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From the man pages it appears both do basically the same thing, why have both running on the system at the same time? From the wording in the man pages it looks like cron will repeatedly run programs at scheduled times while atd may run them only once, is this why?

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The look like they are the same but there are some things at is a lot better at. Some differences:


  • can be scheduled for repeated jobs (minute,hour,month,dayofmonth,dayofweek);
  • can be edited;
  • you set these in crontab or /etc/crontab


  • starts one time. To repeat it you need to start it again;
  • cannot be edited, after it started;
  • you can start this from commandline.
  • the most important ability of at command is the ability to operate in relative time terms.

Have a look at these examples and imagine how you'd do these with cron:

at 2pm + 1 week
at 2pm next week
at 0815am Jan 24
at 8 :15amjan24
at now "+ 1day"
at 5 pm FRIday
at '17 utc+30minutes'
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