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I get the following error in my syslog:

Oct 17 13:14:03 tracker cron[873]: (*system*) ERROR (Syntax error, this crontab file will be ignored)
Oct 17 13:14:03 tracker cron[873]: Error: bad minute; while reading /etc/crontab

I don't see any bad minutes though! My crontab file is:

# /etc/crontab: system-wide crontab
# Unlike any other crontab you don't have to run the `crontab'
# command to install the new version when you edit this file
# and files in /etc/cron.d. These files also have username fields,
# that none of the other crontabs do.

SHELL=/bin/sh
PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin

# m h dom mon dow user  command
17 *    * * *   root    cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.hourly
25 18   * * *   root    test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.daily )
47 18   * * 7   root    test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.weekly )
52 18   1 * *   root    test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.monthly )
#
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migrated from serverfault.com Oct 17 '11 at 14:51

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

2  
Which operating system and version? Older Unix systems might not support the syntax for setting environment variables. – RedGrittyBrick Oct 17 '11 at 15:09
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Use cat -v /etc/crontab to check for unintended control characters.

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Cron tab requires at least the first and last lines of the file not to be actual cron instructions. You can put comments instead - such as those below in a file:

# START CRON JOB LIST
* * * * * /path/to/script/script1.sh
0 3 * * 0 /path/to/script/script2.sh
5 0 * * 1 /path/to/script/script3.sh
# END CRON JOB LIST

Install it like so

sudo crontab -u user /path/to/cron/file

This should work for you.

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