Cron jobs have long been the go-to solution for scheduling tasks on Unix-like systems. However, systemd timers offer a more modern and flexible alternative. In this tutorial, we will explore how to use systemd timers as a replacement for cron jobs. We will cover the basics of systemd timers, their advantages, and how to optimize them for your specific needs.

What are systemd timers?

Systemd timers are units that allow you to schedule tasks to run at specific times or intervals. They are part of the systemd init system, which has become the standard on many Linux distributions. Unlike cron jobs, systemd timers are integrated into the system’s service management, providing better control and flexibility.

Advantages of systemd timers over cron jobs

There are several advantages to using systemd timers instead of cron jobs:

  • Integration with systemd: Systemd timers are managed by systemd, which provides better control and monitoring capabilities.
  • Dependency management: Systemd timers can easily handle dependencies between tasks, ensuring that they are executed in the correct order.
  • Logging and error handling: Systemd timers have built-in logging and error handling mechanisms, making it easier to troubleshoot and debug tasks.
  • Flexibility: Systemd timers offer more advanced scheduling options, such as the ability to run tasks at specific intervals or on specific days of the week.

Creating a systemd timer

To create a systemd timer, you need to define two units: a timer unit and a service unit. The timer unit specifies when and how often the task should be executed, while the service unit defines the actual task to be performed.

Here’s an example of a systemd timer unit:

Description=My Timer

OnCalendar=*-*-* 00:00:00


And here’s an example of a corresponding service unit:

Description=My Service


In this example, the timer unit is set to run the service unit every day at midnight. The service unit specifies the script or command to be executed.

Enabling and starting a systemd timer

Once you have created the timer and service units, you need to enable and start the timer. Here are the commands to do so:

sudo systemctl enable mytimer.timer
sudo systemctl start mytimer.timer

The first command enables the timer, ensuring that it starts automatically on system boot. The second command starts the timer immediately.

Viewing the status and logs of a systemd timer

To check the status of a systemd timer and view its logs, you can use the following commands:

sudo systemctl status mytimer.timer
journalctl -u mytimer.timer

The first command displays the current status of the timer, including whether it is running or not. The second command shows the logs related to the timer.

Modifying a systemd timer

If you need to modify a systemd timer, you can use the following commands:

sudo systemctl edit mytimer.timer

This command opens a text editor where you can make changes to the timer unit. After saving the changes, you need to reload the systemd configuration:

sudo systemctl daemon-reload

Remember to restart the timer for the changes to take effect:

sudo systemctl restart mytimer.timer

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I use systemd timers on any Linux distribution?

A: Systemd timers are part of the systemd init system, which has become the standard on many Linux distributions. However, some older distributions may still use cron jobs as the default task scheduler. It’s recommended to check your distribution’s documentation to confirm if systemd timers are supported.

Q: How do I disable a systemd timer?

A: To disable a systemd timer, you can use the following command:

sudo systemctl disable mytimer.timer

This command will prevent the timer from starting automatically on system boot.

Q: Can I run multiple tasks with a single systemd timer?

A: Yes, you can define multiple service units within a single timer unit. Each service unit will represent a separate task to be executed.

Optimizing systemd timers

To optimize your systemd timers, consider the following tips:

  • Use OnCalendar: The OnCalendar option allows you to specify a specific date and time for your task to run. You can also use wildcards and ranges to define recurring schedules. For example, OnCalendar=*-*-* 00:00:00 will run the task every day at midnight.
  • Set Persistent: By setting Persistent=true in the timer unit, systemd will ensure that missed tasks are executed when the system is next available. This is useful for tasks that should always be executed, even if the system was offline during the scheduled time.
  • Consider Accuracy: Systemd timers have a default accuracy of 1 minute. If you require more precise scheduling, you can adjust the accuracy by setting the AccuracySec option in the timer unit.
  • Handle Dependencies: If your tasks have dependencies, make use of the After and Requires options in the service unit to ensure that the necessary services are started before your task.
  • Monitor and Debug: Regularly check the status and logs of your systemd timers to ensure they are running as expected. Use the systemctl status and journalctl commands to view the relevant information.


Systemd timers provide a modern and flexible alternative to cron jobs for scheduling tasks on Unix-like systems. In this tutorial, we have covered the basics of systemd timers, their advantages over cron jobs, how to create, enable, start, view status, and modify systemd timers. We have also provided tips for optimizing systemd timers to suit your specific needs. By leveraging the power of systemd timers, you can efficiently manage your task scheduling requirements.

Remember to consult the official systemd documentation for more detailed information and advanced usage.