I have a variation of this question with some additional details. My script is being run by the cron job, but it's not doing the SFTP and not logging like what I hoped for. When I check where it's supposed to be sending the files, they are not there. The files only appear there when I run manually, and not when run in the Cron job.

I have two attempts to log:

First in the cron job itself (I've tried with both my user and "root"):

15 17 * * * nw /bin/sh /home/nw/scripts/SftpScriptLoop.sh >> /home/nw/scripts/SftpScriptLoop_cron.log 

and secondly in the script to log.txt.

When I run the script myself, the log.txt gets populated, but it is never populated when I run with the Cron job.

I know the cron job is running, because SftpScriptLoop_cron.log gets created, but it's empty. I deleted it before testing again just to verify.

I'm using fully qualified disk paths in the script.

My Bash Script (it uses a "here doc" to pass data to the stdin of the SFTP command):

for filename in /home/nealwalters/downloads/*.csv; do 
   echo "Loop: Filename=$filename" 
   echo "$currentDate SFTPUser3 Filename=$filename" >> /home/nealwalters/scripts/log.txt

   sftp -i /home/nealwalters/keys/SFTPUser1_Private.pem [email protected] << EOF
      cd User3ToMyCompany
      put $filename
   echo "--------------------------------------------"

Ubuntu 20.04

Results of "grep CRON /var/log/syslog".

enter image description here

Part 2 - when in doubt simplify. Updates one day later.

I liked the answer from this question, but I cannot even get the following to work.

I created three files with some dummy text in them: TouchFileScript1.txt and TouchFileScript2.txt and TouchFileCron.txt

I created a bin directory (not sure if that is required, as originally my directory name was "scripts".)

I created a bash script called TouchFileCron1.sh with just the following one line:

touch /home/nealwalters/bin/TouchFileScript1.txt 

I created a bash script called TouchFileCron2.sh with just the following one line (trying to figure out if the /sh/bin is required or not in the crontab):

touch /home/nealwalters/bin/TouchFileScript2.txt 

The /etc/crontab now has two lines as follows:

* *  * * * root touch /home/nealwalters/bin/cronlog.txt 
* *  * * * root /home/nealwalters/bin/TouchFileScript1.sh
* *  * * * root /bin/sh /home/nealwalters/bin/TouchFileScript2.sh 

Basically, the first one works, and the second two do not work.

Result - tail of /var/log/syslog - and listing all my files. You can see which ones are marked as executable. The TestFileCron.txt has the date/time changed every minute. The other two are unaffected.

Does the ownership matter, since I'm running "root" in the crontab? 17:28 was the last time the cron ran, when I took the screen shot. The other files remain at 17:22 when I created them.

enter image description here

  • To start with, which version of Linux have you installed (Ubuntu server, Ubuntu desktop, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, et al.) , and which release number? Different releases have different tools for us to recommend. Please click edit and add that vital information to your question so all the facts we need are in the question. Please don't use Add Comment, since that's our channel to you. All facts about your system should go in the Question with edit
    – K7AAY
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 17:29
  • Are you running this via the systemwide crontab /etc/crontab or otherwise (such as crontab -e)? Commented May 6, 2020 at 17:57
  • @steeldriver - I have tried both, but currently the /etc/crontab. You can see that I have the username in the crontab example I gave, and that I said I tried my user and also root. Commented May 6, 2020 at 18:09
  • That's exactly why I asked - people often don't understand the difference, and add the username in a user crontab or omit it from the systemwide one. Have you checked the syslog for relevant CRON messages? Commented May 6, 2020 at 18:16
  • @steeldriver - added output from syslog, I see it ran there, and no errors unless the GREP I ran is missing them. Also did a "cat /var/log/syslog" and didn't see anything else that clearly helped. What about the "No MTA installed, discarding output"? Commented May 6, 2020 at 21:12

1 Answer 1


Since I was redirecting output to files, I thought my case was different, but it was essentially solved by this post: "(CRON) info (No MTA installed, discarding output)" error in the syslog

I didn't have any redirection for "stderr".

Coming from a Windows background, it was just incredible to me that mail would be used to log error, rather than writing them to a file.

Linux uses mail for sending notifications to the user. Most Linux distributions have a mail service including an MTA (Mail Transfer Agent) installed. Ubuntu doesn't though.

You can install a mail service, postfix for example, to solve this problem.

sudo apt-get install postfix

Then to view the errors:

sudo tail -f /var/mail/nealwalters

(where nealwalters can be substituted with your user).

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