Why does Home Assistant have so many names?

The Home Assistant naming can be a bit confusing for newcomers to the project. There’s Home Assistant, Hass.IO, HassOS, Home Assistant Core, and Home Assistant Supervised (to just name a few). That’s a lot of names for a single project. Fear not, for I have written a guide which will explain each and every one of the names mentioned.

Home Assistant vs. Home Assistant Core

The two most confusing names in the Home Assistant world are Home Assistant and Home Assistant Core. Especially as these were both recently renamed.

Home Assistant

Home Assistant Core

Home Assistant Supervisor

Home Assistant Operating System

Home Assistant Supervised

Home Assistant Core

Home Assistant Supervisor

Home Assistant Core

Home Assistant Core

What is Home Assistant Core?

Home Assistant Core is a Python program and can be run on various operating systems. Home Assistant Core is available as a Docker image (this version was previously also known as Home Assistant Core on Docker) and can be run on any system already running Docker. Alternatively you can install the Home Assistant Core application directly on Python.

Home Assistant Core does not provide the full Supervisor experience, and thus does not provide the Supervisor panel and add-ons.

Here’s the confusing part: Home Assistant Core used to be called just Home Assistant. The whole project underwent a renaming not too long ago.

What is Home Assistant?

Home Assistant is what used to be called Hass.IO. Home Assistant is a fully UI managed ecosystem that runs Home Assistant Core, the Home Assistant Supervisor and Home Assistant add-ons. Home Assistant runs on top of the Home Assistant Operating System.

If you go with Home Assistant over Home Assistant Core you’ll see some added UI options such as add-ons management and the add-on store and the option to update Home Assistant with one click.

Home Assistant can be installed using one of the provided images for devices such as the Raspberry Pi and Intel NUC or it can be installed as a virtual appliance.

Home Assistant Supervised (also known as Home Assistant on Generic Linux)

Home Assistant Supervised is the full Home Assistant experience on a regular Linux operating system such as Ubuntu or Debian. You’ll get everything included in Home Assistant (Home Assistant Supervisor and add-ons) with the added benefit of running your preferred version of Linux over the Home Assistant Operating System.

The only difference between Home Assistant and Home Assistant Supervised is that you won’t be able to update the operating system from the Home Assistant UI when using Home Assistant Supervised.

Home Assistant Supervised was previously also known as Hass.io on generic Linux.

What is the Home Assistant Operating System?

Home Assistant Operating System (previously HassOS) is a very minimal Linux appliance distribution built to run Home Assistant and it’s add-ons. It is optimised to run on single board computers (SBC) such as the Raspberry Pi, ODROID, Intel NUCm and Tinker Board.

You, the user, have very little control over the Home Assistant Operating System and it is not based on a regular Linux distribution like Ubuntu. If you want to use your system for anything other than Home Assistant than this isn’t for you. The Home Assistant Operating System is great for beginners to get started though.

Home Assistant Operating System uses Docker as Container engine. It by default deploys the Home Assistant Supervisor as a container. Home Assistant Supervisor in turn uses the Docker container engine to control Home Assistant Core and Add-Ons in separate containers.

What is the Home Assistant Supervisor

The Home Assistant Supervisor allows you, the user, to manage your Home Assistant installation from Home Assistant. The Supervisor has the following responsibilities:

  • Run Home Assistant Core
  • Update Home Assistant Core (and automatically roll back if the update fails)
  • Make and restore backups
  • Add-ons
  • Unified audio system
  • Update the Home Assistant operating system (disabled in a Supervised installation)

Which version of Home Assistant is the best?

There’s no single answer to that questions because which version of Home Assistant you go with depends on

  • what hardware you’re running it on,
  • whether you want to use your system for anything else,
  • and how experienced you are.

For the inexperienced user who just wants to dip their toes into home automation Home Assistant is the way to go. You can get yourself an inexpensive Raspberry Pi 3+ or Raspberry Pi 4 and get started in a matter of minutes.

Home Assistant Supervised is great if you want to run your own Linux distribution (either as a virtual machine or on bare metal). This will give you the added benefit of having full control over your OS but will obviously require knowledge of Linux systems.

Home Assistant Core is great for those that are already running Docker and want full control over their containers. Most of the Home Assistant add-ons are available as Docker containers and can be run separately.

The benefit Home Assistant add-ons have over separate Docker containers is that they’ll already be preconfigured. So if you were to install Node-RED from the add-on store it would already be preconfigured to work with your Home Assistant installation. If you set up Node-RED in it’s own container you will have to configure it.

There are also cases where it wouldn’t be possible to run Home Assistant. Take Unraid for example. If you want to run Home Assistant using the Docker functionality built in to Unraid you are basically forced to go with Home Assistant Core.

About Liam Alexander Colman

Liam Alexander Colman has been using Home Assistant for various projects for quite some time. What started of with a Raspberry Pi quickly became three Raspberry Pis and eventually a full-blown server. I now use Unraid as my operating system and Home Assistant happily runs in a Docker container. My personal setup includes many Zigbee devices as well as integrations with existing products such as my Android TV box. Read on to find out more on how I got started with Home Assistant.

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