Friday, April 20, 2007

Does your computer know what time it is?

Click to hear composer Leroy Anderson conducting "Syncopated Clock" with the US Air Force Band (source)

"Does your computer know what time it is?" might seem like a crazy question if your system sprang forward at Daylight Saving Time (as mine did) and synchronizes with Internet time servers like clockwork (as mine did until recently). However, recipients of "error synchronizing time" messages will know from whence I blog.

Seeking help at and my computers' help functions wasted valuable time. So I sought help elsewhere.

I found what I needed at the NIST Internet Time Service (provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Time and Frequency Division). They're from the government and they're here to help. Other Internet time servers abound, but I'm satisfied with NIST, which successfully synchronized my system, manages the Official U.S. time-clock and is always right on time.

[Microsoft, in contrast, needs to change the Internet time servers pre-programmed into Windows XP machines: and Neither works any longer, at least as of this posting.]

Synchronizing Windows XP-SP2 with the NIST Internet time servers requires first updating the Windows Date and Time Properties thusly:

  1. Ensure your computer is connected to the Internet.
  2. Right-click the time icon in the bottom right corner of the Windows XP-SP2 task bar and select Adjust Date/Time.
  3. Visit the Date and Time tab and ensure the date is correct.
  4. Visit the Internet Time tab and confirm that the "Automatically synchronize with an Internet time server" box is checked.
  5. Punch in Enter one or more NIST Internet Time Servers, e.g., and To do so, copy the time server name of your choice (e.g.,, click to highlight the name of the current server listed in the box labelled "Server:", paste the name of the selected server, and click the "Apply" button on the bottom right row of the Date and Properties box.

Then ensure that each server entered synchronizes with your computer. To do so, select, in turn, each of the servers you just entered from the Server drop-down menu in the Internet Time Tab and then click Update Now. The NIST servers should yield messages like this: "The time has successfully synchronized with [Internet time server name] on [date] at [time]."

At least, that's the message I got. Whew!

More detailed instructions and helpful tips are available at "Set Your Computer Clock Via the Internet: NIST Internet Time Service (ITS)." You may also click here to read "If you use a firewall and have trouble accessing the NIST Internet Time servers, please click here."