How to take backup of crontab in Linux and why?

In this article, we will walk you through the steps of how to take backup of crontab in Linux and explain why is it a good practice.

Crontab is a powerful utility in Linux that allows users to schedule and automate tasks at specific intervals. These scheduled tasks are essential for system maintenance, backups, and regular operations.

However, accidents happen, and sometimes crontab entries can be accidentally modified or deleted. To prevent the loss of critical schedules, it’s crucial to know how to take a backup of your crontab. At first, crontab may be overlooked by many, but in reality there is plenty of reasons why you would want to take backup of crontab in Linux.

Why backup your Crontab in Linux?

Backing up your crontab is an essential practice to safeguard your scheduled tasks and configurations and there are several reasons why you should make regular backups of your crontab:

  • Accidental Changes: Crontab is edited through the terminal, and it’s easy to make a mistake while modifying it. A backup ensures that you can quickly revert to the previous version if something goes wrong.
  • System Crashes: In the event of a system crash or unexpected power outage, there is a risk of losing your crontab entries. Having a backup allows you to restore the schedules promptly.
  • User Errors: Even experienced users can make errors while managing their crontab. A backup provides a safety net against unintended errors.
  • System Migration: If you plan to migrate to a new system or server, having a crontab backup makes the transition smoother. You can easily transfer your schedules without the need to recreate them from scratch.

And now that we understand the importance of backing up your crontab, let’s see how to do it.

How to Take Backup of Crontab

Now its time to learn how to backup of crontab in Linux! We will show you how to do it quickly, effectively, and how to automate it. Who doesn’t love a good old automation?

Note that you can use this on ANY Linux distribution, it doesn’t matter if its Ubuntu or Arch or anything else.

In your terminal, type the following command

crontab -l > crontab_backup.txt

This command instructs the system to list your current crontab entries using the crontab -l command and save the output to a file named crontab_backup.txt. You can choose a different filename if you prefer.

How to Take Backup of Crontab in Linux - Command for backup

Verify the backup of your crontab

After making a file, we suggest you to verify just in case that data matches.

cat crontab_backup.txt

Compare that to “crontab -l” results.

Store the Backup Safely:

It’s essential to keep your crontab backup in a safe location. You can save it in your home directory or any other directory with restricted access to prevent unauthorized access or accidental deletion.

Better alternative is to store it on another server, and we will soon provide you with a command that does exactly that. Did you know that you can use our KVM VPS as a backup server?

Our Linux VPS machines provide you with fast, secure and reliable environment that can be used for many different things, and backups are one of those.

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Automate the Backup Process (Optional)

If you want to schedule regular backups of your crontab automatically, you can create a new cron job to do it.

For example, to back up your crontab daily, you can add the following entry:

0 0 * * * crontab -l > /path/to/crontab_backup.txt

Make sure to edit /path/to/ and set your own location where you want it to be saved. To add it, type “crontab -e” and add it at the end of the file and save. On most distributions, nano editor will be used, so to save you just hold CTRL + O and then use CTRL + X to exit.

This command will create a new backup file every day at midnight (00:00).

To take it step further, we can automate backups for crontab to another server with the following task:

0 1 * * * scp /path/to/crontab_backup IP_OF_BACKUP_SERVER:/home/

Add it the same way using “crontab -e”. This will run every day at 1AM, an hour after crontab backup task. Just do note that this remote backup command assumes that you are authenticating to the server using SSH keys and not with password.

crontab -e result and how commands should look like

Understanding Crontab

Now that is sorted out, let’s learn a thing or two about crontab so you can better understand the commands and how to use them.

Crontab is a time-based job scheduler in Linux, allowing users to automate tasks at specified intervals. It uses the cron daemon, which runs continuously in the background and triggers scheduled tasks based on predefined time patterns.

Each user on a Linux system can have their own crontab, and the cron daemon executes tasks on behalf of these users.

A crontab entry consists of five fields followed by the command to be executed:

  • Minute (0-59): The minute when the task should run.
  • Hour (0-23): The hour of the day when the task should run.
  • Day of the Month (1-31): The day of the month when the task should run.
  • Month (1-12): The month when the task should run.
  • Day of the Week (0-6): The day of the week when the task should run (0 for Sunday, 6 for Saturday).

An asterisk (*) in any field represents “any value,” allowing tasks to run every minute, every hour, etc.

Users can also use specific values or ranges to define precise schedules. For example, 0 2 * * * means the task will run at 2:00 AM daily.


In conclusion, taking a backup of your crontab in Linux is a straightforward yet crucial task to ensure the continuity and reliability of your scheduled jobs.

By following the steps mentioned above, you can easily safeguard your crontab configurations and be prepared for any unexpected mishaps.

Remember to make regular backups and store them securely to have peace of mind while managing your system’s automated tasks.

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