How to fix Internet time sync

In the midst of an interesting (and honestly titled) list of Random Vista Thoughts, Chris Lanier says:

Time synchronization still seems to not work. Hardly ever worked in Windows XP too.

For grins, I opened the Date and Time Control Panel, went to the Internet Time tab, and was greeted with this:

Vista's Internet time sync

OK, first of all, that is a godawful error message. The peer’s stratum is less than the host’s stratum? Wha’? Whoever wrote that should have their keyboard taken away for a month. But this little experience reminded me of something that I’ve seen for so many years I’ve lost count:

The server at does not work reliably.

People have been complaining about this for ages but I can’t remember a time when this server was reliable.

It’s practically second nature for me to change the time server to one of the U.S. Government servers. There are several on the drop-down list that ships with Windows by default. You can also add your own just by filling in the address here and clicking Update Now:


That server (located in Boulder, Colorado) is physically close to my location here, and it seems to work reliably. You’ll probably have best luck finding a server close to your physical location. If you want more choices, check this link:

NIST Internet Time Servers

Update: Serdar suggests this link, which works worldwide:

37 thoughts on “How to fix Internet time sync

  1. Also consider the servers, which are geographically distributed. I’ve been using the .gov servers for a while now, but the servers seem to work well too.

  2. By the way, another confusing error message appeared when the “Windows Time” service is not started. Instead of displaying something like “The ‘Windows Time’ service is not started”, the following is shown instead: “An error occured getting the status of the last synchronization. The RPC server is unavailable.”

  3. I tried this, but my Vista Date&Time Control panel has no such “Internet Time” tab!!! I cannot find any reference to it in either Windows Help or the MS Knowledge base. What gives?

    I run Vista Business 32-bit.

    By the way, your server just gave me the message “Fatal error: Out of memory (allocated 3670016) (tried to allocate 19456 bytes) in /home/edbott/public_html/weblog/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 323

  4. To answer my own question about the missing tab, I found this at

    “If you are connected to a network domain, the timeserver will be managed by your company’s NPT server. The ‘internet time’ tab then becomes ‘invisible’. If you log out of the domain and log back in again using a local computer account, then the ‘internet time’ tab will become visible again. ”

    It seems Vista is assuming too much; I don’t have any NPT server on my small home domain (AFAIK). Why won’t Vista let me choose my own time server?

  5. Why doesn’t Microsoft fix the problem? I am very pissed that they haven’t elaborated this. Nonetheless I’ll be syncing with a different time server from now on.

  6. Date and time are correctly synchronized on my computer through In fact, I’ve never had a problem with it here in Upstate NY.

  7. As Corrine stated, no problems here (East Coast) with Interestingly though, I did have problems with some of the gov servers when I changed over to them a few months back.

  8. Has anyone in the UK ever managed to get internet time synch to work with Vista ? If so, let me know !

  9. Just an ordinary user here on the West coast. Entering other time synch web addresses doesn’t work for me. I just can’t synch ever with any website. I have the new Vista premium. I set the time manually, but it just gets a tiny bit off each day so I never have the accurate time. It’s really starting to bug me. I’ve tried fixes from other web pages, but they’ve all been unhelpful. Does anyone know how to tell me how to fix this in layman’s terms, not techie speak? I’m sure it’s my awful McAfee firewall, but I don’t even know how to turn that off without just completely uninstalling it.

  10. Never mind, I figured it out. For anyone else pulling their hair out, open McAfee. Go to the Advanced menu if you aren’t already there. Click on the Configure box. On the left, click on Internet & Network. Now click the second grey row that says Firewall protection is enabled. Click Advanced… On the left, click System Services. Check the box next to Network Time Protocol Port 123. Click Apply, then OK. Then follow the synchronization steps as usual (only it’s best to enter another website than the junk ones they have listed).

  11. Thanks for the road map for drilling down into McAfee to fix this problem! I NEVER would have found it by myself….

  12. I won’t work for me (WinXP) despite exiting my firewall & Windows firewall is off also.
    I have downloaded & installed the utility NetTime as an alternative which works fine. I tried pasting the the service which works in NetTime into the Windows utility.
    I am in the UK.

  13. Also I tried ping from the command line. No problems there either. Most work, for example:
    $ ping

    Pinging [] with 32 bytes of da

    Reply from bytes=32 time=250ms TTL=52
    Reply from bytes=32 time=247ms TTL=52
    Reply from bytes=32 time=165ms TTL=52
    Reply from bytes=32 time=166ms TTL=52

    Ping statistics for
    Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
    Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
    Minimum = 165ms, Maximum = 250ms, Average = 207ms

    The same server entered in the Windows Date & Time utility gets the error that the RPC server is unavailable. — is the local server which pings successfully & works in NetTime.

  14. For those of you who have McAfee and can’t time Sync here is the latest.(This is for a windows XP machine)

    DON”T open your port 123 as sugessted by Kelsey. That is not secure.

    Here is how tech support at mcAfee solved the problem.. Basically you’re simply finding the ip address for the time server and adding it to your list of trusted ip addresses in the firewall program…..
    Double click on your clock icon at lower right corner of the desktop screen and select “Internet Time” on the tabs in your Date and Time window that pops up
    Ensure Automatically update with the internet time server is selected.
    Observe the name of the Server field and write it down.
    Now click Start, Run and type “cmd” and press ENTER.
    command prompt window is opened
    Type ping and press ENTER. The ping results may return “Request timed out” if the server is set not to respond to ping attempts.
    The first line displays:

    Pinging [IP Address] with 32 bytes of data:

    Write down the [IP Address] and close the command window.

    For example given, the ip address would be…
    Now double-click the Red “M” icon in the systray to open the SecurityCenter.
    From the Basic Menu
    Click Internet & Network and click Configure which is on the center right.
    click Firewall protection is enabled and click Advanced.
    Click Trusted and Banned IPs.
    Select Trusted IP Addresses from the drop-down menu.
    Click “Add and select Single IP Address” then type the Server IP Address ( in the IP Address: field.
    Click OK then click Yes.
    Close the Firewall Window, then close the SecurityCenter.
    Please restart your system to take the changes get affected.
    Check your time and update it to see that the changes have fixed your problem

  15. Thanks Kelsey much, that was it for me – the McAfee. All is weel now, just in time for a Merry Christmas.

    Happy New Year too.

  16. Thanks Kelsey, it was pesky McAfee for me as well. I thought I was fixing it with the Atomic Clock update, but that didn’t work.

  17. Xp/McAfee fix:

    open McAfee Security Center
    select Internet & Network
    click Configure
    in the “Firewall protection is enabled” box, click Advanced
    click System Services
    under System Service, scroll down until you see “Network Time Protocol Port 123”
    check its box and click Apply

    now the Update Time button on the Internet Time tab on the clock will work.

  18. This is the first site I’ve seen that fixes this problem. You can use a varition of this if you use Norton.

    I’d like to know why you need to block other IP addresses from having access to port 123? Is this a major entry point for hackers?

  19. I am getting so angry with this vista system in general. I have been on customer support numerous times, and have had no helpful calls. Here is my most recent problem along with this discussion:

    First of all, my income comes from the usage of my computer. I teach a 3D animation course online. Today I had to cancel my class (lost a whole day of pay), because my 3D software would not open. I was also getting all sorts of error messages saying windows redirector could not start… I thought I had something seriously wrong with my system and being that I needed this system up and running, was about to resort to formatting my machine and reinstalling the op system just to get it running for my next class. Luckily I tried to run a windows update later on, and it gave me the error: your clock is set to the year 4074. I changed it back, and boom all of my software and system ran perfectly again. This clock problem is huge, every time I restart my system my clock goes back an hour and changes to the year 2020. I have yet to find any updates for this problem, nor do the Vista “tech” people have a solution for me. when I “automatically sync” my clock with any one of those presets there, the windows or the gov, it says it has successfully sync’d. Yet these problems still sit here and continue to advise every one of my students to stay away from Vista, and anybody I know. Does anybody know if and when a new op system is coming out? or atleast a service pack for vista to hopefully FIX some things? Microsoft can kiss my a** in the meantime… I think they should have an official “recall” on vista and give out free upgrades to all vista customers when a new op system comes out as an honest appology. I think I’m done now.

    Rob Raio

  20. Rob, I monitor many newsgroups and am constantly on the lookout for odd Windows-related problems. I have never seen or heard anyone else report the issue you have here. So what makes you so certain this is caused by a bug in Vista? If that were true, one would think that other people would have seen it and had the same emotional reaction as you.

    Frankly, this sounds like your system is using the OEM Timer hack to bypass activation. Where did you get this system?

  21. I have similar problem but my error is about RPC server is unavailable. Fixes posted on several web sites do not work for me.

    I am running window XP.


  22. I had this problem too….it would always say that the “RPC Server is unavailable” and changing the time server did not work. The key was to start and restart the Windows Time service. A good description can be found here –

    Snippit from that posting that worked for me (for some reason it didn’t work by restarting from the services GUI):

    To restore the Windows Time Service if it has been broken. Open a command
    Start | Run | Type: cmd | Click OK |

    Type: net stop W32Time hit your Enter key.

    Type: w32tm /unregister hit your Enter key.

    Type: w32tm /register hit your Enter key.

    Type: net start W32Time hit your Enter key.

    Type: sc query W32Time hit your Enter key.

    It will look something like this…

    Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]
    (C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

    C:\>net stop W32Time
    The Windows Time service is not started.

    More help is available by typing NET HELPMSG 3521.

    C:\>NET HELPMSG 3521

    The *** service is not started.

    C:\>w32tm /unregister
    The following error occurred: Access is denied. (0x80070005)

    C:\>w32tm /register
    W32Time successfully registered.

    C:\>net start W32Time
    The Windows Time service is starting.
    The Windows Time service was started successfully.

    C:\>sc query W32Time

    WIN32_EXIT_CODE : 0 (0x0)
    SERVICE_EXIT_CODE : 0 (0x0)
    CHECKPOINT : 0x0
    WAIT_HINT : 0x0



  23. Rob, I have the same problem. I have a Vista system from Circuit City, so it’s above board for sure. Every time it syncs with Windows, it goes back an hour. I tried replacing the time server as suggesed above, and after the computer says it has synced with the time server correctly, it’s still the wrong time. I tried a new time server and the fix of adding the IP to the McAfee IP address list, and still no dice. Well, I’m going to try restarting the computer but I don’t have high hopes.

  24. Ok, update: It’s funny–the time was still wrong when I restarted the machine, but now it IS working. Thanks folks.

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