Why Does FreeBSD is Different from Linux?

If you are into Linux, I’m sure that you would have heard about FreeBSD as well. Same as Linux, FreeBSD is one of popular UNIX like platforms available in the open source world. In this article, we try to understand the difference between FreeBSD and Linux.


FreeBSD is based on Berkeley Software Distribution, which is a branch of UNIX. Unlike BSD, FreeBSD is available for the community users for free. In order to avoid legal battles, the developers of FreeBSD did reengineer the source code of the original BSD. Since FreeBSD a UNIX like platform, many people mistakenly assume FreeBSD as yet another Linux distribution. In fact, it is not.

Apart from many technical differences, the main difference between the two operating systems exists at the licensing. When it comes to Linux, the kernel and many software bundled in a Linux box are released under GPL. But in FreeBSD, the operating system and many software components are released under BSD license, although there are some software components released under GPL. Therefore, one should clearly understand the difference between GPL and BSD licensing before attempting to use FreeBSD for any purpose.

The file system or the directory hierarchy is different from Linux to FreeBSD. As an example, a user can obtain all hardware information of a Linux system through the directory called /proc. In a FreeBSD system, /proc does not exist. In FreeBSD, there is a separate command in order to obtain system / hardware information.

There have been a few interesting thoughts and discussions around the Internet about Linux and FreeBSD. Let me talk about this discussion in detail.

If you take Linux, it is an organization. The Linux kernel is maintained by the creator himself, and there are a few other organizations that help GNU/Linux to regulate itself. In addition, there are so many software development companies and communities that help further evolvement of Linux. KDE and Gnome foundations are a good example for this. In this sense, Linux is a large organization, but the departments of this organization are not tightly bound. That’s the same reason why there are a few hundreds of Linux distributions available. If there was a central organization to regulate the roadmap of GNU/Linux, the end users may receive more steady and user friendly version of Linux. Of course this means there will be only a handful of distributions, but all the distributions available will be consistent across. When it comes to FreeBSD, it is governed by one organization. Therefore, there are no dozens of FreeBSD distributions released. This gives the end user a unique advantage; consistency. Take Apple’s Mac OS as an example. It is based on UNIX and today it is one of the most advanced and commercially successful operating systems of the world. FreeBSD follows the same footsteps and also makes sure that it is always offered to the users as a free product. Linux could be the most successful when it comes to options, but too many distributions makes the user’s life a little uncomfortable as well.

On the other hand, many people who are technically advanced prefer FreeBSD over Linux for many reasons. One is the base of FreeBSD. BSD has been there since early 1980s. From that era, various people have enhanced and advanced BSD operating system. By the time Linux was introduced in early 1990s, BSD had a good user base and it was technically more advanced as well. When it comes to reliability and performance, many users who have experienced both operating systems credit FreeBSD. This could be due to FreeBSD’s robust design and the unique architecture. On the other hand, Linux kernel has the same robustness, but accompanying software may not.

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