Differences between Linux and Unix

UNIX-LINUX on source code background

Unix and Linux are not the same, since one of them is a proprietary system and the other is free software among many other differences.

Lately I see a lot of confusion between Linux and Unix, since many people believe that it is really the same or that one depends on the other, when obviously it is not.

You've probably heard the phrase "linux is not unix" or the recursive acronym for GNU that stands for "GNU is Not Unix." Already only with this we can know that it is not the same. We are going to go further and explain the main differences between the two.


Unix origins

It was born in the early 70s by developers Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie. It was created at Bell Labs, which belong to the famous AT&T company. It was created as an operating system to manage servers, being an operating system where the commands have almost all the prominence.

Linux origins

The Linux Kernel It was created by Linus Torvalds in the early 90's. The kernel was created based on Unix and Linus had the help of other free software greats like Richard Stallman. From that year on, many Linux-based distributions began to be created, as well as many desktops.

Ownership and copyright


Unix it is a proprietary system that cannot be modified, property of the AT&T company that is the only one that has permission to modify and update it.


As we all know, Linux is under the GNU license and therefore, the Linux kernel is completely free and free and anyone can modify the source code, which is available to everyone.

Utility and use


The main utility of Unix is ​​its use on server systems, with the exception of the MacOS X operating system that isIt's a desktop operating system. In the case of server systems, they are difficult to install operating systems, systems where commands prevail over the graphical interface and compatible only with specific hardware. Some examples are AIS, HP-UX, or Solaris.


Linux has operating systems for both servers and clients. Within the Linux world there are many distributions, lots of desks and lots of tools created for them. We have many examples, in terms of servers we have systems like Red Hat or SUSE Linux and in terms of desktop systems we have Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Debian.


Although the Linux kernel is based on Unix and they share some things, already we have seen how in the end they are different. Things like ownership of software and usefulness of systems make the difference between the two.

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  1.   blank said

    1st. Linux is NOT an operating system by itself. It is a kernel (as you have said, I was originally developed for Unix, being more specific for Minix).

    2nd. It is aberrant to read an entry that talks about Linux and that the only reference to GNU that is made is a crude and concise reference talking about the recursion of its name

    3rd. Talking about Linux being free code and not mentioning that it originally came out under a proprietary license and it was not until 1983 when the license changed, being then when the GNU project accepted said kernel as a kernel, it is also annoying to read. (I do not remember well if it was 1983. Although for the curious I refer you to wikipedia)

    It pains me to read that there are still people who are dedicated to the dissemination of GNU / Linux and are still unable to write correctly as said operating system is called.
    Please, call the penguin's operating system by its name and stop saving 4 characters that we are not on twitter.

    Saying that Linux is an operating system is like saying that a wheel is a car

  2.   tuxkernel said

    The note is wrong. UNIX no longer belongs to AT&T, but to Novell.

    1.    edunaville said

      Although everything you mention is true, it seems to me that you are being very hard and maybe you get carried away by some fanatical or attachment to the accuracy in the historical data, and do not see that perhaps the purpose of the note was simply a brief explanation, without trying to delve too deeply into the subject, but just note that from the origin of the name of GNU it was already clear that it differs from UNIX

    2.    CGDESIDERATI said

      that is totally correct and that is what I was going to detail, to be a little more specific since 2014 it is from Micro Focus International that acquired Novell in 2014 and Novell used that intellectual property is to release the UNIXWARE product for which it modified the kernel Unix

  3.   AlexRE said

    The Linux kernel is not based on the Unix kernel, but is _similar to_ Unix.

  4.   Odo said

    IBM's Unix is ​​called AIX, not AIS as it says in the text.

  5.   Fernando Corral Fritz said

    I think they should better specify what the difference is between GNU and Linux since, as Blank mentions, the entire operating system is usually called Linux when it is only its kernel. Personally, from what I understand Linux is the equivalent of a car engine and what about the rest? is it GNU ?.

  6.   turkon said

    History about unix was from AT&T but then it was sold to Novell and then it was sold to Santa Cruz Operations (The famous SCO Unix with which many of us learned) and then the brand was transferred to Open Group, which certifies companies that have different versions of Unix , like IBM, Apple, among others.

  7.   bugmen said

    I love the index, for an article that does not occupy more than one page, but I would remake the entire article from you

  8.   pokeface said

    Linus ... an operating method


  9.   yokese said

    I am not an expert in the introduction, but ... what about BSD systems? Aren't they free unix or something like that? For the record, I was passing through here and I'm talking about hearsay, since I don't use those systems I don't bother with look for information on the subject but that's what I understood.

  10.   Suso said

    Linux is a clone of Minix which in turn is a clone of Unix ... the rest you count is not like this:
    OSX is as unix as linux, neither of them is unix, they are both clones, one a Minix clone and the other based on Match.
    Neither is Unix, but both are UNIX LIKE, https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix-like
    Before making so many speculations you should inform yourself well, you confuse terms.
    Thanks for trying.

  11.   Gaston said

    Instead of saying "Linux has operating systems ..", you'd better have said "There are distributions based on Linux ..."

  12.   Richard Stollman said

    This guy always writes from ignorance, his articles no longer surprise me.

  13.   Byron said

    Yes ... what a vague article ... as they put it only as a filler

  14.   YES AC said

    I support the feeling and feeling, but the data, I ask for more accuracy. Thanks

  15.   Edu said

    It would not have been more accurate to speak of compatibility or not between Unix and Linux? ... If an application that was developed for Unix installed on Linux ... does it run?

  16.   Franklin galindo said

    Suso makes the best reference to what Linux actually is.

    Santa Cruz made an intellectual property lawsuit, since its code was stolen.

    there are 2 very basic concepts in which you can actually identify the originality of the OS

    1- It must have its own Kernel ... Linux does not have it, it does not start from 0, I take minix base and this in turn that of UNIX
    2- Like all intellectual property, from the kernel, commands, shells, interface (I speak in general not only the graphic) is the same as Unix, where is the original?

    You have to give Cesar what is Cesar's, I take Microsoft as an example, Bill Gates took the idea of ​​what others were doing to improve their OS, he copied an idea of ​​the commands and took a model of many others and the main one was UNIX as per the example the management of the print queues, copied the concept, not the kernel, nor the commands. and the interface to a DOS are not the same as other OS, do you see the difference?

    It is one thing to copy the idea and develop it and another to steal the code.

  17.   JLBG said


    what an article disaster.


  18.   Jill daniell said

    hey, if your friend, I want to know what you think about the article of axpe ..., please do not leave the website without leaving your comment, it will be of great help, because I'm confused about something ...

  19.   Federico said

    What a disaster of note ... he begins by saying or implying that Linus Torvalds is the creator of the GNU / Linux operating system, when it was a project and an operating system started by the DR. Richard Stallman that only the kernel that Torvalds made was missing, but the main creator is Stallman.

  20.   Gustavo said

    Some authors say that it is a reimplementation, due to the fact that their architecture, commands have similarities, but as for the source code that deals with them is completely different, which does not allow copyright claims.