sudo crontab -u root -e
Which way is preferred? As they all run tasks within administration privilege.
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/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 Linux distros, per user crontabs are typically stored in:
/etc/cron.d (and its siblings cron.daily/weekly/monthly) is preferred for all system crontabs. You shouldn't need to touch /etc/crontab.
It's essential to separate cron entries in multiple files, based on their functionality if you are planing to manage or automate things. Files under /etc/cron.d can be easily managed by packages or configuration management tools like puppet and chef. Root's crontab OTOH is practically un-maintenable by anything other than humans.
So in short, for system stuff you can use /etc/cron.*. If there's something you would like the root user to do then use root's crontab. /etc/crontab should be left untouched and managed by a package.