UNIX vs Linux-Which one is Better? Choose The Right One

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Ask a software developer the most common operating system, and he is likely to mention Linux. Linux is everywhere around our servers, smartphones, computers, and on devices like refrigerators.

Although UNIX and Linux sound like synonyms, they are in no way related. Here’s a brief history of both operating systems, their differences, and what you should evaluate to know which one is better.

​History of UNIX


AT&T is behind the original UNIX operating system. It dates back to 1969 and has evolved to some versions over the years. Today’s variants of UNIX are the licensed version of this technology.

The vendor-specific variants include HP-UX, IBM’s AIX, and Sun’s Solaris platforms.

Advantages of UNIX

  • Has hundreds of commercial applications
  • Unix uses command line interface and works in server
  • Able to work as a master control program in servers and workstations
  • Multitasking and multi-user operating system

Disadvantages of UNIX

  • An inconsistent and unfriendly user interface
  • UNIX lacks any hardware interrupt response time
  • Lack of consistency in the various versions
  • Designed for slow computer systems
  • Treacherous shell interface
  • UNIX is not portable

​History of Linux

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As time went on, there was a growing need for a commercial alternative. Linus Torvalds in 1991 set out to create a free option, which was known as Linux. The goal was to target a broader range of inexpensive hardware like AMD X86 and Intel platforms.

The operating system worked on the open source code. Recently, Linux included the popular Python programming language into its distributions, making the OS more useful.

Features and Benefits of Linux

  • Linux is similar to UNIX but doesn’t use its code
  • Linux uses GUI with an optional command line interface
  • Appropriate authorization guarantees individual account protection
  • Runs on multiple user programs
  • Can work with other operating systems
  • Programs have one or more processes with each having its threads
  • Can handle multitasking
  • Portable and can boot from a USB stick
  • Able to coexist with other operating systems

Disadvantages of Linux

  • Linux has no standard edition
  • Linux is an excellent choice for a corporate user and not a home user
  • Most of the programs using windows will only run on Linux with a complicated emulator
  • Not easy to use as Windows
  • The patchier support may cause a malfunction in the whole system

​Differences between Linux and UNIX

​Differences between Linux and UNIX

There are lots of differences between Linux and UNIX, apart from the way they work. Here are some key areas that make these two distinctive.

The User of the Operating System

UNIX a few years ago was only large corporations. It was the only operating system that could leverage the power of symmetric multiprocessing systems. The OS was mainly for workstations, mainframes, and servers except for OSX. The client-server model and the UNIX environment played a significant role in the development of the internet.

During that period, Linux got into the market but was not an option for enterprise-level implementations.

However, over the years, the concept changed. UNIX was expensive to acquire, and most businesses turned to Linux as an alternative. Linux is now accessible as Google relies on its servers to process all of its search algorithms. Also, Google bases its Android mobile OS on the Linux Kernel.

Mobile users can now get similar functional benefits and security features of the desktop and server systems. Moreover, the release of Linux Mint and Ubuntu as Linux distributions have also led to the popularity of this operating system.

It’s essential to note that UNIX is still popular although in a different way. OS X relies on a UNIX kernel and Apple computers are considered reliable and robust machines in the market.

Linux is about scale out, which means that a limited resources share the computing load of a single app. If any if any of these fail, the rest can take over to keep the application running. However, UNIX is about scale up which can be a limiting factor.


PCs, workstations, and internet servers all use the UNIX operating system. Most finance infrastructure relies on UNIX to run and a majority of high availability solutions.

Linux runs on video game consoles, tablet computers, supercomputers, mainframes, and on mobile phones. The UNIX operating system runs on workstations, PCs, and on internet servers.

Linux has two graphic user interfaces Gome and KDE, but you can find other options like Mate, twm, LXDE, and Xfce. UNIX started as a command based operating system, but later a graphic user interface known as the Common Desktop Environment was created. Most distributions have Gnome as a GUI.

​Security and Threats

Although no operating system is safe from malware and exploitation, both UNIX and Linux are secure than Windows operating system. Linux is more advanced as it runs on an open source.

For example, when a vulnerability or a bug arises in Linux, it’s reported in the Linux forums, and it’s sorted in days. However, for UNIX, users have to wait for a patch to be released as the OS is proprietary.

Linus has a reported history of 60-100 viruses to date, but none of them are spreading. UNIX has a history of 80-120 viruses, but some are still dispersing.

Linux being an open source also means that most developers are continually working to improve the code. There is lots of innovation in Linux as opposed to UNIX or other operating systems. Linux server administration takes network security as its priority, and you’re likely to find advanced security and troubleshooting techniques in their server.

But you’ll be glad to know that both Linux and UNIX provide security implementations like a password system that can be encrypted, isolation of tasks in a multitasking environment, segmentation of the user domain, and other features that will protect you against malware attacks.


UNIX is available on PA-RISC and titanium machines. Linux was for Intel’s X86 hardware processors. However, it uses more than 20 types of CPU that include an ARM.

Also, both these operating systems have different supported file types. Linux supports file types such as ufs, devpts, nfs, NTFS, and cramfsm. UNIX’s filesystems are by zfs, xfs, hfx, vxfs, and GPS.

​Development and Distribution

The creation of Linux involves sharing and collaboration of features and codes through forums, something that is known as the open source development. Various vendors are responsible for its distribution while Linus Torvalds oversees the operations.

UNIX is an AT&T brainchild and its runs on a closed source. The systems are by other non-profit organizations and commercial vendors. HP, IBM, and Oracle are the biggest distributors of UNIX. Apple also makes OSX, an operating system that is UNIX based.

​The Difference in Costs

One of the significant factors that differentiate these two is the cost. Linux is not only free to use, but it’s also open to modify. You can get the server versions like SUSE, Mandrake, and Redhat for free as all you need is to get the support contract from the distributors.

SUN, HP, and IBM are some of the biggest distributors of UNIX system. The operating system is expensive as a midrange UNIX server starts from $25,000 and can go up to $250,000 depending on the hardware. UNIX servers are costly because each system is custom written for the client. But, you’ll be glad to know that Linux has packages that can be customized to meet your needs as a user.

Hardware is expensive on UNIX, and you can’t use the public cloud on this OS. Linux is cheaper, accessible and can help you improve your return on investment as a company.

​Which One is better for you?

linux logo

Although; Linux may be UNIX like, they have technical differences that will impact your decision. If you’re on a budget and are looking for something cost-effective, yet efficient, Linux will be an excellent choice. The operating system also has an open source code that allows for customization.

Also, Linux is more flexible and secure than UNIX. On the flip side, Linux has no single source to turn to for help. You may need a third party vendor to sort out any problems you may have.

However, if you’re looking for something more advanced and custom made, UNIX would work for your organization. The operating system has proven reliability and is widely scalable across different processors.

It’s critical to understand that you cannot make any changes to the underlying OS code as UNIX runs on a closed source system. Moreover, no common GUI standard exists, and you’ll need an expert-level administration to run this operating system.

The International Data Corp estimates that Linux user base has grown to more than 25 million machines, while UNIX installation stands at 5.5 million. UNIX vendors like IBM and HP are making a customized operating system with a user-friendly interface and graphical user interface that is compatible with Linux.

Speak to a systems management specialist about your needs, and you’ll be sure to find something that works for you.

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