Cron allows Linux and Unix users to run commands or scripts at a given date and time. You can schedule scripts to be executed periodically. Cron is one of the most useful tool in a Linux or UNIX like operating systems. It is usually used for sysadmin jobs such as backups or cleaning /tmp/ directories and more. The cron service (daemon) runs in the background and constantly checks the /etc/crontab file, and /etc/cron.*/ directories. It also checks the /var/spool/cron/ directory.
Types of cron configuration files
There are different types of configuration files:
- The UNIX / Linux system crontab: Usually, used by system services and critical jobs that requires root like privileges. The sixth field (see below for field description) is the name of a user for the command to run as. This gives the system crontab the ability to run commands as any user.
- The user crontabs: User can install their own cron jobs using the crontab command. The sixth field is the command to run, and all commands run as the user who created the crontab
How Do I install or create or edit my own cron jobs?
To edit or create your own crontab file, type the following command at the UNIX / Linux shell prompt:
Do I have to restart cron after changing the crontable file?
No. Cron will examine the modification time on all crontabs and reload those which have changed. Thus cron need not be restarted whenever a crontab file is modified.
Syntax of crontab
The syntax is:
* * * * * /path/to/command args1 args2
- First Star: Minute (0-59)
- Second Star: Hours (0-23)
- Third Star: Day (0-31)
- Fourth Star: Month (0-12 [12 == December])
- Fifth Star: Day of the week(0-7 [7 or 0 == sunday])
- /path/to/command – Script or command name to schedule
- args1: any other required arguments (Optional)
Easy to remember format:
* * * * * command to be executed - - - - - | | | | | | | | | ----- Day of week (0 - 7) (Sunday=0 or 7) | | | ------- Month (1 - 12) | | --------- Day of month (1 - 31) | ----------- Hour (0 - 23) ------------- Minute (0 - 59)
How do I use operators?
An operator allows you to specifying multiple values in a field. There are three operators:
- The asterisk (*) : This operator specifies all possible values for a field. For example, an asterisk in the hour time field would be equivalent to every hour or an asterisk in the month field would be equivalent to every month.
- The comma (,) : This operator specifies a list of values, for example: “1,5,10,15,20, 25”.
- The dash (-) : This operator specifies a range of values, for example: “5-15” days , which is equivalent to typing “5,6,7,8,9,….,13,14,15” using the comma operator.
- The separator (/) : This operator specifies a step value, for example: “0-23/” can be used in the hours field to specify command execution every other hour. Steps are also permitted after an asterisk, so if you want to say every two hours, just use */2
Use special string to save time
Instead of the first five fields, you can use any one of eight special strings. It will not just save your time but it will improve readability.
|@reboot||Run once, at startup.|
|@yearly||Run once a year, “0 0 1 1 *”.|
|@annually||(same as @yearly)|
|@monthly||Run once a month, “0 0 1 * *”.|
|@weekly||Run once a week, “0 0 * * 0”.|
|@daily||Run once a day, “0 0 * * *”.|
|@midnight||(same as @daily)|
|@hourly||Run once an hour, “0 * * * *”.|
Run ntpdate command every hour:
Make a backup everyday: