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Cron Tutorial - General Information

Most Unix and Linux systems run a cron daemon, which checks for tasks (cron jobs) to be executed.

Users can have their list of tasks, called a crontab, for cron to execute. This tutorial deals with the Vixie cron package, which is installed on most Linux systems.

1. Crontab Format

The format of the contrab file defines when jobs are to be executed. Each line has 6 fields to define one task.

#Field DefinitionValue Range
1Minute of the hour0-59
2Hour of the day0-23
3Day of the month1-31
4Month of the year1-12
5Day of the week (Sunday = 0)0-6
6Command to be executed 

A valid crontab entry example is shown here.

37 0 1 * * /home/username/runinvoices

On the first of each month, at 0:37AM, cron will automatically execute /home/username/runinvoices .

To have multiple cron jobs, create a line for each entry.

37 0 1 * * /home/username/runinvoices
59 17 20 * * /home/username/backupsite

The first entry is executed on the 1st of each month (0:37AM), the second on the 20th (17:59 PM).

2. View Current Crontab

Specify the -l option to have crontab list the current crontab for the user you are logged in as.

machine:~$ crontab -l

After you modify or create a new crontab, you can list your crontab to make sure the cron update took place.

3. Create Or Modify A Crontab

Crontab files are manipulated using the crontab Linux command. First, log in to your web hosting account.

machine:~$ crontab myfile

Simply issue the crontab command followed by the filename (myfile) which holds your own crontab entries.

4. Remove Crontab

Once you delete your crontab, cron will no longer execute tasks for you.

machine:~$ crontab -r

The -r option removes your current crontab file.

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