Comparative Introduction To FreeBSD For Linux Users


BSD was originally derived from UNIX and currently, there are various number of Unix-like operating systems descended from the BSD. While, FreeBSD is the most widely used open source Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD distribution). As it is implicitly said it is a free and open source Unix-like-operating system and a public server platform. FreeBSD source code is generally released under a permissive BSD license. It is true that it has similarities with Linux but we cannot deny that they differs in other points.

The remainder of this article is organized as follows: the description of FreeBSD will be treated in our first section.  The similarities between FreeBSD and Linux will be briefly described in the second section. While their differences will be discussed in the third section. And a comparison of their features will be summarized in our last section.

FreeBSD description


  • The first version of FreeBSD was released in 1993, while its first CD-ROM distributed was FreeBSD1.0 on December 1993. Then, FreeBSD 2.1.0 was released in 1995 which gained the satisfaction of all users. Actually, many IT companies use FreeBSD and are satisfied where we can list those companies: IBM, Nokia, NetApp and Juniper Networks.


  • Concerning its license, FreeBSD is released under various source licenses. Its newest code called Kernel is released under the two-clause BSD license, offering the possibility to use and redistribute FreeBSD with absolute freedom. Other codes are released three- and four-clause BSD license and some others are released under GPL and CDDL.


  • One of the important feature of FreeBSD, we can mention the various categories of its users. In fact, it is possible to use FreeBSD as a mail server, web server, FTP server and as a router due to the significant set of server-related software accompanied with it. Furthermore, ARM, PowerPC and MIPS are supported by FreeBSD so it is possible to use x86 and s86-64.

FreeBSD and Linux similarities

FreeBSD and Linux are two free and open source systems. Indeed, their users can easily check and modify the source code with an absolute freedom. To add, FreeBSD and Linux, both of them are derived from Unix.-like because they have a kernel, internals, and libraries programmed using algorithms derived from historic AT&T Unix. While FreeBSD’s roots are similar to Unix systems, Linux is released as a free Unix-like option. Various tools and applications can be found either in FreeBSD or in Linux in fact, they almost share the same functionality.

Furthermore, FreeBSD can run big number of Linux applications. It has a Linux compatibility layer that can be installed. This Linux compatibility layer can be installed while compiling FreeBSD with AAC Compact Linux or downloading compiled FreeBSD systems with a Linux compatibility program such as: aac_linux.ko. Which is not the same case with Linux, Linux cannot run FreeBSD software.

At the end, we can mention that both of them have the same goal but have also some differences which we will outline in the next section.

FreeBSD and Linux differences

Currently, no criteria of choice between FreeBSD and Linux is clear for most users. Since, they share almost the same applications. Those two operating systems are as mentioned previously UNIX-like.

In this section, we will list the most important differences of those two systems.


  • The first difference point between those two compared systems consist on their license.  To start by Linux license, it is released under the GPL license which offers the possibility to view, distribute and change the source code with an absolute freedom. The GPL license helps users to prevent the distribution of binary-only source. Which is the case with FreeBSD, which is licensed under BSD license. This kind of license is more restrictive and easily allows the distribution of binary-only source. The BSD license is more permissive that the GPL since no derivative work is required to maintain the licensing terms. Means any user can use, distribute and modify the code without need to have the previous version of code before changing made. They only need to have the original license of BSD.
  • Depending on the needs of each user, a selection can be made between those two types of license. Starting by BSD license which is more preferred by many users due to its special features. In fact, this license gives the possibility to sell each software licensed under it and retain the source code. Passing now to the GPL license, which requires some care of each user has a software released under it.
  • To be able to choose between those two software, it is required to understand the licensing of both of them to more understand the methodology used in their development, to distinguish between their features and know which one will fit user’s need.


  • Since FreeBSD and Linux are released under two different type of license, the Linus Torvalds control the Linux kernel which is not the same case with FreeBSD which is not controlled. Personally, I prefer to use FreeBSD instead of Linux since it is an absolute free software, no control permission exists. But it is not enough there is other differences between Linux and FreeBSD, help you to choose between both of them. As an advice don’t choose one of them, follow us and then give us your choice.

Operating system

  • Linux concentrates only on the kernel system which is not the case with FreeBSD while the whole operating system is maintained. The kernel and a set of software, some of them are developed by the FreeBSD team, are maintained as one unit. Indeed, the FreeBSD developers have the possibility to manage the essential operating systems remotely and efficiently.
  • With Linux, there is some difficulties while managing a system. Since, the different components maintained will be from different sources so the Linux developers need to assemble them into groups having the same functionality.
  • FreeBSD and Linux both of them give the possibility to have a big set of optional software and distributions but they differ on the way they are managed. With FreeBSD, they are managed together while with Linux they will be maintained separately.

Hardware support

  • Concerning the hardware support, Linux is better than FreeBSD. It doesn’t mean that FreeBSD hasn’t the capability to support hardware as Linux. They differ just on the manner. It depends on your need as usual. So if you are searching for the newest solution, the FreeBSD will fit your needs but if you are looking for greatest graphs, it is better to use Linux.

FreeBSD origin Vs Linux origin

  • The origin of each system is also another point of distinction between both of them. As I said previously Linux is an alternative of the operating system Unix, written by Linus Trovalds and assisted by a special group of hackers across the Net. Linux has all the needed features in a modern Unix, such as virtual memory, shared libraries, demand loading, proper memory management and many others. It is released under the General Public License.
  • FreeBSD also shared many important features of its Unix heritage. FreeBSD as a type of the Berkeley Software Distribution, the distribution of the Unix developed at the University of California. The most important reason under developing BSD is to replace the AT&T operating system by an open source alternative giving the user the ability to use BSD without carry about the obtaining of the AT&T license.
  • The problem of licensing, is the most important worry of developers. They try to offer the maximum open source clone of Unix. Which influences the choice of users regarding the degree of open source of each system as FreeBSD gives more freedom than Linux regarding its use since it is released under BSD license.

Supported Package

  • From the user’s perspective, another difference between our two compared systems, is their availability and support of the packaged software and source installed software. The Linux distributions provide just the pre-compiled binary packages which is not the same case with FreeBSD, which has the pre-built packages and the build system for the compilation and installation through their available open source. Due to its ports, FreeBSD gives you the possibility to choose between the default making of pre-compiled packages and your ability to customize your software while it is compiled.
  • Those ports enable you to build all the software available with FreeBSD. Furthermore, there is an hierarchy of organization all of them due to the directories /usr/ports where you can find the location of the source files and some documentation about the way to use FreeBSD correctly.
  • The ports as mentioned give the possibility produce the packages version of software. Instead of having just the pre-compiled packages using Linux, FreeBSD gives you the possibility to have the source-built and the pre-packages software. You can manage your system using the two installation methods.

FreeBSD Vs Linux common Tools

  • A huge number of common tools are available while using FreeBSD and are fully own made by the FreeBSD team. In contrast, the Linux tools are from the GNU that is why there is some control during their usage.
  • The fact that FreeBSD is released under BSD license is so beneficial and useful. Since, you have the ability to maintain the core operating system, control the development of these applications. Some of those tools are similar to BSD and Unix tools from where they were derived which is not the same case with GNU suite, which want to just make them less backwards compatible.

The Standard Shell

  • The tcsh shell is used by default with FreeBSD. Which is an evaluated version fo csh. Since, the FreeBSD is released under the BSD license, it is not recommended to use the bash shell which is a GNU component. The only difference between bash and tcsh shell consists on the scripting feature which can’t be made by tcsh. Indeed, the sh shell is more recommended for the FreeBSD use since it is more reliable and prevents some issues of scripting can be occurred using the tcsh or csh shell.

A More Stratified Filesystem

  • As it was mentioned previously, base operating system and optional components can be easily distinguished using the FreeBSD system. Which causes some specification of their organization. In Linux, /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, or usr/sbin are the directories for executable systems. With FreeBSD it is not the case. There are some additional specifications concerning their organization. The base system are put in one of the directories mentioned above while the ports and packages are placed in /usr/local/bin or /usr/local/sbin. This methodology helps to recognize and distinguish between an application considered as a base system or a port.


FreeBSD and Linux those two free and open source systems, share various similarities but they also differ in several points. The list giving above isn’t given to say that one of them is better than the other. In fact, FreeBSD and Linux, each one of them has its features and specifications that make it a special regarding the other. And you what is your opinion? Have you already used one on them or both? If yes what is your feedback and if no after reading our description what do you think? Sound off and give us and the fellow readers your opinion.