My goal is to run a Docker container that contains crontab. So I want, as a non-root user, to be able to run scheduled crontab jobs. I am running the following Docker image:

FROM openjdk:8
RUN apt-get update && apt-get -y install nano
RUN apt-get update && apt-get -y install cron
RUN service cron start # tried both
RUN cron               # tried both
ENV TZ="Europe/Rome"
RUN useradd -u 8877 myuser
USER myuser
CMD ["tail", "-f", "/dev/null"]

I deploy it in a Docker stack:

  image: reg/image
  - cap_dac_override
  mode: replicated
  replicas: 1
    condition: any
    delay: 3s
    window: 60s
    constraints: [node.role == manager]
    delay: 2s
  - v:/my/vol
  - PUID=8877
  - PGID=8877

When I run docker exec -it <id> bash as myuser into the container, I execute service cron status and it outputs "cron is running." But if I run crontab -e, the file I am writing appears with red error message "Problems with history file". If I try to save it others errors appear such as "no crontab for myuser - using an empty one touch: cannot touch '/home/myuser/.selected_editor': No such file or directory Unable to create directory /home/myuser/.local/share/nano/: No such file or directory It is required for saving/loading search history or cursor positions."

  • Does /home/myuser exist? If yes, does the user have access permissions for it?
    – choroba
    Mar 14 at 16:53
  • I can't reproduce this. Yes, I also get the "Problems with history file" error due to the user not having a home directory, but there is no issue saving the file and verifying that the crontab was updated (with crontab -l). The cron schedule is also running ok inside the container. I don't recognise the other errors that you list. I tested manually inside a container started with docker run --rm -it openjdk:8 bash.
    – Kusalananda
    Mar 14 at 17:07
  • @choroba not, it does not exist. Obviously that was the problem, I have manually created the personal folder and given privileges to myuser. I thought the container was doing it automatically... I have to set this in the Dockerfile I guess. Thank you! Mar 19 at 8:52
  • It was the useradd command in Dockerfile, it doesn't automatically generate the personal folder, compared to adduser :) Mar 19 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


There may be more than one way to restrict crontab usage. See the crontab manpage for your installation.

In the simplest case, control is via the files /etc/cron.allow, /etc/cron.deny. The rules for their use are very specific:

  • If neither file exists, then only root can run crontab
  • If cron.allow exists, then your username must be listed in order to use crontab.
  • All users in cron.deny are disallowed.
  • If ONLY cron.deny exists, then all users not mentioned can use crontab.
  • 1
    This does not seem to address the cause of the issues that the user in the question is facing.
    – Kusalananda
    Mar 14 at 18:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .