Often, crontab scripts are not executed on schedule or as expected. There are numerous reasons for that:

  1. wrong crontab notation
  2. permissions problem
  3. environment variables

This community wiki aims to aggregate the top reasons for crontab scripts not being executed as expected. Write each reason in a separate answer.

Please include one reason per answer - details about why it's not executed - and fix(es) for that one reason.

Please write only cron-specific issues, e.g. commands that execute as expected from the shell but execute erroneously by cron.

  • 18
    You must close crontab -e for the cron to take affect. For instance using vim I edit the file and use :w to write it but the job is not added to cron until I quit also. So I will not see the job until after I :q also.
    – DutGRIFF
    Jun 24, 2014 at 14:58
  • I think best way to debug cron is to check syslog and find the problems. Jun 23, 2016 at 7:49
  • Electricity outages Mar 21, 2018 at 7:38
  • Please check this one askubuntu.com/a/1223213/297387
    – Vadim
    Apr 1, 2020 at 16:15
  • Just one issue, which causes me some time to find out: I had '0 * * * * /pathtoscript/script'. What I have overseen is that the script was not working in teh expected folder. A simple 'cd /pathtoscript' solved my issues. ... took me some hours
    – BerndGit
    Feb 20, 2022 at 15:03

47 Answers 47


Different environment

Cron passes a minimal set of environment variables to your jobs. To see the difference, add a dummy job like this:

* * * * * env > /tmp/env.output

Wait for /tmp/env.output to be created, then remove the job again. Now compare the contents of /tmp/env.output with the output of env run in your regular terminal.

A common "gotcha" here is the PATH environment variable being different. Maybe your cron script uses the command somecommand found in /opt/someApp/bin, which you've added to PATH in /etc/environment? cron ignores PATH from that file, so runnning somecommand from your script will fail when run with cron, but work when run in a terminal. It's worth noting that variables from /etc/environment will be passed on to cron jobs, just not the variables cron specifically sets itself, such as PATH.

To get around that, just set your own PATH variable at the top of the script. E.g.


# rest of script follows

Some prefer to just use absolute paths to all the commands instead. I recommend against that. Consider what happens if you want to run your script on a different system, and on that system, the command is in /opt/someAppv2.2/bin instead. You'd have to go through the whole script replacing /opt/someApp/bin with /opt/someAppv2.2/bin instead of just doing a small edit on the first line of the script.

You can also set the PATH variable in the crontab file, which will apply to all cron jobs. E.g.


15 1 * * * backupscript --incremental /home /root
  • 7
    I think I just fell for this, and newline at end... double whammy.
    – WernerCD
    Jun 2, 2011 at 4:22
  • 9
    +1 for env, I had completely forgotten about that command and thought PATH was working. It was actually sliiiightly different in my case.
    – Izkata
    Jan 18, 2012 at 15:16
  • 9
    @pbr If such directories are left writable to others, the system is already compromized.
    – geirha
    Apr 9, 2012 at 8:23
  • 6
    @pbr A sysadmin could unwittingly delete the root filesystem. You can't guard against sysadmins making silly mistakes. If you install a newer version of an interpreter that is not backwards compatible, I'd expect breakage regardless. The sane way to handle that is to install it as a different command. E.g. you have python version 2.x and install python 3, you install it as python3, not python. And as for /opt/someApp/bin, why on earth wouldn't it have sane permissions/ownership? any sane admin would ensure sane permissions/ownership on system files.
    – geirha
    Apr 10, 2012 at 6:36
  • 2
    @pbr It seems we could go on forever, yes. I still fail to see why it's a bad idea to use PATH though. If you feel like discussing this further in a medium better suited for discussion, you'll find me in #ubuntu and #bash, among other channels, on irc.freenode.net
    – geirha
    Apr 11, 2012 at 16:28

My top gotcha: If you forget to add a newline at the end of the crontab file. In other words, the crontab file should end with an empty line.

Below is the relevant section in the man pages for this issue (man crontab then skip to the end):

   Although cron requires that each entry in a crontab end  in  a  newline
   character,  neither the crontab command nor the cron daemon will detect
   this error. Instead, the crontab will appear to load normally. However,
   the  command  will  never  run.  The best choice is to ensure that your
   crontab has a blank line at the end.

   4th Berkeley Distribution      29 December 1993               CRONTAB(1)
  • 126
    this is such a showstopper, how come it hasn't been fixed in so many years of cron? Jan 27, 2011 at 3:20
  • 2
    Seems to be fixed in Vixie cron: man crontab on Ubuntu 10.10 says "cron requires that each entry in a crontab end in a newline character. If the last entry in a crontab is missing the newline, cron will consider the crontab (at least partially) broken and refuse to install it." (And the date at the end is 19 April 2010.) Feb 1, 2011 at 22:58
  • 21
    @barraponto This is actually a bug in new text editors. The "newline" character is supposed to be a line termination character, so the final line in a text file is supposed to end in a newline character that doesn't get shown in the editor. Vi and vim use the character correctly, and cron was built before the new editors started their odd behavior... Hence playing it save and including a blank line.
    – Izkata
    Jan 18, 2012 at 15:20
  • 9
    If you edit crontab using crontab -e it will check the syntax of the file before allowing a save, including a check for newline. Sep 26, 2014 at 18:26
  • 2
    @Chan-HoSuh, according to man page "cron requires that each entry in a crontab end in a newline character. If the last entry in a crontab is missing the newline, cron will consider the crontab (at least partially) broken and refuse to install it." This behavior will be invoked when editing then saving the crontab using the -e option, and is independent of the editor. Nov 18, 2014 at 16:40

Cron daemon is not running. I really screwed up with this some months ago.


pgrep cron 

If you see no number (i.e. cron's main PID), then cron is not running. sudo /etc/init.d/cron start can be used to start cron.

EDIT: Rather than invoking init scripts through /etc/init.d, use the service utility, e.g.

sudo service cron start

EDIT: Also you could use systemctl in modern Linux, e.g.

sudo systemctl start cron
  • 58
    Thanks for showing me pgrep. I kept doing ps -ef | grep foo
    – ripper234
    Mar 17, 2011 at 17:01
  • 4
    You could also use pidof cron which will omit results for other applications that also have the word 'cron', like crontab.
    – Pithikos
    Mar 11, 2014 at 16:19
  • Weird, all of these give me nothing to show cron is running, but if I run sudo service cron start I get start: Job is already running: cron
    – Colleen
    Apr 6, 2015 at 17:04
  • 3
    service crond start if its centos/RHEL Jan 18, 2017 at 10:02

The script filenames in cron.d/, cron.daily/, cron.hourly/, etc., should NOT contain dot (.), otherwise run-parts will skip them.

See run-parts(8):

   If neither the --lsbsysinit option nor the --regex option is given then
   the names must consist entirely of upper and lower case  letters,  dig‐
   its, underscores, and hyphens.

   If  the  --lsbsysinit  option  is given, then the names must not end in
   .dpkg-old  or .dpkg-dist or .dpkg-new or .dpkg-tmp, and must belong  to
   one  or more of the following namespaces: the LANANA-assigned namespace
   (^[a-z0-9]+$);   the   LSB   hierarchical   and   reserved   namespaces
   (^_?([a-z0-9_.]+-)+[a-z0-9]+$);  and  the  Debian cron script namespace

So, if you have a cron script backup.sh, analyze-logs.pl in cron.daily/ directory, you'd best to remove the extension names.

  • 12
    It's a feature not a bug - it keeps things like myscript.backup or myscript.original or myscript.rpm-new from running right beside myscript.
    – pbr
    Apr 8, 2012 at 22:45
  • @pbr: makes sense. At least it would have been helpful for debugging if run-parts --test (or another imaginary option like --debug would output the files it skips including the reason. May 30, 2013 at 8:46
  • 14
    If this is a feature, it's not a nice one :( A lot of people use dot in file name (backup.sh is the most common one). If you want to a script to stop executing, the most logical method will be to remove it from "cron.d" directory.
    – MatuDuke
    May 16, 2014 at 13:59
  • 12
    This is such a bad feature that it's effectively a bug. It's common practice to require a particular ending (like ".list" or ".cron" or something) if people want to make sure that things only get run when intended. Arbitrarily picking dot as a likely separator for ".bak" or ".temp" or whatever, is completely unpredictable except in the way that it will predictably confuse people. Legitimate endings like ".sh", and ".pl" have been in widespread use for decades. Lots of people use "_bak" or "_temp" or "-bak" instead of a dot, however. This is an awful design choice; it's a design bug at best.
    – Teekin
    May 10, 2017 at 20:42
  • Wait, does that mean that my shell script pull-data.sh will never execute even if I add this command to the crontab: /bin/bash /home/userName/pull-data.sh ? Sep 25, 2020 at 1:21

In many environments cron executes commands using sh, while many people assume it will use bash.

Suggestions to test or fix this for a failing command:

  • Try running the command in sh to see if it works:

    sh -c "mycommand"
  • Wrap the command in a bash subshell to make sure it gets run in bash:

    bash -c "mybashcommand"
  • Tell cron to run all commands in bash by setting the shell at the top of your crontab:

  • If the command is a script, make sure the script contains a shebang:

  • 1
    bash suggestion is very helpful, fixed issue with my cron. Feb 18, 2016 at 22:38
  • 1
    This just caused me 1hr of fiddling/troubleshooting. Even more perplexing if you're not aware of the issue is the script will run manually just fine if you're typical shell is bash, but not with cron. Thanks!
    – Hendy
    Nov 22, 2016 at 19:42
  • 1
    A long time ago I ran into something related: The command source is in bash but not sh. In cron/sh, use a period: . envfile rather than source envfile.
    – kungphu
    Dec 22, 2017 at 2:24
  • @Clockwork sh "mycommand" tells sh to run mycommand as a script file. Did you mean sh -c "mycommand"? At any rate, this answer seems to be about making the command run in bash specifically, so why did you add the command for sh here?
    – Olorin
    Feb 8, 2019 at 9:53
  • 1
    @Olorin From my understanding, the objective of the first point was to try and run it with sh, to see if the problem truly came from the fact that cron is running it with sh instead of bash. Then again, I have little knowledge about the matter, so I might be wrong.
    – Clockwork
    Feb 8, 2019 at 10:12

I had some issues with the time zones. Cron was running with the fresh installation time zone. The solution was to restart cron:

sudo service cron restart
  • 8
    Yes, after changing the timezone on a system, one must either restart every service that cares about what time it is, or reboot. I prefer the reboot, to be sure I've caught everything.
    – pbr
    Apr 8, 2012 at 22:48
  • Oh for God's sake, killed hours on this. Tried service restart after * * * * * touch /tmp/cronworks did nothing, yet there is RELOAD at cronlog. Oct 1, 2014 at 3:57
  • this solved it, even though there was no problem with my timezone
    – Aven Desta
    May 16, 2020 at 16:08
  • Wow!! this saved my life
    – Arun
    Nov 7, 2021 at 23:41
  • You lose hours, when you think finding the root cause and fixing it is faster than a quick reboot's magic. Oct 14, 2023 at 5:08

Absolute path should be used for scripts:

For example, /bin/grep should be used instead of grep:

# m h  dom mon dow   command
0 0 *  *  *  /bin/grep ERROR /home/adam/run.log &> /tmp/errors

Instead of:

# m h  dom mon dow   command
0 0 *  *  *  grep ERROR /home/adam/run.log &> /tmp/errors

This is especially tricky, because the same command will work when executed from shell. The reason is that cron does not have the same PATH environment variable as the user.

  • 3
    see geirha answer, you can (must) define cron's PATH Jan 27, 2011 at 3:22
  • 11
    Bzzt. you do NOT need to define the PATH - using absolute paths is the best practice here. "because an executable may be elsewhere on some other computer" doesn't trump "I want it to run exactly this program and not some other one someone put in the path in front of my original program"
    – pbr
    Apr 8, 2012 at 22:55
  • 1
    yep this was it for me, outside the cron I could run the command directly, inside the cron it needed full /usr/bin/whatever path
    – Anentropic
    Aug 14, 2016 at 10:56

If your crontab command has a % symbol in it, cron tries to interpret it. So if you were using any command with a % in it (such as a format specification to the date command) you will need to escape it.

That and other good gotchas here:

  • This is what has been causing my Cron job to fail for the last week. Finally figured out that my Date didn't have an escape character (backslash for any other folks looking for what the escape character is). Yay!
    – Valien
    Oct 14, 2013 at 14:27
  • 3
    See also How can I execute date inside of a cron tab job?
    – Jared Beck
    Apr 16, 2015 at 20:49

Cron is calling a script that is not executable.

By running chmod +x /path/to/script, the script becomes executable and this should resolve this issue.

  • 6
    That's not unique to cron, and easily traceable by simply trying to execute /path/to/script from the command line.
    – Adam Matan
    Jan 27, 2011 at 6:33
  • 4
    If you're used to executing scripts with . scriptname or sh scriptname or bash scriptname, then this becomes a cron-specific problem. Nov 24, 2011 at 23:09

It is also possible that the user's password has expired. Even root's password can expire. You can tail -f /var/log/cron.log and you will see cron fail with password expired. You can set the password to never expire by doing this: passwd -x -1 <username>

In some systems (Debian, Ubuntu) logging for cron is not enabled by default. In /etc/rsyslog.conf or /etc/rsyslog.d/50-default.conf the line:

# cron.*                          /var/log/cron.log

should be edited (sudo nano /etc/rsyslog.conf) uncommented to:

cron.*                          /var/log/cron.log

After that, you need to restart rsyslog via

/etc/init.d/rsyslog restart


service rsyslog restart 

Source: Enable crontab logging in Debian Linux

In some systems (Ubuntu) separate logging file for cron is not enabled by default, but cron related logs are appearing in syslog file. One may use

cat /var/log/syslog | grep cron -i

to view cron-related messages.

  • I have Debian (wheezy) but there is no /etc/init.d/rsyslog, only inetutils-syslogd and sysklogd. Do I have to install something or just restart one of the two?
    – hgoebl
    Oct 21, 2016 at 11:41

If your cronjob invokes GUI-apps, you need to tell them what DISPLAY they should use.

Example: Firefox launch with cron.

Your script should contain export DISPLAY=:0 somewhere.

  • aplay needed this one for some reason. thank you
    – IljaBek
    Oct 2, 2016 at 10:47
  • 1
    * * * * * export DISPLAY=:0 && <command>
    – LoMaPh
    Jul 27, 2017 at 22:27
  • This one solved my problem. Oct 5, 2023 at 22:49

Insecure cron table permission

A cron table is rejected if its permission is insecure

sudo service cron restart
grep -i cron /var/log/syslog|tail -2
2013-02-05T03:47:49.283841+01:00 ubuntu cron[49906]: (user) INSECURE MODE (mode 0600 expected) (crontabs/user)

The problem is solved with

# correct permission
sudo chmod 600 /var/spool/cron/crontabs/user
# signal crond to reload the file
sudo touch /var/spool/cron/crontabs
  • First I figured it out myself and then I found your answer! Still thanks a lot! In my case, I had reverted/restored some crontabs in /var/spool/cron/crontabs via SVN which changed its permissions!
    – alfonx
    Jun 8, 2013 at 20:40
  • grep -i cron /var/log/syslog|tail -2 this helps me to show what errors blocked the cron script
    – Ankit24007
    Jul 28, 2021 at 3:40

Permissions problems are quite common, I'm afraid.

Note that a common workaround is to execute everything using root's crontab, which sometimes is a Really Bad Idea. Setting proper permissions is definitely a largely overlooked issue.

  • 1
    Note that if you have a crontab line that is set to pipe output to a file that does not yet exist, and the directory for the file is one that the cron user doesn't have access to, then the line will not execute. Sep 10, 2015 at 16:51

Script is location-sensitive. This is related to always using absolute paths in a script, but not quite the same. Your cron job may need to cd to a specific directory before running, e.g. a rake task on a Rails application may need to be in the application root for Rake to find the correct task, not to mention the appropriate database configuration, etc.

So a crontab entry of

23 3 * * * /usr/bin/rake db:session_purge RAILS_ENV=production

would be better as

23 3 * * * cd /var/www/production/current && /usr/bin/rake db:session_purge RAILS_ENV=production

Or, to keep the crontab entry simpler and less brittle:

23 3 * * * /home/<user>/scripts/session-purge.sh

with the following code in /home/<user>/scripts/session-purge.sh:

cd /var/www/production/current
/usr/bin/rake db:session_purge RAILS_ENV=production
  • 2
    If the script being invoked from cron is written in an interpreted language like PHP, you may need to set the working directory in the script itself. For example, in PHP: chdir(dirname(__FILE__)); Sep 10, 2015 at 16:14
  • 1
    Just got caught with this one: the script used to be in the root of my home directory, but then I moved it (and updated the crontab) and couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. Turns out the script was using a relative path, assuming that it was relative to the location of the script but it was in fact relative to the root of my home directory because that was the working directory that cron was using, which is why the script worked when it was in the root of my home directory (because the script's expected working directory and it's actual working just happened to coincide). Feb 4, 2016 at 18:36

Crontab specs which worked in the past can break when moved from one crontab file to another. Sometimes the reason is that you've moved the spec from a system crontab file to a user crontab file or vice-versa.

The cron job specification format differs between users' crontab files (/var/spool/cron/username or /var/spool/cron/crontabs/username) and the system crontabs (/etc/crontab and the the files in /etc/cron.d).

The system crontabs have an extra field 'user' right before the command-to-run.

This will cause errors stating things like george; command not found when you move a command out of /etc/crontab or a file in /etc/cron.d into a user's crontab file.

Conversely, cron will deliver errors like /usr/bin/restartxyz is not a valid username or similar when the reverse occurs.


The most frequent reason I have seen cron fail in an incorrectly stated schedule. It takes practice to specify a job scheduled for 11:15 pm as 15 23 * * * instead of * * 11 15 * or 11 15 * * *. Day of the week for jobs after midnight also gets confused M-F is 2-6 after midnight, not 1-5. Specific dates are usually a problem as we rarely use them * * 3 1 * is not March 1st. If you are not sure, check your cron schedules online at https://crontab.guru/.

If your work with different platforms using unsupported options such as 2/3 in time specifications can also cause failures. This is a very useful option but not universally available. I have also run across issues with lists like 1-5 or 1,3,5.

Using unqualified paths have also caused problems. The default path is usually /bin:/usr/bin so only standard commands will run. These directories usually don't have the desired command. This also affects scripts using non-standard commands. Other environment variables can also be missing.

Clobbering an existing crontab entirely has caused me problems. I now load from a file copy. This can be recovered from the existing crontab using crontab -l if it gets clobbered. I keep the copy of crontab in ~/bin. It is commented throughout and ends with the line # EOF. This is reloaded daily from a crontab entry like:

# Reload this crontab
54 12    *   *   *   ${HOME}/bin/crontab

The reload command above relies on an executable crontab with a bang path running crontab. Some systems require the running crontab in the command and specifying the file. If the directory is network-shared, then I often use crontab.$(hostname) as the name of the file. This will eventually correct cases where the wrong crontab is loaded on the wrong server.

Using the file provides a backup of what the crontab should be, and allows temporary edits (the only time I use crontab -e) to be backed out automatically. There are headers available which help with getting the scheduling parameters right. I have added them when inexperienced users would be editing a crontab.

Rarely, I have run into commands that require user input. These fail under crontab, although some will work with input redirection.

  • 3
    This covers three separate problems. Can they be split into separate answers? Nov 24, 2011 at 23:07
  • 9
    Can you explain how 30 23 * * * translates to 11:15 PM?
    – JYelton
    Jan 10, 2014 at 19:23
  • @JYelton That was obviously wrong, it should be 15 23 * * *. Corrected now.
    – Melebius
    Jun 19, 2019 at 8:09
  • timezones should be added here: my server is on UTC which is quite different from my actual timezone; this has no bearing on minutes, but the moment you get into the hours.... I just spent a good while wondering why a cronjob that I was trying to test every minute in my current hour was not working...
    – Fons MA
    Aug 20, 2020 at 1:34

If you have a command like this:

* * * * * /path/to/script >> /tmp/output

and it doesn't work and you can't see any output, it may not necessarily mean cron isn't working. The script could be broken and the output going to stderr which doesn't get passed to /tmp/output. Check this isn't the case, by capturing this output as well:

* * * * * /path/to/script >> /tmp/output 2>&1

to see if this helps you catch your issue.


cron script is invoking a command with --verbose option

I had a cron script fail on me because I was in autopilot while typing the script and I included the --verbose option:

some commands
tar cvfz /my/archive/file.tar.gz /my/shared/directory
come more commands

The script ran fine when executing from shell, but failed when running from crontab because the verbose output goes to stdout when run from shell, but nowhere when run from crontab. Easy fix to remove the 'v':

some commands
tar cfz /my/archive/file.tar.gz /my/shared/directory
some more commands
  • 5
    Why is this causing a failure? Buffer issues?
    – Adam Matan
    May 31, 2012 at 6:38
  • Any outputs or errors trriggred via cron jobs is gooing to sent to your mailbox.So we should never forget to care about these errors/output.We can redirect them to any file or /dev/null
    – Nischay
    Sep 27, 2013 at 11:32

If you are accessing an account via SSH keys it is possible to login to the account but not notice that the password on the account is locked (e.g. due to expiring or invalid password attempts)

If the system is using PAM and the account is locked, this can stop its cronjob from running. (I've tested this on Solaris, but not on Ubuntu)

You may find messages like this in /var/adm/messages:

Oct 24 07:51:00 mybox cron[29024]: [ID 731128 auth.notice] pam_unix_account: cron attempting to validate locked account myuser from local host
Oct 24 07:52:00 mybox cron[29063]: [ID 731128 auth.notice] pam_unix_account: cron attempting to validate locked account myuser from local host
Oct 24 07:53:00 mybox cron[29098]: [ID 731128 auth.notice] pam_unix_account: cron attempting to validate locked account myuser from local host
Oct 24 07:54:00 mybox cron[29527]: [ID 731128 auth.notice] pam_unix_account: cron attempting to validate locked account myuser from local host

All you should need to do is run:

# passwd -u <USERNAME>

as root to unlock the account, and the crontab should work again.


=== Docker alert ===

If you're using docker,

I think it is proper to add that I couldn't manage to make cron to run in the background.

To run a cron job inside the container, I used supervisor and ran cron -f, together with the other process.

Edit: Another issue - I also didn't manage to get it work when running the container with HOST networking. See this issue here also: https://github.com/phusion/baseimage-docker/issues/144


I was writing an install shell script that creates another script to purge old transaction data from a database. As a part of the task it had to configure daily cron job to run at an arbitrary time, when the database load was low.

I created a file mycronjob with cron schedule, username & the command and copied it to the /etc/cron.d directory. My two gotchas:

  1. mycronjob file had to be owned by root to run
  2. I had to set permissions of the file to 644 - 664 would not run.

A permission problem will appear in /var/log/syslog as something similar to:

Apr 24 18:30:01 ip-11-22-33-44 cron[40980]: (*system*) INSECURE MODE (group/other writable) (/etc/crontab)
Apr 24 18:30:01 ip-11-22-33-44 cron[40980]: (*system*) INSECURE MODE (group/other writable) (/etc/cron.d/user)

The first line refers to /etc/crontab file and the later to a file I placed under /etc/cront.d.


Line written in a way crontab doesn't understand. It needs to be correctly written. Here's CrontabHowTo.

  • 1
    How can this be debugged?
    – Adam Matan
    Jan 27, 2011 at 6:34
  • Reviewing cron's error log is the most common way. IIRC 'crontab -e' does a syntax parse after you've edited the file as well - but that might not be universal.
    – pbr
    Apr 8, 2012 at 22:47

Cron daemon could be running, but not actually working. Try restarting cron:

sudo /etc/init.d/cron restart
  • 3
    I've NEVER seen this case in production. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened - just that I've not seen it in the 30 years I've been using UNIX and Linux. Cron is insanely robust.
    – pbr
    Apr 8, 2012 at 22:42
  • 1
    I'm not sure but I think this did actually just happen to me. I tried pidof cron and got nothing. Tried using service utility and it said cron was already running. Just ran this command and ran pidof again and I get a result.
    – Colleen
    Apr 6, 2015 at 17:13

Writing to cron via "crontab -e" with the username argument in a line. I've seen examples of users (or sysadmins) writing their shell scripts and not understanding why they don't automate. The "user" argument exists in /etc/crontab, but not the user-defined files. so, for example, your personal file would be something like:

# m h dom mon dow command

* * */2  *   *  /some/shell/script

whereas /etc/crontab would be:

# m h dom mon dow user   command

* * */2  *   *  jdoe   /some/shell/script

So, why would you do the latter? Well, depending on how you want to set your permissions, this can become very convoluted. I've written scripts to automate tasks for users who don't understand the intricacies, or don't want to bother with the drudgery. By setting permissions to --x------, I can make the script executable without them being able to read (and perhaps accidentally change) it. However, I might want to run this command with several others from one file (thus making it easier to maintain) but make sure file output is assigned the right owner. Doing so (at least in Ubuntu 10.10) breaks on both the inability to read the file as well as execute, plus the afore-mentioned issue with putting periods in /etc/crontab (which, funnily enough, causes no error when going through crontab -e).

As an example, I've seen instances of sudo crontab -e used to run a script with root permissions, with a corresponding chown username file_output in the shell script. Sloppy, but it works. IMHO, The more graceful option is to put it in /etc/crontab with username declared and proper permissions, so file_output goes to the right place and owner.

  • "Doing so (at least in Ubuntu 10.10) breaks on both the inability to read the file as well as execute....." I should clarify: /etc/crontab (by default) requires read AND execute permissions, whereas you COULD run "sudo crontab -e" to create a cronjob which overrides both the need for the "w" permission, and the problem with extensions like ".sh". I haven't had time to pull apart the cron code and check why this works, just a detail I've noticed.
    – Mange
    Jun 12, 2012 at 19:54

Building off what Aaron Peart mentioned about verbose mode, sometimes scripts not in verbose mode will initialize but not finish if the default behavior of an included command is to output a line or more to the screen once the proc starts. For example, I wrote a backup script for our intranet which used curl, a utility that downloads or uploads files to remote servers, and is quite handy if you can only access said remote files through HTTP. Using 'curl http://something.com/somefile.xls' was causing a script I wrote to hang and never complete because it spits out a newline followed by a progress line. I had to use the silent flag (-s) to tell it not to output any information, and write in my own code to handle if the file failed to download.

  • 1
    For programs that don't have a silent mode, you can redirect their output to /dev/null. For example: some-command > /dev/null This will redirect only standard output, and not error output (which is usually what you want, since you want to be informed of errors). To redirect error output too, use some-command &> /dev/null. Jun 12, 2012 at 20:22
  • Yeah, that was my first thought when writing the afore-mentioneed script. I forget why I didn't use that, possibly some non-standard behavior that circumvented said solution. I know that verbose/interactive mode is the default on some commands (I'm looking at YOU, scp!), which means you need to hadle said output for smooth operation of shell scripts.
    – Mange
    Jun 13, 2012 at 12:09

Although you can define environment variables in your crontable, you're not in a shell script. So constructions like the following won't work:



0 10 * * * ${MY_EXE} some_param >> ${MY_LOG_FILE}

This is because variables are not interpreted in the crontable: all values are taken litterally. And this is the same if you omit the brackets. So your commands won't run, and your log files won't be written...

Instead you must define all your environment variables straight:



0 10 * * * ${MY_EXE} some_param >> ${MY_LOG_FILE}

When a task is run within cron, stdin is closed. Programs that act differently based on whether stdin is available or not will behave differently between the shell session and in cron.

An example is the program goaccess for analysing web server log files. This does NOT work in cron:

goaccess -a -f /var/log/nginx/access.log > output.html

and goaccess shows the help page instead of creating the report. In the shell this can be reproduced with

goaccess -a -f /var/log/nginx/access.log > output.html < /dev/null

The fix for goaccess is to make it read the log from stdin instead of reading from the file, so the solution is to change the crontab entry to

cat /var/log/nginx/access.log | goaccess -a > output.html
  • This is a useless use of cat. You can use redirection instead of an additional process & a pipe: goaccess -a < inputfile > outpufile
    – arielf
    Mar 9, 2022 at 21:40

Logging Permissions

A very simple crontab, won't execute because /var/log/ is not writable by luser account!

* * * * * /usr/local/bin/teamviewer_check >> /var/log/teamviewer.log 2>&1

SOLUTION: create the file as root and chmod to 777

Thanks to the previous suggestion of enabling cron logging in /etc/rsyslog.d/50-default.conf, leads to syslog entry (No MTA installed, discarding output), then thanks to "(CRON) info (No MTA installed, discarding output)" error in the syslog installing postfix in local mode, tail /var/mail/luser, /bin/sh: 1: cannot create /var/log/teamviewer.log: Permission denied


In my case cron and crontab had different owners.

NOT working I had this:

User@Uva ~ $ ps -ef | grep cron | grep -v grep
User    2940    7284 pty1     19:58:41 /usr/bin/crontab
SYSTEM   11292     636 ?        22:14:15 /usr/sbin/cro 

Basically I had to run cron-config and answer the questions correctly. There is a point where I was required to enter my Win7 user password for my 'User' account. From reading I did, it looks like this is a potential security issue but I am the only administrator on a single home network so I decided it was OK.

Here is the command sequence that got me going:

User@Uva ~ $ cron-config
The cron daemon can run as a service or as a job. The latter is not recommended.
Cron is already installed as a service under account LocalSystem.
Do you want to remove or reinstall it? (yes/no) yes
OK. The cron service was removed.

Do you want to install the cron daemon as a service? (yes/no) yes
Enter the value of CYGWIN for the daemon: [ ] ntsec

You must decide under what account the cron daemon will run.
If you are the only user on this machine, the daemon can run as yourself.
   This gives access to all network drives but only allows you as user.
To run multiple users, cron must change user context without knowing
  the passwords. There are three methods to do that, as explained in
If all the cron users have executed "passwd -R" (see man passwd),
  which provides access to network drives, or if you are using the
  cyglsa package, then cron should run under the local system account.
Otherwise you need to have or to create a privileged account.
  This script will help you do so.
Do you want the cron daemon to run as yourself? (yes/no) no

Were the passwords of all cron users saved with "passwd -R", or
are you using the cyglsa package ? (yes/no) no

Finding or creating a privileged user.
The following accounts were found: 'cyg_server' .
This script plans to use account cyg_server.
Do you want to use another privileged account name? (yes/no) yes
Enter the other name: User

Reenter: User

Account User already exists. Checking its privileges.
INFO: User is a valid privileged account.
INFO: The cygwin user name for account User is User.

Please enter the password for user 'User':
Running cron_diagnose ...
... no problem found.

Do you want to start the cron daemon as a service now? (yes/no) yes
OK. The cron daemon is now running.

In case of problem, examine the log file for cron,
/var/log/cron.log, and the Windows event log (using /usr/bin/cronevents)
for information about the problem cron is having.

Examine also any cron.log file in the HOME directory
(or the file specified in MAILTO) and cron related files in /tmp.

If you cannot fix the problem, then report it to [email protected].
Please run the script /usr/bin/cronbug and ATTACH its output
(the file cronbug.txt) to your e-mail.

WARNING: PATH may be set differently under cron than in interactive shells.
         Names such as "find" and "date" may refer to Windows programs.

User@Uva ~ $ ps -ef | grep cron | grep -v grep
    User    2944   11780 ?        03:31:10 /usr/sbin/cron
    User    2940    7284 pty1     19:58:41 /usr/bin/crontab

User@Uva ~ $
  • 1
    Although well documented, this looks like a Cygwin-specific point; does it really belong in askubuntu?
    – sxc731
    Feb 7, 2016 at 11:14

Cron jobs won't run if your user's password has expired.

One indication of this is if your cron log (typically /var/log/syslog on Ubuntu, I believe) contains messages like "Authentication token is no longer valid; new one required".

You can check for this problem by running sudo chage -l the_username.

Here's an example of an expired password:

$ sudo chage -l root
Last password change                    : password must be changed
Password expires                    : password must be changed
Password inactive                   : password must be changed
Account expires                     : never
Minimum number of days between password change      : 0
Maximum number of days between password change      : 14600
Number of days of warning before password expires   : 14

The fix is to change the password. For example:

sudo -u root passwd

Then follow the instructions, specifying a new password as prompted.

Thanks to https://serverfault.com/questions/449651/why-is-my-crontab-not-working-and-how-can-i-troubleshoot-it#comment966708_544905 for pointing me in the right direction here. In my case, just as for that commenter, it was the root user of a DigitalOcean box.


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