What is the difference between the crontab located in
/etc/crontab and the crontab that can be edited using
As Ignacio said,
/etc/crontab is the system wide crontab.
The format of
/etc/crontab is like this:
# m h dom mon dow user command * * * * * someuser echo 'foo'
crontab -e is per user, it's worth mentioning with no
-u argument the crontab command goes to the current users crontab. You can do
crontab -e -u <username> to edit a specific users crontab.
Notice in a per user crontab there is no 'user' field.
# m h dom mon dow command * * * * * echo 'foo'
An aspect of crontabs that may be confusing is that root also has its own crontab. e.g.
crontab -e -u root will not edit
/etc/crontab See Configuring cron.
In most Linux distros, per user crontabs are typically stored in:
RHEL based distributions are stored in
1FYI, the path given above is incorrect: per-user crontabs are stored in /var/spool/cron/crontabs/<username> (I tried twice to submit this simple correction.) Jan 8, 2016 at 18:09
1... and it's corrected now. Jan 8, 2016 at 19:12
Actually, it's stored in
/var/spool/cron/rootfor root's per-user crontab on a RHEL 6 system. Haven't checked Ubuntu, but saying "typically" seems a bit of a stretch.– WildcardAug 28, 2017 at 20:48
@Wildcard I think "typically" is a fair word to use. RHEL distros ship w/ "cronie" (and anacron I believe) which is their fork of ISC-Cron/vixie cron. I don't think that's a stretch, in any case I've updated my answer to include more detail.– skrewlerSep 22, 2017 at 6:07
1For a quick lookup of the paths across distros, search for the string
path[crontabs]in the CFEngine "paths" library and check the context (the preceding context lines look like e.g.
redhat::). There's more variation than you think; e.g. SUSE puts them in
/var/spool/cron/tabs. (Abstracting distro differences is one of the reasons CFEngine was originally created, so it's often a good reference.)– WildcardSep 22, 2017 at 6:20
One is the system crontab and can only be edited by root, and the other is the user crontab and can be edited by a user and exists per user.