Understanding Linux Cron Job and Its Usage

linux cron job

Cron is a time-based job scheduling system in Unix/Linux-like operating systems. It enables users to schedule automatic execution of commands or scripts on their systems at specified intervals. Cron is a critical tool for system administrators, developers, and users who want to automate repetitive tasks on their systems.

In this article, we will dive deep into the concept of Linux cron jobs and illustrate its usage with code examples. We will also explain related concepts and methods that will help you understand how to use cron jobs efficiently.

What is a Cron Job?

A cron job is a Linux command that runs at specific intervals. It is a time-based scheduler that allows you to schedule tasks to run automatically without requiring manual intervention. Cron jobs are typically used to automate repetitive tasks such as system maintenance, backups, and data processing.

The cron daemon, which is a system service, is responsible for running cron jobs. It runs in the background and checks the system’s cron configuration file at regular intervals to determine if there are any tasks scheduled to run. If there is a task scheduled, the cron daemon executes the command, script, or program associated with the task.

Cron Job Syntax

The syntax for a cron job is as follows:

*     *     *     *     *  command to be executed
-     -     -     -     -
|     |     |     |     |
|     |     |     |     +----- day of the week (0 - 6) (Sunday is 0)
|     |     |     +------- month (1 - 12)
|     |     +--------- day of the month (1 - 31)
|     +----------- hour (0 - 23)
+------------- min (0 - 59)

The first five fields represent the time and date when the command should be executed. The command is executed when the current time matches the time specified in the cron job. The sixth field specifies the command to be executed.

For example, the following cron job runs a script every day at 2:30 AM:

30 2 * * * /path/to/script.sh

Creating a Cron Job

To create a cron job, you need to edit the system’s crontab file. The crontab file is a configuration file that contains a list of cron jobs to be executed. Each line in the crontab file represents a separate cron job.

To edit the crontab file, run the following command:

crontab -e

This will open the crontab file in the default text editor. You can then add or modify cron jobs as needed.

For example, let’s say you want to schedule a backup of your home directory every day at 3:00 AM. You can create a cron job by adding the following line to the crontab file:

0 3 * * * tar -czf /backup/home.tar.gz /home/

This will create a compressed backup of your home directory every day at 3:00 AM and store it in the /backup directory.

Common Cron Job Tasks

Here are some common tasks that you can automate using cron jobs:

  • System Maintenance: You can use cron jobs to perform system maintenance tasks such as cleaning up log files, updating software packages, and checking disk usage.
  • Data Processing: You can use cron jobs to run scripts or programs that process data, such as generating reports, sending emails, or updating databases.
  • Backups: You can use cron jobs to schedule backups of important data, such as user files, databases, and configuration files.
  • Monitoring: You can use cron jobs to monitor system resources, such as CPU usage, memory usage, and disk space. This can help you identify potential issues before they become critical.


Cron jobs are an essential tool for automating repetitive tasks on Linux systems. They allow you to schedule commands, scripts, or programs to run at specific intervals, without requiring manual intervention. By understanding the syntax and usage of cron jobs, you can automate tasks such as system maintenance, data processing, backups, and monitoring.