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Where does Linux uname -m get its information from?

I am asking because I have a machine that is 64-bits for sure, and uname -a and uname -r confirm that, but uname -m prints i686. Where does it get that from??

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up vote 21 down vote accepted

You have to take into account that uname prints information from your software and hardware. Your 64-bit machine could be running a 32-bit Linux distribution.

uname -a prints this information (in order): kernel-name, nodename, kernel-release, kernel-version, machine, processor, hardware-platform, operating-system. If you see 64 bit hardware and i686 kernel, then you have installed a 32-bits Linux kernel.

For answering your whole question: uname is a system call and this command line tool is using it. You can check that easily runing strace uname -a

$ strace uname -a
execve("/bin/uname", ["uname", "-a"], [/* 23 vars */]) = 0
brk(0)                                  = 0x9fa6000
mmap(NULL, 4096, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE, MAP_PRIVATE|MAP_ANONYMOUS, -1, 0) = 0x2b4abb365000
mmap(NULL, 4096, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE, MAP_PRIVATE|MAP_ANONYMOUS, -1, 0) = 0x2b4abb366000
access("/etc/", R_OK)      = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
uname({sys="Linux", node="my_pc", ...}) = 0
fstat(1, {st_mode=S_IFCHR|0620, st_rdev=makedev(136, 0), ...}) = 0
mmap(NULL, 4096, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE, MAP_PRIVATE|MAP_ANONYMOUS, -1, 0) = 0x2b4abe953000
uname({sys="Linux", node="my_pc", ...}) = 0
uname({sys="Linux", node="my_pc", ...}) = 0
write(1, "Linux my_pc 2.6.18-371.8.1.el5 "..., 99Linux my_pc 2.6.18-371.8.1.el5 #1 SMP Thu Apr 24 18:19:36 EDT 2014 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
) = 99
close(1)                                = 0
munmap(0x2b4abe953000, 4096)            = 0
exit_group(0)                           = ?
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Use strace -v to see the full uname return values. – grawity Jun 2 '14 at 12:43
I've been using Linux and UNIX for the last 4 years and had no idea about strace. I wonder whether it uses ptrace under the hood... If only there were a program that allowed me to easily check! ;) – Parthian Shot Jun 2 '14 at 19:22
@ParthianShot It is using ptrace. To verify, use strace strace uname -a. And direct the output to a file so you can comfortably read it. – tbodt Jun 2 '14 at 19:39
@tbodt Good stuff... Thanks! :) – Parthian Shot Jun 2 '14 at 19:45
@ParthianShot And they haven't even mentioned ltrace yet. :) – oakad Jun 3 '14 at 1:33

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