Cron Guide

On Linux servers, cron can be used to schedule jobs that run commands and shell scripts at fixed times, dates or intervals. It's great for repetitive tasks like backups, downloads and deleting log files. See

Setting the Cron Editor

Cron jobs are configured by crontab files that are stored where the cron service is located. Any Linux console text editor can be used to manage these crontab files. Here's how to use the Nano text editor in a one-time session or as the default crontab editor.

Set Nano as the crontab editor - one time session

Run the export command to set the default editor
export VISUAL=nano

Set Nano as the crontab editor - as the default

Change to user's home directory and edit environment PATH settings (CentOS)
nano .bashrc

Append the following:

# User specific aliases and functions
export VISUAL=nano

Activate the change in settings

Cron Commands

Each line in a crontab file represents a scheduled job. Each job begins with time parameters in the following sequence:

   *       *     *      *         *       do something
minute | hour | day | month | dayofweek | command

minute: between 0 and 59.
hour: between 0 and 23.
day: day of month, depends on month.
month: between 1 and 12.
day of week: between 0 and 7, where Sunday can be both 0 or 7.
command: the command to execute.

* any value (placeholder or unused date parameter)
/ step values.
- range of values.
, value list separator.

  • Make sure the crontab file ends with an empty line!
  • SELinux problems? sudo setenforce 0

Run a shell script at 11:00am every day:
0 11 * * * sh /home/user/

Run a shell script every two hours, on the hour
0 /2 * * * sh /home/user/

Run a shell at 11:00am every Tuesday
0 11 * * 2 sh /home/user/


Cron Examples

Check status
sudo systemctl status crond

List jobs
crontab -l

Edit jobs
crontab -e

Check for cron error messages
cat /var/spool/mail/semaphore

Check cron log for history
cat /home/semaphore/backups/cron.log

Clear Cron Log Files

This example has three jobs. Each job runs a different shell script, silences cron error messages and then appends any remaining output to a specific log file.

> is for redirect
/dev/null is a black hole for data
2 is the file descriptor for Standard Error (STDERR)
>> append to file

01 01 * * * /home/saf/logs/ > /dev/null 2 >> /home/saf/logs/cron.log
01 01 * * * /home/saf/logs/ > /dev/null 2 >> /home/saf/logs/cron.log
01 01 * * * /home/saf/logs/ > /dev/null 2 >> /home/saf/logs/cron.log