How to set up Cron

Cron (a Linux process that performs background work, often at night) is set up by default on your Linux system. You can schedule various jobs, like backups,re-built of databases , clean the clean the /tmp directory e.t.c.

To find out when cron wakes up to perform its duties, have a look at the file /etc/crontab, for example: cat /etc/crontab

It may contain something like this:

# run-parts
01 * * * * root run-parts /etc/cron.hourly
02 4 * * * root run-parts /etc/cron.daily
22 4 * * 0 root run-parts /etc/cron.weekly
42 4 1 * * root run-parts /etc/cron.monthly

You can see that there are four categories of cron jobs: performed hourly, daily, weekly and monthly. You can modify those or add your own category. Here is how it works.

The columns in the entries show: minute (0-59), hour (0-23), day of month (1-31), month of year (1-12), day of week (0-6--Sunday to Saturday). The "*" means "any valid value". Thus, in the example quoted, the hourly jobs are performed every time the computer clock shows "and one minute", which happens every hour, at one minute past the hour. The daily jobs are performed every time the clock shows 2 minutes past 4 o’clock, which happens once a day. The weekly jobs are performed at 22 minutes past four o’clock in the morning on Sundays. The monthly jobs are performed 42 minutes past four o’clock on the first day of every month. The directory with the script file that contain the command(s) to be executed is shown as the last entry on each line. If you wanted your jobs to be performed at noon instead of 4 in the morning, just change the 4s to 12s. Cron wakes up every minute and examines if the /etc/crontab has changed so there is no need to re-start anything after you make your changes. If you wanted to add a job to your cron, place a script which runs your job (or a link to your script) in the directory /etc/cron.hourly or cron.daily or /etc/cron.weekly, or /etc/cron.monthly.

Posted on: 09/12/2009

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