Unix vs Linux: How is Linux Different from Unix?


Nowadays, we have different operating systems offering many unique features and options. Windows, macOS, Linux, and Unix are the most popular among the bunch built to fulfill varied user requirements. Generally, users think that Unix is a synonym of Linux, but that’s not true.

The Linux kernel was created to deliver something different than Unix. However, many users still don’t know the significant differences between Unix and Linux. So in this guide, we will compare various factors to explain what makes Unix and Linux different operating systems.

What is Unix? The Basics

Unix is a multi-user OS that allows various users to work on the same system to perform multi-tasks simultaneously. This operating system is widely used in PCs, workstations, and Internet servers by HP, Intel, Solaris, and so on.

The operating system enables direct communication with the system through the terminal, only using different Unix commands. Hence, Unix provides high control over the system resources and the ability to share data with other users.

Written in the C language, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and other developers created this operating system in Bell Labs. Considering its original development, Unix was derived from AT&T in early 1969 and officially launched on November 3rd, 1971.

As Unix is written in C/C++, it offers a portable environment and works well on various machines. It supports many features by using a kernel that handles overall system management. Unix includes continuous background processing, built-in networking, file abstraction, and daemons’ programming interfaces.

Basic Features of Unix

  • Unix offers a multi-user platform where multiple users can work on the same system.
  • It comprises multitasking to execute different processes concurrently.
  • It is the first operating system developed in C and C++, making it easier to use this OS in low-power devices.
  • Unix has a hierarchical file system to maintain the data efficiently.
  • It has an in-built networking function to exchange information with multiple users.

Limitations of Unix

  • Unix does not support the real-time response system, which is why it does not provide guaranteed hardware interrupt response time.
  • Since Unix varies from machine to machine, its versions lack overall consistency.
  • Unix’s shell interface can prove ‌treacherous, as a typing mistake can destroy the files.
  • The Unix operating system isn’t designed to be highly performant.
  • Unix’s interface is concise, unfriendly, non-mnemonic, and inconsistent.

What is Linux? The Basics

Linux is a kernel that was first released on September 17th, 1991. Users often think that it is an operating system, but in reality, it is a kernel, upon which different operating systems are based.

Linux is an excellent example of open-source collaboration as it was developed by Linus Torvalds and many hacking geeks worldwide. Hence, anyone can modify the source code to create different operating systems called Linux distributions or distros.

Many Linux distros are available such as Ubuntu, Debian, Linux Mint, CentOS, and Arch Linux. Most users prefer Linux as the server, but it is also a popular selection for PCs, laptops, gaming consoles, and more. Moreover, various companies like SUSE, Red Hat, and Canonical provide commercial Linux support.

Basic Features of Linux

  • Linux is free and open-source to give freedom for tweaking it accordingly.
  • You can use different Linux commands to increase productivity.
  • It is portable and works well on different hardware configurations.
  • Linux comprises multi-user flexibility, allowing different users to work on a single system simultaneously.
  • It is a highly secured platform with various security options, including encryption, file permissions, secure shell, and ACLs.

Limitations of Linux

  • Some software/tools/programs are only supported in Windows and macOS. You will require a complex simulator set up to run these software as a Linux user.
  • Linux has patchier driver support, which sometimes causes the entire system to malfunction.
  • It does not have a standard version.
  • Linux is considered best suited for corporate users. Hence, the same proves challenging to use in a home setting.

Unix vs Linux: Differences




DevelopersLinus TorvaldsKen Thompson and Dennis Ritchie
Cost-effective Free and paid ($56)Paid
SecurityIt is less secure than Unix.Unix is highly secured.
DevelopmentVarious developers contribute to the development of Linux. The development of Unix rests in the hands of AT&T and different commercial vendors.
GUISupports different desktop environments like Xfce, LXDE, Mate, and Ubuntu Unity.Common desktop environment and Gnome.
Bug FixesRegular bug fixes and updates are available.Bug fixes may take time due to the infrequent updates.
Source CodeIt is publicly availableIt is not available publicly.
Text-Made InterfaceBash is the default shell in Linux but it supports multiple command interpreters.Unix works in the Bourne shell. Currently, it is also compatible with a good number of other software.
Portability Portable and bootable from a USB stick.Not portable as Linux.
VersionsOpenSUSE, Ubuntu, and RHEL are the different versions of Linux.BSD, AIS, and HP-UX are the different versions of Unix.
ArchitecturesLinux is originally designed to run on Intel’s x86 processors.It is available on Itanium and PA-RISC machines.
File System SupportNTFS, FAT32, FAT, Btrfs, Xfs, ReiserFS, Jfs, Ext2, Ext3, and Ext4.Zfs, xfs, ufs, hfs+, hfs, gpfs, and jfs.
KernelFollows a monolithic kernel approach.Follows hybrid, microkernel, and monolithic approaches.

Unix vs Linux: Which One is Better?

Linux and Unix are almost identical, but Linux development was based on Unix to give something different. Both are focused on specific requirements. While Linux is best for regular use, Unix is best for servers.

The significant difference between the two operating systems is not in the presentation but in the internal form process in the kernel. So if you are more into free stuff and looking for an operating system, Linux is the best OS.

In case you want to develop and maintain the server, please use Unix. The above information clarifies that Unix and Linux are different from one another and best in their respective use cases.

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