How to Restart Cron After Changing Crontab File in Linux

Published July 02, 2024

Problem: Restarting Cron After Crontab Changes

Linux users often change their crontab files to schedule tasks. However, changes to the crontab file don't always start right away. This can cause confusion and delays in running scheduled jobs. The issue is knowing how to restart the cron service after making changes so the new schedule starts quickly.

Solution: Restarting Cron Service in Linux

Method 1: Using Systemctl Command

To restart cron with systemctl:

  1. Open a terminal.
  2. Type: sudo systemctl restart cron
  3. Enter your password if asked.

This works on Linux systems that use systemd, like Ubuntu 16.04 and later, CentOS 7 and later, and Fedora.

Method 2: Using Service Command

For older Linux versions without systemd:

  1. Open a terminal.
  2. Type: sudo service cron restart
  3. Enter your password if asked.

This is useful for systems like Ubuntu 14.04 and earlier, or CentOS 6 and earlier.

Method 3: Manual Stop and Start of Cron

To manually stop and start cron:

  1. Open a terminal.
  2. To stop cron, type: sudo /etc/init.d/cron stop
  3. To start cron, type: sudo /etc/init.d/cron start
  4. Enter your password if asked.

Use this method for more control over the restart process or when other methods don't work. It's also helpful for fixing cron issues.

Verifying Cron Restart

Checking Cron Service Status

To check if Cron is running after a restart, use these commands:

For systemd-based systems:

sudo systemctl status cron

For older systems using init.d:

sudo service cron status

The output will show if Cron is active. Look for messages like "Active: active (running)" or "cron is running" to confirm the status.

Monitoring Cron Logs

Cron logs help you verify a restart and track job execution:

On most Linux systems, Cron logs are in /var/log/syslog or /var/log/cron.

View the logs using this command:

sudo tail -f /var/log/syslog | grep CRON

Look for messages indicating Cron has started, such as:

CRON[1234]: (CRON) INFO (pidfile fd = 3)
CRON[1234]: (CRON) INFO (Running @reboot jobs)

These messages show that Cron has restarted and is running scheduled tasks.

Additional Considerations

Permissions and User-specific Crontabs

When working with user-specific crontabs, each user has their own crontab file. To edit a user's crontab, use this command:

sudo crontab -u username -e

Replace "username" with the actual username. This opens the crontab file for that user.

To handle permission issues:

  1. Check file permissions of the crontab:

    ls -l /var/spool/cron/crontabs/username
  2. If needed, adjust permissions:

    sudo chmod 600 /var/spool/cron/crontabs/username
    sudo chown username:crontab /var/spool/cron/crontabs/username

Automating Cron Restart

To create a script for automated cron restart:

  1. Create a new file named restart_cron.sh:

    sudo nano /usr/local/bin/restart_cron.sh
  2. Add this content:

    #!/bin/bash
    systemctl restart cron
  3. Make the script executable:

    sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/restart_cron.sh

To schedule cron restart at boot time:

  1. Open the root crontab:

    sudo crontab -e
  2. Add this line to the file:

    @reboot /usr/local/bin/restart_cron.sh

This makes cron restart automatically when the system boots up.

Alternative Solutions

Using Cron Wrappers

Cron wrappers add features to the standard cron system. They help manage and monitor cron jobs.

Popular cron wrappers:

  • Anacron: Runs missed jobs when the computer was off.
  • Fcron: Offers more scheduling options than cron.
  • Dcron: A simple cron alternative.

Benefits of cron wrappers:

  • Better job scheduling control
  • Improved error handling and logging
  • Easier to manage job dependencies
  • Can run missed jobs after system downtime

Modern Scheduling Alternatives

While cron is common, other tools offer more features for task scheduling:

  • Systemd Timers: Built into many Linux systems, they work with systemd services.
  • Jobber: A cron replacement focusing on reliability and security.
  • Taskwarrior: A command-line task management tool with scheduling.

Comparing alternatives with cron:

  • Flexibility: Modern tools allow more complex scheduling patterns.
  • Logging: Many alternatives offer better logging and error reporting.
  • Resource management: Some tools manage system resources better than cron.
  • User interface: Newer options might have graphical interfaces.
  • Cloud compatibility: Some modern schedulers work better in cloud environments.