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Why Isn’t My Crontab Reboot Working?

Ubuntu 16

Understanding and Troubleshooting Crontab Reboot Issues

Crontab is a powerful utility in Unix-like operating systems for scheduling tasks, known as cron jobs. However, you may sometimes encounter issues where your crontab reboot doesn’t work as expected. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of why this may happen and how to resolve it.

Quick Answer

There can be several reasons why your crontab reboot isn’t working, such as the presence of the "&" symbol in your cron command or missing environment variables. To troubleshoot these issues, you can remove the "&" symbol from your crontab entry and specify the necessary environment variables. If these solutions don’t work, you may consider using systemd instead of crontab for more control and reliability in managing your script execution.

Understanding Crontab

Crontab (CRON TABle) is a file that contains a list of commands meant to be run at specified times. They are installed by the crontab command, which reads the crontab file for a list of commands to execute.

A typical crontab command looks like this:

* * * * * command-to-be-executed
- - - - -
| | | | |
| | | | ----- Day of the week (0 - 7) (Sunday=0 or 7)
| | | ------- Month (1 - 12)
| | --------- Day of the month (1 - 31)
| ----------- Hour (0 - 23)
------------- Minute (0 - 59)

Common Issues with Crontab Reboot

Presence of the “&” Symbol

One common issue with crontab reboot is the presence of the “&” symbol at the end of your cron command. In the cron environment, this symbol may not be interpreted as you intended, causing the script not to run properly.

For example, if your crontab entry looks like this:

@reboot /path/to/your/ &

The “&” symbol tells the system to run the command in the background. In a regular shell environment, this works as expected. However, in the cron environment, this may cause issues.

Missing Environment Variables

Cron jobs run in a minimal environment, meaning they may not have access to all the same environment variables as your user. If your script depends on certain environment variables, this may cause it to fail when run as a cron job.

For example, if your script uses the $PATH environment variable, it may not work as a cron job because the $PATH variable in the cron environment may not include the directories needed by your script.

Troubleshooting Crontab Reboot Issues

Removing the “&” Symbol

A simple solution to the first issue is to remove the “&” symbol from your crontab entry:

@reboot /path/to/your/

This tells the system to run the command as a foreground process, which may resolve the issue.

Specifying Environment Variables

To resolve issues with missing environment variables, you can specify them directly in the crontab entry:

@reboot PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin /path/to/your/

This sets the $PATH variable for the cron job, ensuring that it includes the directories needed by your script.

Using Systemd Instead of Crontab

If you’re still having issues with your crontab reboot, you may want to consider using systemd instead. Systemd is a system and service manager for Linux. It provides more control and reliability in managing your script execution.

Here’s an example of how to configure systemd to run a script on reboot:

  1. Create a service file at /etc/systemd/system/reboot-script.service with the following content:
Description=Run script at startup


  1. Run systemctl daemon-reload to reload the configuration.
  2. Start the service using systemctl start reboot-script.service.
  3. If everything works as expected, enable the service to start at boot with systemctl enable reboot-script.service.

Remember to adjust the {account} and {group} values in the systemd service file to match your system’s user and group settings.


Understanding why your crontab reboot isn’t working can be a complex task, but with a clear understanding of how crontab and systemd work, you can effectively troubleshoot and resolve these issues. Always remember to check your scripts for dependencies on specific environment variables and ensure they’re correctly set in your crontab or systemd entries.

How do I check if my crontab reboot is running?

To check if your crontab reboot is running, you can use the systemctl status command followed by the name of your crontab service. For example, if your service is called reboot-script.service, you can run systemctl status reboot-script.service to see the status of your crontab reboot.

How do I edit my crontab file?

To edit your crontab file, you can use the crontab -e command. This command opens your crontab file in the default text editor. Make the necessary changes, save the file, and exit the editor. The changes will take effect immediately.

How do I view the contents of my crontab file?

To view the contents of your crontab file, you can use the crontab -l command. This command displays the current contents of your crontab file in the terminal.

How can I schedule a cron job to run at a specific time?

To schedule a cron job to run at a specific time, you need to specify the desired time values in your crontab entry. For example, to run a command every day at 8:00 AM, you can use the following crontab entry: 0 8 * * * command-to-be-executed.

How can I troubleshoot a cron job that is not working?

There are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot a cron job that is not working. First, check the syntax of your crontab entry to ensure it is correct. Second, verify that the command you are trying to run is executable and works as expected outside of the cron environment. Finally, check if there are any error messages or logs related to the cron job that can provide insights into the issue.

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