What is the Difference Between Unix and Linux operating system?

Unix is a complete operating system on the other hand Linux is just a kernel, Unix is expensive where Linux is a solution to this issue. Here Unix Vs. Linux: What's the Difference

If you are using the Linux operating system, then you might have numerous questions related to this operating system in your mind as it has a very complicated structure. And, one of the major questions that must be haunting your mind would be the difference between Linux and Unix. If you are not familiar with the difference between both operating systems, then you can read this post.

What is Unix?

What is Unix

Unix was a highly popular operating system introduced in the 1960s by AT&T Bell Labs. It is written in C programming language to make the modifications, acceptance, and portability quicker. This operating system was a single man project by Ken Thompson of Bell Labs. But, soon it became the most popular proprietary operating system. Earlier Unix used to work over the CLI aka command-line interface, but now GUI based UNIX system is also available. It is mainly used by big companies and organizations to effectively run their operations.

There are variants of UNIX available in the market. Solaris, HP UNIX, BSD are a few examples of them. Multiple users can use a UNIX system simultaneously. Moreover, it also allows for executing multiple programs at the same time. Therefore, UNIX supports a multiuser and multitasking environment.

Unix Architecture

The master control program of Unix is its Kernel. The kernel has full control over the entire system. It has subsystems that offer services to file system handling, resource handling, memory management, start & stop programs and few other low-level core tasks.

The kernel is the heart of the OS and acts as an interface between the user and hardware. Each kernel subsystem has certain features like concurrency, virtual memory, paging, and a virtual file system.

In the outer layers of the architecture, we have the shell, commands and application programs. Shell is the interface between the user and the kernel. Shell and the user types in the commands, interpret these commands and call the computer programs accordingly.

Unix Architecture


Unix is considered as the mother of most of the operating systems.

The design of Unix systems is based on “Unix Philosophy” which includes the following characteristics:

  • Usage of plain text for data storage.
  • Hierarchical file system.
  • Handling devices and some specific kinds of inter-process communication (IPC) as files.
  • Employing a huge number of software tools.
  • Multiple small, simple and modular programs can be threaded together via a command-line interpreter using pipes, contrasting to use a single monolithic program that comprises of all the same functionality.

Features of the Unix operating system

  • It is a multitasker and user operating system.
  • It can work as the control master program in numerous workstations and servers.
  • Hundreds of applications are available on Unix.
  • In the beginning, Unix used to be the most used operating system by universities and colleges.

Example of Unix UI

Unix User interface

What is Linux?


Linux is a free and open-source operating system designed by Linus Torvalds at the University of Helsinki in 1991. The name Linux has been driven from the Linux kernel. It is computer software that helps applications and users to access devices to run some specific functions. The Linux operating system transfers instructions from an application of the computer processor and sends the results back to the application via the Linux OS.

Linux can be installed on different gadgets such as computer-based phones, gaming consoles, tablets, etc., This operating system is one of the biggest examples of the free and open-source operating system which is currently used by numerous companies and individuals to create different types of the operating system.

The Red Hat Enterprise Linux is used at the enterprise level. Debian is a free software distribution commonly used for servers. Ubuntu is another free, reliable and stable Linux distribution.

The Graphical User Interface of Linux allows users to access applications easily. It also contains a powerful Command Line Interface (CLI). The user can type commands in the terminal to execute numerous tasks.

ls – List down the content of a directory

pwd – Find the present working directory

cd – Change the current directory

mkdir – Create a directory

rmdir – Delete a directory

cp – Copy a file to a new location

mv – Move a file to a new location

rv – Remove a file

cat – Create a file with content.

Linux based OS Architecture

Linux distributions actually make the Linux kernel completely usable as an operating system by adding different applications to it. There are various flavors of Linux distributions that serve a wide range of user needs.

Linux based OS Architecture

Features of Linux

  • It supports multitasking.
  • Programs consist of one or more processes, and each process has one or more threads.
  • It can work with other operating systems.
  • The multiple user account program.
  • The individual accounts are protected through proper authentication.
  • Linux is based on Unix operating systems but it doesn’t include its code.

 UNIX is a better operating system, but it is expensive. Linux is a solution to this issue.

Example of Linux UI

Linux user interface

What is the relation between UNIX and Linux?

The simple and straight answer is Linux is based on UNIX.

Common Things Between Linux & UNIX

  1. GUI, file, and windows managers (KDE, Gnome)
  2. Shells (ksh, csh, bash)
  3. Various office applications such as OpenOffice.org
  4. Development tools (perl, php, python, GNU c/c++ compilers)
  5. Posix interface

Difference between Unix vs Linux

Difference between Unix vs Linux

If you are confused about whether to use Unix or Linux as your future operating system to run the operations of your business smoothly, then you can check out the deeply insightful difference between Linux and Unix to clear your confusion.

Difference Between UNIX and Linux
Unix OS Linux OS
Definition UNIX is a family of multitasking, multi-user computer operating systems that derived from the original AT & T Unix. Linux is a family of free and open-source software operating systems built around the Linux kernel.
Developed By UNIX was developed by a group of employees including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan.  Linux was developed by Linus Torvalds.
Source code Availability The source code of UNIX is not available to the general public.  The source code of LINUX is available to the public.
Interface UNIX contains the Command Line Interface.  Linux contains the Command Line and Graphical User Interface.
Architectures Originally developed for Intel’s x86 hardware, ports available for over two dozen CPU types including ARM is available on PA-RISC and Itanium machines. Solaris also available for x86/x64 based systems.OSX is PowerPC(10.0-10.5)/x86(10.4)/x64(10.5-10.8)
Applications The UNIX is used for servers, workstations, mainframes and high-end computers. Linux is used for personal computers, desktops. It is also used for game development, embedded systems, etc.
Usage The UNIX operating system is used in internet servers, workstations & PCs. The backbone of the majority of financial infrastructure and many 24×365 high availability solutions. Linux can be installed on a wide variety of computer hardware, ranging from mobile phones, tablet computers, and video game consoles, to mainframes and supercomputers.
Portability UNIX is not portable. Linux is portable and can be executed on various hard drives.
Variations Solaris, HP UNIX, BSD, AIS are some variants of UNIX.  Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat, CentOS, Debian are few examples for Linux variants.
Supporting File Systems UNIX supports zfs, js, hfx, gps, xfs, gps, xfs, vxfs file systems. Linux supports  xfs, ramfs, nfs, vfat, cramfsm ext3, ext4, ext2, ext1, ufs, autofs, devpts, ntfs file systems.
Installation The installation of UNIX requires more sophisticated high-end hardware. On the other hand, Linux does not require more specific hardware components.
Cost UNIX is expensive  while Linux is free and open-source.
Examples HP-UX, IBM AIX, Sun Solairs, Mac OS X, IRIX Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat, Debian, Archlinux, Android etc.


Cost: Linux is a freely available operating system that can be easily downloaded from different magazines, books, etc., However, a paid version of the advanced Linux software is available in the market also. On the contrary, Unix is a paid operating system that is available in different price ranges according to the features.

Development: Linux is an open-source operating system that has been constantly developed by a large group of individual developers. There is plenty of different operating system based on Linux are available in the market which is developed by different programmers. On the other hand, Unix is developed by AT&T Bell Labs and they constantly update the system to satisfy the requirements of their users. However, some individual vendors have also developed some features of the Unix.

Users: Linux is a universal operating system that can be used by anyone. From home users to commercial users, anyone can use this operating system to make their computer system more efficient. However, Unix is an entrepreneurial software that can be used by internet servers, workstation PCs, etc.,

Interface: BASH is the Linux default shell that has been used by it. It gives support for multiple command interpreters. Originally, Unix is made to work in Bourne Shell. But, it is now compatible with much other software which is highly useful for Unix users.

GUI: The earlier versions of Unix and Linux won’t support GUI, but today they support GUI. Linux mainly supports two GUI – KDE and Gnome. But, there are multiple other GUI options available such as Mate, LXDE, Xfce, etc., The Unix Operating system support Common Desktop Environment and also Gnome GUI.

Viruses: Both the operating systems are very secure as not many virus threats are located in them. In the Linux operating system, up to till date only 60-100 viruses are listed which aren’t spreading anytime soon. In the Unix operating system, around 80-120 viruses are founded by far. So, in a way both operating systems are very secure.

Threat Detection: If any user detects a threat in the Linux system and reports it, then the user won’t have to wait for a long period to get the solution. As Linux has the support of a large user base community that will immediately work to solve the problem. However, in Unix, the user has to wait for a long time to get the solution for their reported problem as it won’t have large community support.

Architecture: Linux is designed for Intel’s x86 hardware processors. But, today it is available on 20 different CPU processors which are very convenient for users to use this operating system on their different computer units. However, Unix can be operated on two processors only – PA-RISC and Itanium machines.

Security Firewall Software: Linux comes with an open source Netfilter/iptables based firewall tool to protect your server and desktop from crackers and hackers. UNIX operating systems come with its own firewall product (for example Solaris UNIX comes with ipfilter based firewall) or you need to purchase a 3rd party software such as Checkpoint UNIX firewall.

Support: All of the Unix versions are paid and Linux versions are free to use. This also adds a feature to Unix that if anyone purchases Unix, they will get commercial support. In the case of Linux, we have several open forums where the user could ask questions and come up with a better solution. Linux is more responsive as several end users have claimed that the forums are more responsive than the commercial technical support of Unix.

Linux and Unix are two completely different operating systems. So, it is hard to say which operating system is best for you. You should just read out the different features of both the operating system and select the best one according to your requirements.


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