Check if server is Physical Bare Metal or a Virtual Machine and its type


In modern times the IT employee system administrator / system engineer / security engineer or a developer who has to develop and test code remotely on UNIX hosts, we have to login to multiple of different servers located in separate data centers around the world situated in Hybrid Operating system environments running multitude of different Linux OSes. Often especially for us sysadmins it is important to know whether the remote machine we have SSHed to is physical server (Bare Metal) or a virtual machines running on top of different kind of Hypervisor node OpenXen / Virtualbox / Virtuosso  / VMWare etc.

Then the question comes how to determine whether A remote Installed Linux is Physical or Virtual ?

1. Using the dmesg kernel log utility

The good old dmesg that is used to examine and control the kernel ring buffer detects plenty of useful information which gives you the info whether a server is Virtual or Bare Metal. It is present and accessible on every Linux server out there, thus using it is the best and simplest way to determine the OS system node type.

To grep whether a machine is Virtual and the Hypervisor type use:


nginx:~# dmesg | grep "Hypervisor detected"
[0.000000] Hypervisor detected: KVM

As you see above OS installed is using the KVM Virtualization technology.

An empty output of this command means the Remote OS is installed on a physical computer.


2. Detecting the OS platform the systemd way

Systemd along with the multiple over-complication of things that nearly all sysadmins (including me hate) so much introduced something useful in the fact of hostnamectl command
that could give you the info about the OS chassis platform.


root@pcfreak:~# hostnamectl status
 Static hostname: pcfreak
         Icon name: computer-desktop
           Chassis: desktop
        Machine ID: 02425d67037b8e67cd98bd2800002671
           Boot ID: 34a83b9a79c346168082f7605c2f557c
  Operating System: Debian GNU/Linux 10 (buster)
            Kernel: Linux 4.19.0-5-amd64
      Architecture: x86-64



Below is output of a VM running on a Oracle Virtualbox HV.


linux:~# hostnamectl status
Static hostname: ubuntuserver
 Icon name: computer-vm
 Chassis: vm
 Machine ID: 2befe86cf8887ca098f509e457554beb
 Boot ID: 8021c02d65dc46b1885afb25fddcf18c
 Virtualization: oracle
 Operating System: Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS
 Kernel: Linux 4.4.0-78-generic
 Architecture: x86-64


3. Detect concrete container virtualization with systemd-detect-virt 

Another Bare Metal or VM identify tool that was introducted some time ago by freedesktop project is systemd-detect-virt (usually command is part of systemd package).
It is useful to detect the exact virtualization on a systemd running OS systemd-detect-virt is capable to detect many type of Virtualization type that are rare like: IBM zvm S390 Z/VM, bochs, bhyve (a FreeBSD hypervisor), Mac OS's parallels, lxc (linux containers), docker containers, podman etc.

The output from the command is either none (if no virtualization is present or the VM Hypervisor Host type):


server:~# systemd-detect-virt


quake:~# systemd-detect-virt


4. Install and use facter to report per node facts


debian:~# apt-cache show facter|grep -i desc -A2
Description-en: collect and display facts about the system
 Facter is Puppet’s cross-platform system profiling library. It discovers and
 reports per-node facts, which are collected by the Puppet agent and are made

Description-md5: 88cdf9a1db3df211de4539a0570abd0a
Tag: devel::lang:ruby, devel::library, implemented-in::ruby,
root@jeremiah:/home/hipo# apt-cache show facter|grep -i desc -A1
Description-en: collect and display facts about the system
 Facter is Puppet’s cross-platform system profiling library. It discovers and

Description-md5: 88cdf9a1db3df211de4539a0570abd0a


– Install facter on Debian / Ubuntu / deb based Linux


# apt install facter –yes

– Install facter on RedHat / CentOS RPM based distros

# yum install epel-release


# yum install facter

– Install facter on OpenSuSE / SLES

# zypper install facter

Once installed on the system to find out whether the remote Operating System is Virtual:

# facter 2> /dev/null | grep virtual
is_virtual => false
virtual => physical

If the machine is a virtual machine you will get some different output like:

# facter 2> /dev/null | grep virtual
is_virtual => true
virtual => kvm

If you're lazy to grep you can use it with argument.

# facter virtual


6. Use lshw and dmidecode (list hardware configuration tool)

If you don't have the permissions to install facter on the system and you can see whether lshw (list hardware command) is not already present on remote host.

# lshw -class system  
    description: Computer
    width: 64 bits
    capabilities: smbios-2.7 vsyscall32

If the system is virtual you'll get an output similar to:

# lshw -class system  
 description: Computer
 product: VirtualBox
 vendor: innotek GmbH
 version: 1.2
 serial: 0
 width: 64 bits
 capabilities: smbios-2.5 dmi-2.5 vsyscall32
 configuration: family=Virtual Machine uuid=78B58916-4074-42E2-860F-7CAF39F5E6F5

Of course as it provides a verbosity of info on Memory / CPU type / Caches / Cores / Motherboard etc. virtualization used or not can be determined also with dmidecode / hwinfo and other tools that detect the system hardware this is described thoroughfully in my  previous article Get hardware system info on Linux.

7. Detect virtualziation using virt-what or imvirt scripts

imvirt is a little script to determine several virtualization it is pretty similar to virt-what the RedHat own script for platform identification. Even though virt-what is developed for RHEL it is available on other distros, Fedoda, Debian, Ubuntu, Arch Linux (AUR) just like is imvirt.

installing both of them is with the usual apt-get / yum or on Arch Linux with yay package manager (yay -S virt-what) …

Once run the output it produces for physical Dell / HPE / Fujitsu-Siemens Bare Metal servers would be just empty string.

# virt-what

Or if the system is Virtual Machine, you'll get the type, for example KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) / virtualbox / qemu etc.




It was explained how to do a simple check whether the server works on a physical hardware or on a virtual Host hypervisor. The most basic and classic way is with dmesg. If no access to dmesg is due to restrictions you can try the other methods for systemd enabled OSes with hostnamectl / systemd-detect-virt. Other means if the tools are installed or you have the permissions to install them is with facter / lshw or with virt-what / imvirt scripts.
There definitely perhaps much more other useful tools to grasp hardware and virtualization information but this basics could be useful enough for shell scripting purposes.
If you know other tools, please share.

Share this on:

More helpful Articles

Download PDFDownload PDF

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge