Pete Freitag Pete Freitag

Why is my cron.daily script not running?

Published on January 10, 2018
By Pete Freitag

Over the years when setting up servers I have run into the various ways that your cron.daily or cron.hourly scripts manage to fail to run. Today I ran into a new reason which I don't recall running into before, maybe something has changed or maybe I just never ran into it.

I ran into the problem on a Ubuntu 16.04 LTS server - I placed a script in /etc/cron.daily/ but it was not running.

I checked all the usual suspects, the reasons I was aware of that cause a cron script to be ignored:

  • The script must have the x permission
  • The script did not depend on certain environment variables being set (for example if you rely on $HOME to be set, you may need to define it yourself). Cron scripts do not have all the same environment variables that you have when you are logged in to a shell, so the script can work when you run it but fail when cron runs it.
  • The script did not rely on a customized PATH to execute commands. The PATH that cron gives your script will be minimal, and if you have made customizations to it they may not show up. The best way around this is to use the full path to your commands (use the which command to help figure this out).

But my problem was not any of the above. I found that you can execute the run-parts command in a test mode to see which scripts it would call in a directory. You can run it like this (it will not execute any of the scripts, it just outputs which ones it would execute):

run-parts --test /etc/cron.daily

My script was not listed in the output! Well, that was comforting at least but why was it not listed? It turns out you cannot have a file extension on the script, so by renaming the script from to my_script it works!

cron linux unix shell

Why is my cron.daily script not running? was first published on January 10, 2018.

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Thanks! In my case, there was two of them not set as executable (chmod +x scriptfile).
by Javier Lobo on 06/13/2019 at 2:56:29 PM UTC
Your post saved my life! or at least my backups. I was setting up backups on a new systems, and decided to copy an existing system. I noticed its backups were dated that same as when I set them up.

The run-parts and extension tips did the trick. One thing., my scheduled backup command starts with '$(which duplicity)'

Is there a way that I can verify it will work when cron runs it?
by ikomrad on 03/01/2020 at 6:17:46 PM UTC
This was ... exactly what I needed, the issue being file extension. Thank you
by Anders Markendahl on 05/07/2020 at 8:25:24 PM UTC
Thanks for sharing this. I never would have guessed that a file extension would prevent a daily cron script from running!
by Tristan on 09/15/2020 at 4:00:02 PM UTC
Thank you for sharing.
I've got a lot of experience work with RH/CentOS, and only have a couple of servers with Debian. Little differences like this one can drive you nuts (sames script on the other servers works fine with the extension).
by Ivan V. on 09/17/2020 at 9:48:22 AM UTC
It's not the extension per se; it's the ".". But I'd never have guessed either.
by Winston on 11/04/2020 at 6:16:57 AM UTC
Many thanks for this post. It really kept me confused why my script runs correctly manually but it won't run automatically with the other cron.daily scripts.

The post is spot on !
by Ali Kalamchi on 01/15/2021 at 10:50:51 AM UTC