Advantages & Disadvantages of the Unix Operating System

By Jennifer Uhl

Unix is a command line-based computer operating system developed in 1969. Although traditional Unix is still largely utilized, there are a number of Unix-based operating systems including Linux, Mac OS X and BSD. There are both advantages and disadvantages to the Unix operating system depending on the individual user and the intended use of the computer.

Advantage: Virtual Memory

The Unix operating system offers an efficient level of virtual memory. What this means for the user is that you can use a number of programs at the same time using only a modest level of physical memory. The system can handle several programs at once without severely pulling on the system's resources.

Advantage: Toolbox

This operating system offers a rich collection of small utilities and commands that are designed to carry out specific tasks well rather than being cluttered up with a variety of special but insignificant options. Unix acts as a well-stocked toolbox rather than attempting to do everything at once.

Advantage: Customization

Unix has the ability to string different utilities and commands together in an unlimited number of configurations in order to accomplish a variety of complicated tasks. This operating system is not limited to any pre-configured menus or combinations as most ordinary personal computer systems normally are.

Advantage: Portability

Unix is available for use on a variety of different types of machines, making it one of the most portable operating systems in existence. Unix can be run on both PC and Macintosh computers and many other computing machines as well.

Disadvantage: Interface

The traditional interface for the Unix operating system is command line based, and this command line shell interface may be hostile to the casual user. Unix was developed for use by programmers and serious computer users rather than casual users. A graphical user interface (GUI) is also available, but the traditional Unix interface is command line only.

Disadvantage: Special Commands

Commands required by the command line interface often make use of cryptic naming schemes, and do not give much information to notify a user of what they are doing. Many commands in the Unix interface require the use of special characters. Small, normally insignificant typos can have much greater effects and unexpected results on Unix machines.

Disadvantage: Overwhelming to Novices

While the richness of utilities offered by Unix is a benefit or advantage to many, this may be overwhelming to a novice user. The Unix operating system is not simple by any means, and may be daunting and overwhelming to some users.