FreeBSD and Linux are both operating systems that are often utilized in embedded systems. While they share some similarities, there are many areas in which they differ completely, such as security, performance, use cases, and support for certain applications. In this article, we discuss Linux vs. FreeBSD – read on if you wish to learn how they differ and how to choose between them.

The Key Differences Between FreeBSD and Linux

So, in what areas is FreeBSD different versus Linux? Let’s take a look at the most critical ones.


We shall start off with the fact that Linux itself is just a monolithic kernel – the OS is indeed the system that you select that supports it, like Ubuntu. FreeBSD is, on the other hand, a fully-fledged system, meaning that it comes with everything that you need to run it on your device.

In both cases, the kernel architecture is monolithic – all the major functions and drivers are run within it.


Another difference between FreeBSD and Linux is licensing. The former uses the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license, while the latter operates on the General Public License (GPL). What does it mean in practice?

The BSD license lets you modify and use the software without any major restrictions. The GPL, on the other hand, requires you to release all your modifications under the same license. 

This basically means that you have to publish the code for your customized Linux-based system, which could lead to your competitors benefitting from your work. However, on the other hand, it creates an opportunity for the vast Linux community to suggest or prepare improvements for your platform, so whether it’s an advantage or a disadvantage depends purely on your goals.

File Systems

When it comes to data storage, it doesn’t matter whether you choose FreeBSD or Linux – both offer effective file systems.

FreeBSD runs on the Zettabyte file system (ZFS), which is excellent for long-term data storage. It comes with a built-in volume manager, which enables you to create multiple data systems containing the same information, thus preventing possible drawbacks from physical errors or data corruption.

Most Linux systems run on the Fourth Extended File System (Ext4). While its performance and dynamics might not match those of the ZFS, its reliability and stability make it a viable option.

Hardware Support

In terms of hardware, it all depends on what exactly you want to utilize. Both Linux operating systems and FreeBSD support a wide variety of devices, though if we look purely at the numbers, Linux wins this battle vs. FreeBSD.

In practice, it’s best to select your hardware and verify the support before choosing your OS. It might be so that only FreeBSD or Linux will be compatible with the devices that you want to utilize.


Both FreeBSD and Linux have large communities, though again, Linux wins in numbers. Due to the obligation to post any code modifications, the community of the Linux operating systems is much more active and diverse. This means that you can harvest the resources prepared by other developers and get support if any problems arise.

The community of FreeBSD is more compact and specialized. Thus, you might not always get the help or support you need. Nevertheless, it is there, ready to aid you and develop the OS further.


FreeBSD has excellent resource efficiency and performance consistency, especially for network operations. Therefore, it’s mostly used for embedded systems and other devices that need to operate in a server environment.

Linux operating systems might not be as efficient, but it doesn’t mean that their performance isn’t good. Their main advantage is that they are versatile – you may create an OS tailored to the particular functionality of a given device. This is why it’s more often chosen for embedded systems.


FreeBSD undoubtedly wins vs. Linux operating systems in terms of security, as it offers a variety of features that reduce the potential attack surface.

For instance, jails enable you to run programs separately from the rest of the system, which improves data protection. Additionally, FreeBSD comes with security auditing, which enables you to analyze incidents and the response to them.

Linux operating systems don’t come with so many features, though some of them might be installed as additional modules. This, combined with the number of users, which is much higher for Linux OS than for FreeBSD, results in the latter winning in most comparisons when it comes to security. Nevertheless, the fact that FreeBSD is better, doesn’t mean that Linux isn’t secure.

Linux or FreeBSD? Which One Should You Choose?

The choice between Linux operating systems or FreeBSD depends purely on the needs of your embedded system. For those that need the highest possible performance and strong network functionalities, FreeBSD will be the perfect choice. But, if you need a lightweight OS for simple embedded systems, choose one based on the Linux kernel.

The Takeaway

As you can see from our discussion on Linux vs. FreeBSD, there are quite a few differences between these two solutions. Yet, both are viable options if you design embedded systems. The choice between them depends on the kind of devices that you’re designing, so we cannot say that either of them is ultimately better. And if you need help with choosing or adapting an OS, just check our operating systems services and contact us!.

Did you like this article? Then you should also read: FreeBSD vs. OpenBSD: Which is Right for You?