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OS X vs. Ubuntu: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 20, 2023
OS X (now macOS) is Apple's proprietary operating system for Macs, while Ubuntu is a free, open-source OS based on Linux.

Key Differences

OS X, rebranded as macOS in 2016, is the operating system developed by Apple Inc. exclusively for its Macintosh line of computers. It's known for its sleek design, stability, and integration with other Apple devices. Ubuntu, on the other hand, is an open-source operating system based on the Linux kernel and is widely recognized for its ease of use and flexibility.
OS X offers a seamless experience with other Apple products, such as iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV. It is heavily integrated into the Apple ecosystem, which means that apps, settings, and data can easily be synchronized across devices. Ubuntu is more versatile and can be installed on a broad variety of hardware, from PCs to servers to embedded systems, and it's particularly popular among developers.
While OS X is proprietary and closed-source, meaning its source code isn't available to the public, Ubuntu is open-source. This means developers can view, modify, and distribute the source code of Ubuntu, fostering a community-driven development approach.
Both operating systems have their dedicated fan bases. OS X users often praise its user-friendly interface, security features, and performance. Ubuntu enthusiasts appreciate its customizability, the supportive community, and the ethos of open software.

Comparison Chart


Developed by Apple Inc.
Based on Linux, distributed by Canonical Ltd.




Exclusively for Apple Macintosh hardware.
Compatible with a wide range of hardware.

User Interface

Aqua (native GUI for macOS).
GNOME (default), but other environments like KDE Plasma can be installed.

Software Source

Apple App Store, third-party apps.
Ubuntu Software Center, apt, PPAs, and other repositories.

OS X and Ubuntu Definitions


Apple's desktop OS known for its user-friendly interface and stability.
Many graphic designers prefer OS X for its optimized software suite.


An operating system developed and maintained by Canonical Ltd.
With Ubuntu, I have access to a vast repository of free software.


The predecessor to macOS, exclusive to Apple's desktops and laptops.
OS X Yosemite introduced a flatter design and improved continuity features.


A Linux-based OS known for its community support and regular updates.
The Ubuntu forums are a great place to seek help and advice.


An operating system that integrates seamlessly with the Apple ecosystem.
With OS X, I can easily sync my documents across all my Apple devices.


A popular, user-friendly, open-source Linux distribution.
I installed Ubuntu on my old laptop, and it's running like new!


The software platform that powers Apple Macintosh hardware.
I just upgraded to the latest version of OS X and love the new features.


An OS that offers flexibility, customizability, and a focus on user experience.
I love how I can customize Ubuntu to suit my personal preferences.


Apple's proprietary operating system for Mac computers.
My MacBook runs smoothly thanks to OS X.


A leading distribution in the Linux family, promoting the use of open software.
Ubuntu played a major role in popularizing Linux among general users.


A philosophical doctrine or approach to life that emphasizes social unity and generosity of spirit.


(South Africa) A Nguni Bantu ideology focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other.


What is Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is a free, open-source operating system based on the Linux kernel.

What is OS X?

OS X, now known as macOS, is Apple's proprietary operating system for Mac computers.

Is Ubuntu truly free?

Yes, Ubuntu is freely available, and users can also modify and distribute it due to its open-source nature.

How can I get technical support for Ubuntu?

Ubuntu has a vast community where users can seek help, and Canonical offers paid support for businesses.

Can I code in Swift on OS X?

Yes, Swift is Apple's programming language, and it's native to OS X.

Can I run Ubuntu on a Mac?

Yes, you can run Ubuntu on Mac hardware either natively or through virtualization.

How often is OS X updated?

Apple typically releases major updates for OS X (macOS) annually.

Which has a broader software selection, OS X or Ubuntu?

Both offer vast software selections, but Ubuntu benefits from the larger Linux ecosystem.

Can I use Microsoft Office on Ubuntu?

While Microsoft Office isn't natively available for Ubuntu, alternatives like LibreOffice are, and tools like Wine can run Windows programs.

What's the latest version of OS X?

OS X was rebranded as macOS in 2016; the latest version would depend on the current date.

How can I contribute to Ubuntu's development?

Being open-source, anyone can contribute to Ubuntu through code, documentation, translations, or community support.

Is Ubuntu suitable for gaming?

While historically OS X and Ubuntu weren't primary gaming platforms, Ubuntu has seen increased gaming support, especially with platforms like Steam.

Can I install OS X on any computer?

No, OS X is designed exclusively for Apple Macintosh hardware.

Which is more secure, OS X or Ubuntu?

Both OS X and Ubuntu have strong security features, but their open or closed nature can offer different security advantages.

Can I run Windows applications on OS X?

With third-party tools like Boot Camp or Parallels, you can run Windows apps on OS X.

Are apps from the OS X App Store compatible with Ubuntu?

No, apps developed for OS X won't run natively on Ubuntu.

Is OS X based on Linux?

No, OS X is based on UNIX. Ubuntu is based on the Linux kernel.

Is there a server edition for Ubuntu?

Yes, Ubuntu offers a server edition optimized for data centers and cloud applications.

Do I need antivirus software on OS X?

While OS X is known for its security, using antivirus software adds an extra layer of protection.

Can I customize the OS X interface?

OS X allows limited customization compared to Ubuntu, which is highly customizable.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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