PHP Dead Man's Script

PHP Dead Man's Script (PHP-DMS) is a simple mechanism for sending e-mail messages when the owner is determined to be incapacitated, deceased, or otherwise unable to communicate. It requires only a web server with PHP, Apache, cron, and a working PHP mail() function.


PHP-DMS is based on the dead man's switch concept, and provides a mechanism for performing a certain action in the event of a prolonged period without action on the part of the operator.

PHP-DMS may be used to send system access credentials, passwords, bank account information, insurance policy details, or other important information to one or more recipients based on a specific schedule.

How it Works

Once installed on a web server, a cron job needs to be created which will call the main application script exactly once daily. A counter file is used to keep track of how many times the script is called. At owner-defined intervals, a check-in request is sent to the owner via e-mail. These requests include a link to click on to check in with the system. Once checked in, the counter resets at zero.

Once the counter exceeds a certain point, say, 30 days without hearing from the owner, the system assumes the owner is "dead" and begins sending messages.

Messages are stored in folders by e-mail address, and then by send delay, and are in plain text, or, for better security, can be in the form of ASCII-armored GPG.


The application is very lightweight with minimal resource requirements. A database server is not required; two small data files and one configuration file keep track of all necessary settings.


Upon downloading, refer to the README file for setup instructions. This file also contains important considerations with regard to installation and security.


This project can be downloaded from GitHub OR download the latest release bundle here.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

You are free to distribute, modify, and adapt this work, provided you give attribution to the original project, that you similarly share any derived work, and that you do so on a strictly non-commercial basis.


All feedback on PHP-DMS can be directed to

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