you bought a computer new, the OS it came with will likely be the one still installed. Check paperwork, invoices, online order history, etc. for details like:
– Windows version purchased
– Chrome OS model bought
– Mac computer model indicating macOS
Unless you know the OS was changed afterwards, you can rely on the original purchase information.
Ask the Manufacturer
If you bought the computer used, or don’t have purchase records, you may need to contact the manufacturer. Provide the make and model number and ask what OS it shipped with. Most major vendors can look up this info.
Try an OS Identifier App
Apps like OSXAUDIT (Mac), OSQUERY (Windows), and System Profiler (Linux) can fingerprint your hardware and software to detect the OS type and version. These work even if the OS itself is corrupted or unbootable.
Reinstall the OS
If all else fails, you can reinstall or restore the OS using installation media. This will obviously identify the OS, but also erase all your programs and data. So only attempt this if the OS is non-functional and you have backups of important files.
Determining your operating system is usually straightforward. Looking at system settings, the interface, default apps, and hardware will answer the question in most cases. For unclear situations, diagnostic tools and OS fingerprints provide alternatives. And if needed, recovery media or a fresh OS install can conclusively settle the mystery. Knowing your OS is power – so don’t hesitate to investigate if you have any doubts!