How Cron jobs are wroking in linux?

Cron Usage:

Cron is a daemon that executes scheduled commands. Cron is started automatically from /etc/init.d on entering multi-user runlevels. Cron searches its spool area (/var/spool/cron/crontabs) for crontab files (which are named after accounts in /etc/passwd); crontabs found are loaded into memory. Note that crontabs in this directory should not be accessed directly - the crontab command should be used to access and update them.
Cron also reads /etc/crontab, which is in a slightly different format. Additionally, cron reads the files in /etc/cron.d.
Cron then wakes up every minute, examining all stored crontabs, checking each command to see if it should be run in the current minute. When executing commands, any output is mailed to the owner of the crontab (or to the user named in the MAILTO environment variable in the crontab, if such exists). The children copies of cron running these processes have their name coerced to uppercase, as will be seen in the syslog and ps output.
Additionally, cron checks each minute to see if its spool directory's modtime (or the modtime on /etc/crontab) has changed, and if it has, cron will then examine the modtime on all crontabs and reload those which have changed. Thus cron need not be restarted whenever a crontab file is modified. Note that the crontab(1) command updates the modtime of the spool directory whenever it changes a crontab.
Special considerations exist when the clock is changed by less than 3 hours, for example at the beginning and end of daylight savings time. If the time has moved forwards, those jobs which would have run in the time that was skipped will be run soon after the change. Conversely, if the time has moved backwards by less than 3 hours, those jobs that fall into the repeated time will not be re-run.
Only jobs that run at a particular time (not specified as @hourly, nor with '*' in the hour or minute specifier) are affected. Jobs which are specified with wild cards are run based on the new time immediately.
Clock changes of more than 3 hours are considered to be corrections to the clock, and the new time is used immediately.
In Debian and Redhat cron treats the files in /etc/cron.d as extensions to the /etc/crontab file (they follow the special format of that file, i.e. they include the user field). The intended purpose of this feature is to allow packages that require finer control of their scheduling than the /etc/cron.{daily,weekly,monthly} directories allow to add a crontab file to /etc/cron.d. Such files should be named after the package that supplies them. Files must conform to the same naming convention as used by run-parts: they must consist solely of upper- and lower-case letters, digits, underscores, and hyphens. Like /etc/crontab, the files in the /etc/cron.d directory are monitored for changes.
You should use absolute path names for commands like /bin/ls. This is to insure you call the correct command.

* * * * *    /bin/execute/this/

Scheduling explained

As you can see there are 5 stars. The stars represent different date parts in the following order:
  • minute (from 0 to 59)
  • hour (from 0 to 23)
  • day of month (from 1 to 31)
  • month (from 1 to 12)
  • day of week (from 0 to 6) (0=Sunday)


1. Job Scheduler
a. Minutely
b. Hourly
c. dayily
d. monthly
e. Yearly
Note: Fields a-e are spefied as per the order above in appropriate config. file
2. Assume computer is always on unlike anacron
3. Maintain global and per-user schedules
4. /var/spool/cron - stores crontabs for /etc/passwd user or LDAP or otherwise
5. Checks ALL config files every minute, including /etc/anacrontab
6. Supplies 'crontab' utility to manage jobs
1. Analyze current cron setup
a. 'ps -ef | grep cron'
b. '/etc/crontab'
2. Define system wide job
a. '*/1 * * * * mallik /usr/bin/uptime >> /home/mallik/uptime.stat'
3. Define per-user job
a. 'crontab -e' - run as user principle: 'mallik'
4. Manipulate 'mallik's' job as root
a. 'crontab -e -u mallik' - run as root - edits user's job(s)
b. 'crontab -l -u mallik' - run as root - lists user's job(s)

5. Restrict Cron-access
a. '/etc/cron.allow' - add mallik to the list - User must be on the list in order to submit jobs to cron
b. '/etc/cron.deny' - add mallik to the list to deny submitting cron jobs


1. Runs jobs once per day during an allowed interval
2. Assumes computer is NOT always on, unlike: Cron
3. Facilitates delays in starting jobs - reduces resources contention
4. Maintains one schedule: '/etc/anacrontab'
5. Requires little-to-no intervention; handled by the system

1. Examine: '/etc/anacrontab'
cron job that runs daily at 5:30PM local time and executes -/bin/echo hello.
crontab -e
17 30  * * * /bin/echo hello

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