How to add a cron job on Linux

Last updated on August 15, 2020 by Dan Nanni

Question: I would like to schedule a task on my Linux box, so that the task runs periodically at fixed times. How can I add a cron job for this task on my Linux system?

The cron utility is the default task scheduler used in Linux. Using cron, you can schedule a task (e.g., system backup, log rotation, vulnerability scanning, disk cleanup) to run it periodically or one-time at a specific time of hour, day, week, month, etc. The cron tool is useful when you schedule a variety of regular maintenance jobs, such as periodic backup, rotating logs, checking filesystem, monitoring disk space, and so on.

Add a cron Job from the Command Line

To add a cron job, you can use a command-line tool called crontab.

Type the following command to create a new cron job to run as the current user.

$ crontab -e

If you want a cron job to run as any other user, type the following command instead.

$ sudo crontab -u <username> -e

You will be presented with a text editor window, where you can add or edit cron jobs. By default, nano editor will be used.

Each cron job is formatted as follows.

<minute> <hour> <day-of-month> <month-of-year> <day-of-week> <command>

The first five elements specify the schedule for a task, and the last element is the (full-path) command or script to execute according to the schedule.

Here are a few useful cron job examples.

Once you are done with setting up cron job(s), press Ctrl+x to save and quit the editor. At this point, newly added cron jobs should be activated.

To browse existing cron jobs of yours, use the following command:

$ crontab -l

Add a cron Job from GUI

If you are in Linux desktop environment, you can use a GUI fronend for crontab to add or edit a cron job via a more user-friendly interface.

On GNOME desktop, there is GNOME Schedule (gnome-schedule package).

On KDE desktop, there is Task Scheduler (kcron package).

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