Difference Between UNIX and Linux

The main difference between Unix and Linux is that the UNIX is a multiuser and multitasking operating system while the Linux is an operating system based on UNIX.

An operating system functions as an interface between the user and the hardware. It performs task scheduling, file handling, process management, controlling hardware devices and many more. Therefore, a computer system cannot function without an operating system. UNIX and Linux are two operating systems. Both these are written using C and Assembly. UNIX primarily has a Command Line Interface (CLI) while Linux has a CLI and a Graphical User Interface (GUI).  Linux is more popular as it is free and open source.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is UNIX
     – Definition, Features, Usage
2. What is Linux
     – Definition, Features, Usage
3. What is the Relationship Between UNIX and Linux
     – Outline of Association
4. What is the Difference Between UNIX and Linux
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

UNIX, Linux, Operating Systems

Difference Between UNIX and Linux - Comparison Summary

What is UNIX

UNIX was originally developed in the year 1969 by team employees in the AT & T labs. There are variants of UNIX available in the market. Solaris, HP UNIX, BSD are few examples of them. Multiple users can use a UNIX system simultaneously. Moreover, it also allows executing multiple programs at the same time. Therefore, UNIX supports a multiuser and multitasking environment.

Main Difference - UNIX vs Linux

The UNIX architecture consists of four major components. They are as follows.

Components of UNIX Architecture

Kernel – It is the core of the operating system. It performs the most vital tasks such as controlling hardware, memory management, file management and task scheduling. The critical code of the kernel is stored in a special memory location to protect it from other programs.

Shell – It allows the users to communicate with the kernel. The user can enter commands into the shell, and it will interpret them to perform the task. Bourne Shell (sh), Korn Shell (ksh), Bourne Again Shell (bash) and C shell (csh) are some popular UNIX based shells.

Commands and Utilities – There are many commands available in UNIX. The user should follow the standard syntax to write the commands. There are more than 250 standard commands. These commands also come with various options.

Files and Directories – In UNIX, all data is in files. A directory consists of a collection of files. All the directories are organized into a tree-like structure.

Overall, UNIX is a stable operating system. It provides a large number of applications for the user. It is a multitasking and multiuser system. Furthermore, it secures the data and resources from unauthorized access.

What is Linux

UNIX is a better operating system, but it is expensive. Linux is a solution to this issue. It is a free and open source operating system. The Red Hat Linux is the original Linux Distribution. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux is used in enterprise level. Debian is a free software distribution commonly used for servers. Ubuntu is another free, reliable and stable Linux distribution.

Difference Between UNIX and Linux

The Graphical User Interface of the Linux allows the 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.  Few basic commands are listed below.

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.

Overall, Linux provides multiple advantages. It is a stable and a powerful operating system. It runs on multiple hardware platforms. It is a multi-user system. Therefore, multiple users can work at the same time. Moreover, Linux can run multiple processes at the same time. Therefore, it allows multitasking. In addition, Linux is secure; it is free from malicious software such as viruses and provides security for the user’s data and system resources.

Relationship Between UNIX and Linux

  • Linux is based on UNIX.

Difference Between UNIX and Linux


The UNIX is a family of multitasking, multi-user computer operating systems that derived from the original AT & T Unix. The 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 Brain 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.


UNIX contains the Command Line Interface. Linux contains the Command Line and Graphical User Interface.


The UNIX is used for servers, workstations, mainframes and high-end computers. The Linux is used for personal computers, desktops. It is also used for game development, embedded systems, etc.


UNIX is not portable. Linux is portable and can be executed on various hard drives.


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 of UNIX requires more sophisticated high-end hardware. On the other hand, Linux does not require more specific hardware components. 


UNIX is expensive while Linux is free and open source.


The difference between UNIX and Linux is that the UNIX is a multiuser and multitasking operating system while the Linux is an operating system based on UNIX. Furthermore, the UNIX is used for servers, high-end servers, workstations while the Linux is used for PCs, tablets, embedded devices, game consoles.


1. “Unix / Linux Getting Started.” Www.tutorialspoint.com, Tutorials Point, 14 June 2018, Available here.
2. “Linux Ppt.” LinkedIn SlideShare, 22 Nov. 2013, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “UNIX®” By Christopher Forster. Created with GIMP. UNIX® is a registered trademark of The Open Group. – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “How the Linux OS Was Announced to the World in 1991 [pic]” by methodshop .com (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

About the Author: Lithmee

Lithmee holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Systems Engineering and is reading for her Master’s degree in Computer Science. She is passionate about sharing her knowldge in the areas of programming, data science, and computer systems.

Leave a Reply