Unix vs Linux | Difference Between Linux and Unix

Unix vs Linux | Difference Between Linux and Unix
10 min read
18 April 2020

The soul of every computer is its OS, the operating system. There are many operating systems in existence today. We are going to discuss two basic ones, Linux and Unix.

There has been much discussions and debate going on comparing both of these. Though Linux is derived from Unix and they are different operating systems, right? So, today we are going to put an end to this debate.

What is UNIX?

UNIX OS was invented by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson in the late 1970s at the Bell Labs research center.

Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson(Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson)

It was written in C language, so the Operating System is multi-user, multitasking and allowed good acceptance. Unix OS works on Command line Interface or CLI, but now, there have been developments for GUI(Graphical user interface) also on Unix systems.

Unix systems are featured by modular design which is also known as UNIX philosophy. And UNIX philosophy includes certain characteristics like: the OS provides a set of tools and each tool performs well-defined and limited functions.

For data storage plain text is used. And it has a hierarchical file system and it also handles devices and some special kinds of inter-process communication (IPC) as files and a lot more.

In other words, you can also say that UNIX is nothing but a commercial product that was sold by AT&T. It started as a one-man project under the guidance of Ken Thompson of Bell Labs. And With time, it became the most widely used OS. And, it’s used in workstations, Internet Servers, and personal computers by HP,Intel, Solaris and so on. Mac OS is the most popular version of UNIX which is used these days.

What is LINUX?

Linux is an operating system which was invented by Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in 1991.

Unix vs Linux | Difference Between Linux and Unix(Linus Torvalds)

The “Linux” name originated from the LINUX kernel. Or in other words you can say that it’s just a kernel (software) and is not the full operating system unlike UNIX. And the software is used on the computer which allows applications and users to access the devices on the computer to perform some specific/defined function. Or to make it more clear you can consider Linux as an engine(i.e. Just a kernel) and Unix as a Car (i.e. the entire operating system).

Most people often get confused that “Linux is a version of UNIX”. Let me tell you that it’s not a version of UNIX rather it’s UNIX like OS or clone of UNIX. It was derived from UNIX i.e. the same model or ideology was followed as the Unix programming environment and the UNIX philosophy while developing it. But, it doesn’t share any files with the original version of UNIX. It gained a lot of interest and support as it’s an open source i.e. freely available to the public. It’s majorly used for computer software and hardware, tablet PCs, Mainframes, game development and so on.

There are more than 10 Linux based mobile operating systems are available like Ubuntu Mobile, Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish OS and so on. And 9 out of top 10 clouds run on Linux.

Characteristics of UNIX OS

  • Unix OS can be used as the master control program in workstations and servers.
  • It supports multi-user and multitasking OS.
  • Unix is considered as very safe as it’s harder to infect as the source is not available. 
  • Unix has generally closed source mode, but a few UNIX projects are open source as well such as BSD (Berkley Software Distribution) OS and illumos OS

Characteristics of Linux OS

  • It supports multitasking that means at a time user can open multiple terminals on a desktop with windows and can work on them simultaneously.  And it also supports multi-user programming.
  • In Linux, Programs consist of one or more processes, and each process has one or more threads.
  • Linux is derived from UNIX but does not use its code.
  • It can also easily co-exists along with other Operating systems.

Differences between Unix and Linux


Unix systems have various versions and these versions was invented by AT&T.

Linux's original code was developed by Linus and the GNU foundation


UNIX can be used in workstations, internet servers, and PCs. Whereas,

Linux OS can be installed on various things like tablet computers, smartphones, servers, mainframes, supercomputers and so on.


Unix was developed mainly for workstations servers,and mainframes, etc. apart from OSX, Which is designed for everyone.

Linux can be used by almost everyone i.e. developers to home users and computer enthusiasts as well


Unix OS is available on PA-RISC and Itanium machines supporting processors like, Sparc, Power, x86/x64, Itanium, PA-RISC, PowerPC, and a lot more.

Linux was initially developed for Intel’s x86 hardware processors. It is available for more than twenty different types of CPU which also includes an ARM.


In Unix, there are around 70 to 110 viruses has been posted till date.

In Linux about 50-90 viruses detected up till today that are successfully removed now.

Detection of Threat

Unix users need longer wait time, to get proper bug fixing patch.

In Linux, threat detection and solution is very fast as it's community driven. So, suppose if any Linux user shows any kind of threat, qualified developers team starts working to resolve that particular threat.

Supported file system

In Unix, the filesystems supported by file types are like hfx, GPS, xfs, zfs, etc.

In Linux, the filesystems supported by file types are like devpts, NTFS,xfs,nfs, cramfsm and so on.


Unix systems have various versions like: HP-UX, BSD, AIS etc.

Linux has different versions like Ubuntu,Redhat,Solaris, OpenSuse and so on.


Unix is not portable.

Linux is portable and is booted from a USB Stick.


UNIX originally uses Bourne shell. And this is also compatible with Korn, C and other graphical user interfaces(GUIs).

In Linux, default interface is BASH(Bourne Again SHell). But also support multiple command interpreters

GUI(Graphical User Interface)

Linux is command based but some computer software distribution packages provide GUI based Linux. Gnome and KDE are majorly used GUI.

Read more: Best KDE distro 2020

Unix was initially command based OS, but later Common Desktop Environment was created and most of the Unix distributions use Gnome.


Different versions of Unix systems have different cost structures as per their respective vendors.

Linux is freely distributed, downloaded through website. There are paid versions as well. But, there’s very little difference between the paid and unpaid versions apart from the support contract.

Source code

Unix was developed by various vendors like HP, IBM, Solaris, Intel, etc. for their business requirements. So, they won’t distribute the source code to the public. However, there are a few UNIX source codes which are open-source, like NetBSD, OpenBSD, and FreeBSD.

Linux has been developed and the source code has been distributed or made public under GNU license

Limitations of UNIX

Unix Operating System is generally designed for slow computer system, Hence, fast performance can’t be expected. Unix system’s versions on different machines, slightly differ, so it lacks consistency. It has a rigid environment of the hardware. Hence, it cannot be installed on every other machine. In this, shell interface can be unsafe sometimes, because typing mistake can destroy files. User interface is unfriendly, abrupt and inconsistent in this. Most of the source code of Unix is not available for the general public.

Limitations of Linux

Standard edition of Linux are not available. Linux is, for new users at least, not as easy to use as Windows. Most of the programs that are used for Windows will only run on Linux with the help of a complicated emulator. Ex: Microsoft Office. Linux has patchier support for drivers which may result in misfunctioning of the entire system.


The major difference between Linux and Unix based operating systems is not in the presentation part, but at the kernel part i.e. how exactly they work internally. So, in other words you can also say that the major differences between them depend upon which exact versions of Linux and Unix you are comparing.

The main reason behind the popularity of Linux is that it’s an open source or freely available. Whereas, UNIX Operating Systems are not. So, cost is always a major factor while choosing the technology one over the other. And Linux definitely has an edge regarding this. Linux OS is more flexible and free to modify as compared to Unix systems and this is where Linux has more user base and popularity.

But, if we discuss the commands in Unix and Linux, they are not exactly the same but are very much similar. Technical giants like HP, Intel, Solaris uses Unix internet servers, Workstations and PCs. And Linux is widely used for computer software & hardware, tablet, gaming, mainframes and so on. Simply put, one can easily conclude by looking at the Linux growth rate that any other OS is left far behind when it comes to the current market trend. And there is a high possibility that in the future, Linux may overtake Unix installation. Or you can say Linux is the clear winner here.

Den W. 1637
I'm a passionate tech enthusiast who loves diving into the world of software, programming, and tech reviews.
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