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The crontabs on RHEL seem to be duplicated in two places, /etc/cron.d, and /var/spool/cron. I've checked, and neither of these are simlinks to the other, and neither are any of the crons contained in either location.

I guess my most important question is this, which of these two is the authoritative location? If I were to edit a file in only one of these two, which one would I have to make my edit in to get it to execute?

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Don't forget about /etc/crontab! –  mdpc Oct 27 '11 at 17:34
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up vote 10 down vote accepted

/var/spool/cron is where the individual user crontabs live. As user, crontab -e edits the corresponding file in /var/spool/cron.

/etc/cron.d is a directory that is scanned for modular crontab files. The syntax is slightly different for files in that directory. The cron entries have an additional field for a user to run the cron entries as. This is the same as a systemwide /etc/crontab file.

See RedHat's documentation here: http://docs.redhat.com/docs/en-US/Red_Hat_Enterprise_Linux/3/html/System_Administration_Guide/ch-autotasks.html

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Adding that the files in /etc/cron.d/ are, in effect, all root-owned (and therefore not user cron files); also, these files are NOT run "by cron" - they are run by a cron job that looks at these files. –  adaptr Oct 27 '11 at 14:05
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