Is it possible to run a cron job every 30 seconds without a sleep command?

  • 4
    What is your intention? Is cron the right tool to use for this? Aug 2, 2009 at 20:56
  • Good question. Aug 2, 2009 at 20:59
  • For instance, I am currently using cron to change my desktop background picture, to circumvent limitations of the native background image switcher (not diving into subdirectories). If I wanted to switch more often than once per minute, I would run into this cron limitation. (although the native bg switcher has the same limitation)
    – donquixote
    Jun 23, 2016 at 16:11
  • There are many good answers below with different solutions. With or without sleep. There are also interesting solutions for the process locking issue, which is related.
    – mit
    Apr 25, 2020 at 4:00

10 Answers 10


If your task needs to run that frequently, cron is the wrong tool. Aside from the fact that it simply won't launch jobs that frequently, you also risk some serious problems if the job takes longer to run than the interval between launches. Rewrite your task to daemonize and run persistently, then launch it from cron if necessary (while making sure that it won't relaunch if it's already running).

  • 26
    The part "you also risk some serious problems if the job takes longer to run than the interval between launches." is not true and if it was it would apply equally to jobs that run every 5 minutes, every hour, or every month for that matter. That problem has solutions (using a pidfile or whatever and checking whether the job is already running before running it). So the issue is that cron just won't allow that frequency, but it is incorrect to say that there is something intrinsically wrong in executing a task every less than a minute.
    – matteo
    Nov 13, 2012 at 21:30
  • 3
    I meant if you don't use a pidfile. If your job runs every X minutes, and takes more than X minutes to finish, you'll end up with jobs stacking up. If your job is also limited by some sort of resource (CPU, network/disk bandwidth, etc), then running more at a time will make it take even longer to finish, and eventually your computer will turn into a thrashing mess.
    – user15323
    Nov 14, 2012 at 3:08
  • 3
    You can use run-one to ensure a program / even a PHP script isn't starting a duplicate instance. sudo apt-get install run-one and call it by run-one <normal command>
    – kouton
    Jul 3, 2014 at 10:34
  • 6
    As answers further down show, it is very well possible, albeit a bit hackish. Why is YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!!!! the accepted answer here, when it doesn't answer the question at all?
    – Mantriur
    May 23, 2015 at 19:17
  • 1
    It's too easy to just say "wrong tool". That's not an answer, it's a side suggestion. You never know what's the purpose. For some cases, cron is still the right tool. You won't setup Nomad just for 3 jobs, or to convert 700 legacy cron-syntaxes, do you? Why is cron good enough running every minute, but not every 30s? Does not make sense. Long running tasks are not an argument, either. Daemonize is also not a solution when frequently changing setups are involved. You just need a cron daemon that is able to handle the 6col syntax, thats all. Just like github.com/pugnascotia/mantra.
    – sgohl
    Oct 2, 2019 at 12:25

Candidate for the most creative misuse of a Linux command:

nohup watch -n 30 --precise yourprog >/dev/null &

If yourprog consists of:

date +%M.%S.%N >> yourprog.out

then yourprog.out might look like:


indicating a pretty good level of precision.

Here is an explanation of the parts of the command:

  • nohup - This keeps the command that follows it, watch in this case, from exiting when the terminal exits.
  • watch - This program runs a command repeatedly. Normally the first screenful of output from the command is displayed each time watch runs the command.
  • -n 30 - The interval at which to run the command. In this case it's every thirty seconds.
  • --precise - Without this option, watch runs the command after interval seconds. With it, each start of the command begins on the interval if possible. If this option were not specified in the example, the times would get later and later by more than 30 seconds each time due to the time it takes to launch and execute the command (yourprog).
  • yourprog - The program or command line for watch to execute. If the command line contains characters special to the shell (e.g. space or semicolon) it will need to be quoted.
  • >/dev/null - The greater-than redirects the output of the command being run by watch to a file, /dev/null. That file discards any data written to it. This prevents the output from being written to the screen or, since nohup is being used, it prevents output from being sent to a file called nohup.out.
  • & - The watch command is run in the background and control is returned to the terminal or parent process.

Note that nohup, the redirection of output and the & background control operator are not specific to watch.

Here is an explanation of the example yourprog script:

  • date - Outputs the current date and/or time. It can also set them.
  • +%M.%S.%N - This specifies the output format for date to use. %M is the current minute, %S is the current second and %N is the current nanosecond.
  • >> yourprog.out - This redirects the output of the date command to a file called yourprog.out. The double greater-than causes the output to be appended to the file on each invocation rather than the previous contents being overwritten.


Possibly another thing that could be abused (or perhaps it's a legitimate use) is systemd timers.

See systemd/Timers as a cron replacement and Cron vs systemd timers.

I'll try to post an example soon.

  • 10
    I'm giving +1 for pure cheek Aug 16, 2009 at 14:31
  • 2
    Would be nice to have a bit more explanation with this answer. The nohup command is new to me. The internet tells me it is to ignore the hangup signal. Which still leaves me confused.
    – donquixote
    Jun 23, 2016 at 16:19
  • 2
    @donquixote: It's important to recognize that the command as a whole in my answer is not a recommended thing to do, hence the use of the word "misuse". However, in order to clarify things for you a little since there are useful techniques included I'll try to describe a few. The & causes the command to run in the background, returning control to the command prompt immediately. Using the nohup command causes the backgrounded process (in this case watch) to ignore the hangup signal which is sent when the shell exits such as when you close the terminal. ... Jun 23, 2016 at 19:26
  • 1
    ... Redirecting output using >/dev/null causes the output to be discarded and prevents the creation of a nohup.out file which would otherwise be created when standard output is a terminal. Jun 23, 2016 at 19:47
  • 1
    @donquixote: Not just 30 seconds from now, every 30 seconds. The rest is to have it run unattended in the background to be more cron-like. If you wanted to use sleep, you would need to write a loop so the process would repeat (watch does this repeating for you, as does cron). You would still need nohup and &. An added problem with sleep would be time drift. The --precise option of watch avoids this. Without it or when using sleep in a loop, the time interval has the time it takes for the commands or script to run added to it so each run gets later and later than the... Jun 23, 2016 at 22:10
* * * * * /path/to/program
* * * * * sleep 30; /path/to/program

Don't forget to write something into your program so that it exits if a previous instance is already running.


if ln -s "pid=$$" /var/pid/myscript.pid; then
  trap "rm /var/pid/myscript.pid" 0 1 2 3 15
  echo "Already running, or stale lockfile." >&2
  exit 1

Of course, this still leaves a very small opportunity for failure, so search google for a better solution applicable to your environment.

  • 1
    it has been asked: without a sleep command
    – philippe
    May 23, 2015 at 21:40
  • 17
    Other visitors finding this question don't care if the sleep command is used :)
    – donquixote
    Jun 23, 2016 at 21:39
  • Many people come here from google searches that do not exclude sleep.There is nothing wrong about sleep. The OP probably does not care. He is long gone. Read the questions as: "if possible".
    – mit
    Apr 25, 2020 at 4:05

Cron is designed to wake up at every minute, so it is not possible to do it without some hacking, for example sleep like you mentioned.


You can do this with third party software.

An option that has worked well for me is frequent-cron

It allows millisecond precision and it gives you the option to defer the next execution until the current one has exited..

  • 1
    Frequent-cron has worked well for us too and powers many of our production systems. We haven't ever had an issue with it.
    – Homer6
    Oct 30, 2013 at 21:01

my simplest and favorite solution for this task:

cron entry:
* * * * * flock -w0 /path/to/script /path/to/script

while true;do echo doing something; sleep 10s;done

lazy alternative: :)

* * * * * flock -w0 /path/to/log watch -n 10 echo doing >> /path/to/log


* * * * * flock -w0 /path/to/log watch -n 10 /path/to/script


  • use of flock command avoids running the script by multiple instances in the same time. It can be very important in the most cases.
  • flock and watch commands is available on most Linux installs


  • stopping of this kind of "Service" needs two to steps
    • comment out the cron entry
    • kill the script or the watch command
  • 2
    Can someone pls explain this to a linux newbie - with pros and cons? Thanks ..
    – a20
    Dec 13, 2017 at 15:29
  • @asvany I think I like this solution but as a20, could you post some explanation for the Linux "green" please? ty.
    – JoelAZ
    Mar 16, 2019 at 1:14
  • I think the syntax for the first flock command is wrong. The first path provided should be the lockfile, so the cron entry should be something like this (my change is in uppercase): * * * * * flock -w0 /path/to/LOCKFILE /path/to/script Jun 21, 2022 at 13:26

I'd have a couple of concerns:

(1) sometimes a system gets busy and cannot start things exactly on the 30 second point, it is then possible that at the same time you are running one job another job would pop and then you have 2 (or more) jobs doing the same thing. Depending on the script, there may be some significant interference here. Thus, coding in such a script should contain some code to insure that only one instance of the given scripting is running at the same time.

(2) The script could possibly have a lot of overhead, and consume more system resources than you might want. This is true if you are competing against a lot of other system activities.

Thus as one poster has put it, in this case I'd seriously consider putting in a daemon running with additional processes to ensure it remains running if its of critical importance to your operations.

  • Not answering the question. These are different subjects and belong to the comments.
    – mit
    Apr 25, 2020 at 4:07

Not an exact answer to your question, but I think it could be useful to some people anyway. If you want to run a command every second, you could do it like this. Each minute, it loops through the 60 seconds, runs a script in a sub-shell and sleeps for 1 second. You need to make sure, that you create a locking file (or a similar mechanism) and abort the script.pl accordingly (if you don't want to run it multiple times in parallel).

* * * * * for((i=0; i<60; i++)); do /usr/bin/perl script.pl & sleep 1; done;
  • This is a nice solution
    – mit
    Apr 25, 2020 at 4:09

One simple strategy for Linux OSes is to make a SystemD service, e.g. /etc/systemd/system/myservice.service:



ExecStart=/usr/bin/bash /home/janie/myservice.sh

Then in myservice.sh:

while true
  sleep 10

This will accomplish running the command /home/janie/run_every_10_sec every 10 seconds.

To enable myservice.service, run sudo systemctl enable myservice.


A solution, if it's for your own script or if you can wrap it:

  1. Get and remember start time.
  2. If a lock file, which you will be touching later, is present and script has not been running for 60 seconds, wait a second and check again. (e.g. while/sleep)*
  3. If lock file is still present after 60 seconds have elapsed, exit with a stale lock warning.
  4. Touch lock file.
  5. While script has not been running for 60 seconds, loop your actual task with the desired sleep duration.
  6. Delete lock file.
  7. Add as minutely cron.
  8. Bob's your uncle.

Less of a headache than building and monitoring a daemon.

*If you're using PHP, remember clearstatcache().

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