Linux / UNIX: Change Crontab Email Settings ( MAILTO )

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I would like to send an email to instead of default system root user for crond service on a Linux or Unix-like system. How do I change the email settings under crontab file on a Linux or Unix-like systems?

A crontab file contains instructions to the cron daemon. It wakes up every minute, examining all stored crontabs, checking each command to see if it should be run in the current minute. When executing commands, any output is mailed to the owner of the crontab or to the user named in the MAILTO environment variable in the crontab, if such exists. The syntax is:[donotprint][/donotprint]


name = value

Where the spaces around the equal-sign (=) are optional, and any subsequent non-leading spaces in value will be part of the value assigned to name. The value string may be placed in quotes (single or double, but matching) to preserve leading or trailing blanks. The value string is not parsed for environmental substitutions, thus lines like:


will not work as you might expect.

MAILTO Variable

In addition to LOGNAME, HOME, and SHELL, cron will look at MAILTO if it has any reason to send mail as a result of running commands in “this” crontab. If MAILTO is defined (and non-empty), mail is sent to the user so named. First open your crontab file:
# vi /etc/crontab
$ crontab -e
To send email to, enter:

If MAILTO is defined but empty (MAILTO=””), no mail will be sent.
Otherwise mail is sent to the owner of the crontab.

This entry is 7 of 16 in the Linux Cron Jobs Howto & Tutorial series. Keep reading the rest of the series:
  1. What is cron on a Linux or Unix-like systems?
  2. How To Add Jobs To cron Under Linux or UNIX?
  3. Verify crond Daemon And Cronjobs Are Running
  4. Start Restart and Stop The Cron or Crond Service
  5. List / Display All Cron Jobs
  6. Linux / UNIX Crontab File Location
  7. Change Crontab Email Settings ( MAILTO )
  8. Disable The Mail Alert By Crontab Command On a Linux or Unix-like Systems
  9. At What Time Cron Entries In cron.daily, cron.weekly, cron.monthly Run?
  10. Execute Cron Job After System Reboot
  11. Setup and Run PHP Script As A Cron Job
  12. Run crontab job every minute on a Linux or Unix-like system
  13. Running crontab (cron jobs) Every 10 Minutes
  14. Cron Job Script Execution on the Last Day of a Month
  15. Execute / Run crontab (cron jobs) every 1 minute
  16. Ubuntu create cron.log file

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.


18 comment

  1. I too have always the “.forward” option. This is done by the follwing…..

    create a new file called .forward
    vi /root/.forward

    Enter the email address on the first line in the file.

    Save (w) the file and exit (q)

    Now, anytime the ‘root’ user get an email, it will automatically be forwarded to the address you specified in the .forward file.

    You can also place the .forward file in users home directories /home/user1/.forward

    Thanks for the info up above though, I’ll have to check that out.

  2. Yes, that’s entirely possible. Just figure out if the emails are being sent with sendmail or postfix, then adjust their settings to reflect that. You could deploy address rewrites to achieve this, for example.

  3. SOLARIS does not support the MAILTO feature. Instead one needs to append the crontab entry with | mailto user@domain
    00 12 * * * | mail user@domain

  4. Mail addressed to ‘root’ is often redirected to some other account using /etc/aliases. You might like to edit (or add) the line beginning with ‘root:’ to point to some other account.

  5. But, How if I dont want to receive notification from crontab? How to set it ? Because I’m monitoring mail server, and notification from crontab unnecessary for me.

  6. @alex: add >/dev/null 2>&1 to the end of your line(s) in crontab. This will redirect all crontab output to /dev/null

  7. I wanted to know under what circumstances will the email be sent.
    Is it only when cron encounters a warning or error
    Or even when the commad is executed succesfully

  8. Hi,

    While using cronjob when my cronjob fails then the mail is sent to the user who is login but not to mailto user. What is required to send mail to the “mailto” user even when the test fails.

  9. Hi!
    I’ve setted up a new cron (rsync job), the first few days it mades errors which I get by email. Now it looks to work fine, but I don’t get an email. Someone knows why?

    thanks in advance

  10. i have this line in crontab could someone explain me what is the mean of this?
    thanks by advance
    #*/1 * * * * root /usr/local/rtm/bin/rtm 26 > /dev/null 2> /dev/null

    1. this will run the /usr/local/rtm/bin/rtm script once every minute and redirects the output messages to /dev/null so as to get rid of them

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