Gimme just a little more time

I had a call from a client (whose also a friend of mine) the other which at the time made me laugh, the kinds of laugh that makes you fall of the seat.  It goes a little like this:

Client: Hi Rob, I’m probably going to regret asking this but I have been asked and I don’t quite know how to fix it.

Me: Go on

Client: I have been asked to look at the time on the server as it’s wrong so it’s making all the PC’s the wrong time.

Me: Oh right, I thought we had the network timesyncing externally

Client: I’m on the Grenwich Mean Time website and our server is 20 seconds fast and I’ve been told to see if it can be sorted.

Me: (thud as I hit the floor, wait a further 10 second to stop laughing) Right ok, you are joking right?

Client: NO

Me: Oh right, you sure you’re not joking?

Client: NO

Me: Ok let’s see if we can sort it out

So the conversation went on, now the above wasn’t being rude as it may seem as we often make a point taking pot shots for a laugh but it did raise an interesting point which I tend to perform as second nature on servers that we manage but not everyone does.  The point is that now with the advent of PC integrated clocking in systems they often take their time source from the network so if the time is wrong (usually tends to be a problem when its out by minutes rather than seconds but hey not for me to judge) then staff could be clocking out at the wrong times so these systems become flawed.  So if anyone wants to get their Windows Domain controller synced with a reliable time source then read on.

Important The following information contains details of changes to be made to the Windows Registry.  If you are unsure of what you are doing then please do not attempt it as serious damage can occur if you modify it incorrectly.  For extra protection read the following KB article from Microsoft on how to backup and restore the registry KB322756

To configure the server with an external time source then do the following:

  1. Click on Start, click Run, type Regedit then click OK
  2. Change the type to NTP Server
    1. Locate the registry key
      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesW32TimeParametersType
    2. In the right pane double click on Type
    3. Change the value to read NTP, the click OK
  3. Set AnnounceFlags to 5
    1. Locate the registry key
      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesW32TimeConfigAnnounceFlags
    2. In the right pane double click on AnnounceFlags
    3. Change the value to read 5, then click OK
  4. Enable NTPServer
    1. Locate the registry key
      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesW32TimeTimeProvidersNtpServer
    2. In the right pane double click NTPServer
    3. Change the value to read 0.pool.ntp.org,0x1, then click OK
      Other time servers can be specified however I have found that this one is the most accurate
  5. Quit the registry editor
  6. Open the command prompt an enter:
    net stop w32time && net start w32time

There are a number of other values that can be changed with regard to acceptable time differences and time shift however the standard setting is sufficient for most small business however details can be found in article KB816042.  With regard to my friend, this is the process that I ran on his server now he’s a happy man as his server is now accurate to within half a second of GMT……go figure!

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