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Automating System Shutdowns on Linux with Cron

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Introduction

In the world of Linux, automation is a powerful ally that can simplify routine tasks and save you time. One such task is the scheduled shutdown of your Linux machine. Whether you want to power off your server at a specific time every day or just occasionally, Cron, the time-based job scheduler in Linux, can help you achieve this efficiently. In this article, we will explore how to set up automatic system shutdowns using Cron, ensuring your machine is always ready for the next day’s work.

Step 1: Access the Cron Table

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Cron jobs are managed through the Cron table, which can be accessed using the crontab command. To open your user’s crontab for editing, run the following command in your terminal:

crontab -e

This command will open the default text editor where you can define your scheduled tasks.

Step 2: Schedule the Shutdown

To schedule a system shutdown, you need to specify when it should occur in your crontab. The crontab format consists of five fields that determine the minute, hour, day of the month, month, and day of the week when the task should run.

To schedule a daily shutdown at a specific time, use the following format:

Syntax

The syntax of a cron job is defined using five fields, which represent, in order, the minute, hour, day of the month, month, and day of the week when the task should run:

* * * * command_to_run

  • The asterisk (*) is a wildcard character that matches any value within a field.
  • You can specify a single value (e.g., 5), a list of values (e.g., 1,15,30), a range of values (e.g., 1-5), or use an asterisk to match all values.

Common Fields

  1. Minute (0-59)
  2. Hour (0-23)
  3. Day of the Month (1-31)
  4. Month (1-12 or Jan-Dec)
  5. Day of the Week (0-6 or Sun-Sat, where both 0 and 6 represent Sunday)

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Examples

Run a script every day at 2:30 PM

30 14 * * * /path/to/your-script.sh

Run a command every Monday at 3:45 AM

45 3 * * 1 /usr/bin/command-to-run

Run a task on the 1st day of every month at midnight.

0 0 1 * * /path/to/your-script.sh

Step 3: Save and Exit

After you’ve added your shutdown command to the crontab, save the file and exit the text editor. The process may vary depending on your default text editor. For instance, in the Nano text editor, you can press Ctrl + O to save and Ctrl + X to exit.

Step 4: Verify the Cron Job

To verify that your new Cron job is saved, you can list your scheduled jobs using the following command:

crontab -l

You should see the line you added to schedule the shutdown.

Step 5: Ensure Proper Permissions

It’s important to note that shutting down a system may require superuser privileges. Ensure that the user for whom you scheduled the task has the necessary permissions to execute the “shutdown” command. If not, you might need to add the user to the sudoers file to grant those privileges.

Conclusion

Automation is a key feature of Linux, and Cron is a powerful tool that allows you to schedule a wide range of tasks, including system shutdowns. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can easily set up your Linux machine to automatically shut down at a specific time each day, ensuring you save energy and keep your system resources optimized. Remember to use this power responsibly and consider any potential impacts on your system and workflow.

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