How-To Geek

Sync Your System Clock with Internet Time Servers in Ubuntu

Ubuntu has an easy way to keep your system synchronized with the internet time servers. This is especially useful on older computers that may have problems with the system clock losing time.

Note: This article is out of date. Please read our updated article, Sync the Clock with Internet Time Servers in Ubuntu 10.04

To enable this feature, first we’ll right click the clock and choose Adjust Date & Time:

You should see this screen, where you can select the checkbox to synchronize the time:

Most likely, NTP support has not been installed on your computer, unless you had installed it before. Click the Install NTP support button to install it.

Your system should now start synchronizing the time with the time servers. If you want to manually sync the time, you have to first uncheck the “keep clock synchronized” checkbox, and then you can check the “Synchronize Now” button:


Pretty cool.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/5/06

Comments (14)

  1. ForgotTheName

    Is NTP resource intensive? Im hesitating installing it bc i worry it kills sys resources…

  2. Rob

    I decided not to use another deamon but to add a simple command in my startup script:
    sudo ntpdate

    It keeps my time uptodate via timeserver, maybe you should use a server from a location near you.
    The command takes just 2 seconds to complete at startup, and it doesn’t kill your resources.
    You can create a cron job too if you like!

  3. Mike Scirocco

    Thanks, this was just what I was looking for, your presentation was very clear. Nice work.

  4. Pete Braven

    Ah,.. this is what I like to see,.. geek-speak for utter numpties! (like me!) Cheers mate, works a treat and no it doesn’t eat the system!

  5. Shane

    Rob, unfortunately, that’s not the preferred solution. The ntp daemon uses almost no resources. On my system right now, there is approximately 300K of RAM used by it, and no processor usage. Do a quick search for ntpd vs. ntpdate, and you’ll find ‘everyone’ recommends ntpd. It keeps track of your synchronizations, and accounts for some other variables to keep your clock even more accurate than just running ntpdate at startup. Of course, if you really don’t care about having an accurate clock all the time, by all means setup a cronjob or startup script with ntpdate, but that’s my 2 cents.

  6. Eric March

    Very easy to understand. Well done

  7. HappySpaceInvader

    This information is out of date for Ubuntu Intrepid (8.10). In a vanilla installation, there are no options for NTP in the Date & Time settings, nor are there any prompts to install NTP support. It looks as if this feature has been discontinued unless you have the knowledge to set it up manually at the command line (fortunately, I do).

    I imagine, this is to prevent all new Ubuntu users from synchonrising to the same default time server and never changing it to sync to one that is nearer to home. This is one of those areas where ‘paid for’ operating systems win out in my opinion. Microsoft and Apple can afford to set up and maintain a bunch of their own time servers (,, etc.) for their users.

  8. Jason

    Would have been great if HappySpaceInvader had actually posted how to set it from the terminal. My laptop’s onboard battery is dead so each time I start up I have to manually set the time.

  9. Atif

    II installed VMware Kubuntu on Windows Vista. Under system settings > Internet & Networks > Connections > Proxy > Use the following login information section is disabled. Whenever I use a browser it prompts me for a user name and password. But when synching the system clock with a time server it gives an error saying unable to connect to time server.

    Is there a way around this to manually set the username and password somewhere?

    Thank You

  10. Martin

    @ Jason (and anyone else who would like to know)

    How to set NTP time sync from terminal:

    sudo aptitude install ntp ntpdate

    Be sure to access the application from System / Administration / Time and Date
    and select a server closest to your location.

  11. George Birbilis

    What would it cost them to use NIST’s time server (for more free ones checkout the drop-down list at synchronize time pane of recent Windows). Could even talk to Microsoft’s time server, it’s a standard protocol isn’t it after all?

    Also user may want to manually sync once (at this PC I’m writing now the RTC battery is dead, have no spare one at hand and it starts up with wrong time), but they aren’t shown that option anymore by default and can’t spot it at Add/Remove apps by searching say for Time. Searching for NTP give results for NNTP (newsgroups) apps. Wonder why there’s no small app/applet to sync the time once (instead of calling a payphone to get the latest time or searching the net to find some webpage with current time for your zone)

  12. George Birbilis

    Another strange thing is that at System / Administration / Time and Date, it has an Unlock button which is strange compared to rest of GNOME GUI and also it allows one to select multiple servers, but has no way to define the order they’ll be queried (I assume it doesn’t talk to all selected, just tries one and if it doesn’t respond [is there a timeout setting?] it tries another etc.)

  13. George Birbilis

    Btw, it seems to default to now. I wonder if mentioned at the article is active. If so I’d prefer that one (the dialog allows you to add more time servers – adds them to the bottom of the list and selects them, but you can then deselect them if you just want to enrich that list for future use). I suppose is a broker server, not the real time server itself, it just picks another time server and sends you there.

  14. mahaju

    Where can I get the source code for synchronizing with an internet time server? I need it for my project. Please help me.

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