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How do I get the current Unix time in milliseconds (i.e number of milliseconds since Unix epoch January 1 1970)?

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10 Answers 10

up vote 134 down vote accepted


date +%s 

will return the number of seconds since the epoch.


date +%s%N

returns the seconds and current nanoseconds.


date +%s%N | cut -b1-13

will give you the number of milliseconds since the epoch - current seconds plus the left three of the nanoseconds.

and from MikeyB - echo $(($(date +%s%N)/1000000)) (dividing by 1000 only brings to microseconds)

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I wonder how many ms the cut adds :-) – Kyle Brandt Jun 14 '10 at 16:23
Or if you want to do it all in the shell, avoiding the expensive overhead of an additional process (actually, we're avoiding the problem when the number of digits in %+s+N changes): echo $(($(date +%s%N)/1000)) – MikeyB Jun 14 '10 at 16:38
It's the principle of the matter... avoid magic numbers and code what you actually mean. – MikeyB Jun 14 '10 at 18:02
I think it's worth noting that the man asked for Unix, not Linux, and the current top answer (date +%s%N) doesn't work on my AIX system. – Pete Oct 25 '11 at 16:52
@Pete +1 Same for OS X, and FreeBSD – Slomojo May 19 '12 at 0:28

You may simply use %3N to truncate the nanoseconds to the 3 most significant digits (which then are milliseconds):

$ date +%s%3N

This works e.g. on my kubuntu 12.04.

But be aware, that %N may not be implemented depending on your target system. E.g. tested on an embedded system (buildroot rootfs, compiled using a non-HF arm cross toolchain) there was no %N:

$ date +%s%3N

(And also my (non rooted) Android tablet has no %N).

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@warren: I saw that you edited and changed the 1397392146%3N to 1397392146%N, but the output of 1397392146%3N is that what I'd really seen on the busybox console of my android tablet. Could you explain your edit? – Joe Jun 25 '15 at 8:00
warren's comment from the history is "changed from 3 to 6, as 3 only takes you to microseconds". His edit seems entirely spurious; you should roll it back. – bukzor Dec 25 '15 at 0:27

date +%N doesn't work on OS X, but you could use one of

  • ruby: ruby -e 'puts'
  • python: python -c 'import time; print time.time()'
  • node.js: node -e 'console.log('
  • PHP: php -r 'echo microtime(TRUE);'
  • the internets: wget -qO-\\s.\\N
  • or for milliseconds rounded to nearest second date +%s000
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for completeness... node -e 'console.log(' – slf Oct 10 '13 at 18:06
Using PHP: php -r 'echo microtime(TRUE);' – TachyonVortex Nov 22 '13 at 16:41
Sure, you just have to wait for those interpreters to warm up. This works, too: wget -qO-\\s.\\N – Camilo Martin Jun 23 '14 at 13:26
Or, if you don't actually need the milliseconds but just the correct format: date +%s000 – mcb Apr 22 '15 at 16:15
@CamiloMartin: I love your (tongue-in-cheek?) wget exemple to get milliseconds precision out of a (remote) request to a website ^^. Locally, a few of the examples above are indeed probably closer to the tenth-of-a-second or maybe hundredth-of-a-second precision – Olivier Dulac Jan 22 at 16:56

Just throwing this out there, but I think the correct formula with the division would be:

echo $(($(date +%s%N)/1000000))
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My solution is not the best but worked for me.

date +%s000

I just needed to convert a date like 2012-05-05 to milliseconds.

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Amazing hack, lol :) – k06a Mar 24 at 11:16

For the people that suggest running external programs to get the milliseconds... at that rate, you might as well do this:

wget -qO-\\s.\\N

Point being: before picking any answer from here, please keep in mind that not all programs will run under one whole second. Measure!

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You're not asking the local system for the time. Which I guess is implied in the question. You also depend on a network connection. – orkoden Jan 29 '15 at 11:27
@orkoden The question explicitly asks for "number of milliseconds since Unix epoch January 1 1970". Also, I'm more of pointing out how you shouldn't ever fire up whole of Ruby or Python (or wget) just to get the time - either this is done through a fast channel or milliseconds don't matter. – Camilo Martin Jan 29 '15 at 11:57
Yes, I understood that you were giving a worse solution to highlight the bad solutions' flaws. I tried several solutions and measured the time. The results are kind of interesting. Even on a very fast i7 machine date takes 3 ms to run. – orkoden Jan 29 '15 at 12:38
@orkoden Nice testing! What OS? This might have to do with process spawning overhead. – Camilo Martin Jan 30 '15 at 13:18
I used OS X 10.10.2. – orkoden Jan 30 '15 at 16:44

If you are looking for a way to display the length of time your script ran, the following will provide a (not completely accurate) result:

As near the beginning of your script as you can, enter the following

basetime=$(date +%s%N)

This'll give you a starting value of something like 1361802943996000000

At the end of your script, use the following

echo "runtime: $(echo "scale=3;($(date +%s%N) - ${basetime})/(1*10^09)" | bc) seconds"

which will display something like

runtime: 12.383 seconds


(1*10^09) can be replaced with 1000000000 if you wish

"scale=3" is a rather rare setting that coerces bc to do what you want. There are lots more!

I only tested this on Win7/MinGW... I don't have a proper *nix box to hand.

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or you could just use time <script> – warren Apr 25 '14 at 13:32

Here is how to get time in milliseconds without performing division. Maybe it's faster...

# test=`date +%s%N`
# testnum=${#test}
# echo ${test:0:$testnum-6}

Update: Another alternative in pure bash that works only with bash 4.2+ is same as above but use printf to get the date. It will definitely be faster because no processes are forked off the main one.

printf -v test '%(%s%N)T' -1
echo ${test:0:$testnum-6}

Another catch here though is that your strftime implementation should support %s and %N which is NOT the case on my test machine. See man strftime for supported options. Also see man bash to see printf syntax. -1 and -2 are special values for time.

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Using date and expr can get you there i.e.

X=$(expr \`date +%H\` \\* 3600 + \`date +%M\` \\* 60 + \`date +%S\`)
echo $X

Just expand on it to do whatever you want

I realise this does not give milliseconds since epoch, but it might still be useful as an answer for some of the cases, it all depends on what you need it for really, multiply by 1000 if you need a millisecond number :D

Simplest way would be to make a small executable (from C f.ex.) and make it available to the script.

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There's a potential problem running date multiple times. In some cases, the date or time may change between runs as your command is written. It's better to run date once and parse the parts out and do your calculation. One of several ways to do that would be t=$(date +%H%M%S); (( x = ${t:0:2} * 3600 + ${t:2:2} * 60 + ${t:4:2} )); echo "$x". This uses Bash syntax since the question is tagged bash. As you allude, your answer (and my variation) only gives seconds for the current day so far and not since the Epoch and not in millis. – Dennis Williamson Nov 4 '15 at 0:17

(repeat from above) date +%N doesn't work on OS X, but you could use also :

Perl (requires Time::Format module). Perhaps not the best CPAN module to use but gets the job done. Time::Format is generally made available with distributions.

perl -w -e'use Time::Format; printf STDOUT ("%s.%s\n", time, $time{"mmm"})'
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The OP specifically asked for ways to do it using bash. How is this bash, save as a method to launch something else? – MadHatter Mar 15 at 10:48
I use this in my bash shell scripts ... under OSX. So, date can't be used and there is no bash-only commands that answer the need. – TVNshack Mar 15 at 13:37
Fair enough. If you were to clarify why OSX's date can't be used as part of your answer, I'd remove my downvote. – MadHatter Mar 15 at 13:43
This was explained a few answers above. I couldn't add as comment that command which was missing with the proposed list. So I've added it here. – TVNshack Mar 15 at 14:56
Fair enough, I accept this is a useful addition to the canon. +1 from me! – MadHatter Mar 15 at 15:32

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