How to setup Ubuntu to sync its time over the Internet

Oftentimes my Ubuntu desktop loses track of time. Really. What happens is that the time it maintains goes a few minutes here and there every month. So I like to use a very useful Linux service called NTP to help keep the clock on my Ubuntu desktop in sync with well maintained clocks over the Internet. Let’s look at how to set this up.

You need an Ubuntu computer with Internet access. The access need not be on all the time, it’s fine even if the computer gets access on and off so that it can check with the clocks online and get in sync. Log into your Ubuntu computer and click on the System button at the top of you screen. Navigate to Administration -> Time and Date. You’ll see a window pop up with the time and date setup in it. Click on the Unlock button and enter your password to proceed.

the Ubuntu Time and Date Settings

In this window click on the drop down menu next to item titled Configuration You’ll see two options – Manual and Keep synchronized with Internet servers. Choose the second option. If you don’t have the NTP tools installed Ubuntu will inform you of it and ask if you want it to install them for you.

installing NTP Support in Ubuntu

Click on the button titled Install NTP support. It will ask you for your password then begin installing the required tools. Now we can proceed with setting up time synchronization. the next step is to tell Ubuntu which server you want it to sync the time with.

Click on the Select Servers button to pick which server you want to Ubuntu to use.

selecting a server for Ubuntu to use to sync the time

The window shown in the screenshot below will pop up, giving you several options. Note that you can pick more than one server. This way if a server goes down for some reason Ubuntu will try getting the time from another server. There’s also a well maintained list of servers you can use here.

list of Time Servers for Ubuntu to use

Click on the Close button once you are done picking servers. One last thing you need to check is that the NTP is set to run at boot. To do this go to System -> Administration -> Services and make sure that the item titled Clock synchronization service (ntp) is checked.

list of Service Settings

Voila. Now the clock on your Ubuntu computer will sync with the clocks online periodically, making sure you are always on time.

pssst… check out our other Ubuntu tips, tricks and tutorials.

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