Run PHP from cron

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One method to automatically run a PHP script at specified time intervals is to use Crontab. This can be particularly beneficial for scripts that need to automatically update information without user interaction such as a script that gathers website statistics so that they can be emailed to you or a script that regularly retrieves content from another website.

It is important to note that cron sets up a separate environment for running scripts. This environment does not include the standard environment variables your script(s) may be expecting. This means that when you create a new cron job (through the panel or manually through the shell) you must ensure that you refer to shell commands and files by their full path. This is why on the command line you can enter "php script.php" and it will work while cron requires "/usr/local/php54/bin/php script.php" to do the same thing. For files your script references you also need to use the full path to refer to them (i.e. /home/<USER NAME>/path/to/text.txt).

Important icon.png Important: Please be aware that DreamHost recommends you use PHP version 5.5. You can find more info about PHP here:

Simple Cron Job

The way to have a PHP script run automatically is to make an entry in a cron file. An easy way to do this is to open your DreamHost panel and click on "Cron Jobs" under "Goodies" in the left hand menu. Click "Add New Cron Job" and then fill in the information. You will need to select a user whose account will be used to run the PHP script (this user must have shell access). Enter a title for this Cron Job and, if you want to have the output that would normally appear on the command line emailed to you, enter an email address.

Now the important part. Begin the "Command to run" text field by entering the full path of the PHP-CLI instance that you want to use to run the script. If you want to run your script using PHP 5 that path would be:


Make sure you use the syntax above in which "usr" is a subdirectory and not your user name on Dreamhost.

If you are using php 5.4

Be sure to use:


This informs the cron environment where to locate the necessary PHP commands. On the same line enter the full path to your PHP script. The final result of the command to run should look something like this:

/usr/local/php54/bin/php /home/<USER NAME>/path/to/script.php

In this syntax <USER NAME> IS your user name on Dreamhost.

The /path/ needs to point to the actual name of the website folder on Dreamhost, not on the Web. So if the subdirectory is not the exact name of the online URL you need to use the Dreamhost subdirectory name.

Now all you need to do is choose when to have the cron job run and you're set! Click the "Add" button to have this cron job added to your account and it will take effect immediately.

Note2 icon.png Note:
  • When testing set the Cron job to run every hour and set an e-mail address for reporting the results. This will give you important information about what may be going wrong if the Command Line is not running the software as desired. When everything is running properly,set the desired repeat time.
  • Make sure you have set all the Write and other permissions for all the files in your remote folders listed in the instructions for the software you are planning to run using the Cron Job. If you get an error message about "permission denied" it means your permissions are not set properly. Many FTP software programs allow you to set permission in your remote folders.

See also