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Network Time Protocol

Network Time Protocol (NTP) is used to keep a computer's internal clock synchronized with a central source. Having accurate time is critical for researchers and for system administration. Northwestern Information Technology (IT) provides NTP service for users on campus at

All modern operating systems can use NTP. Most of these systems, including Windows XP and Mac OS X, come pre-configured with an NTP server with which to synchronize. In most cases, there is no reason to change the pre-configured NTP server, and no modifications are required for your computer to have accurate time.

For those computers that do not come pre-configured with an NTP server for synchronization, such as some computers using the Linux operating system, Northwestern IT recommends using the Northwestern time server. This server should also be used for critical and administrative systems.

Unicast NTP for time synchronization is the only protocol supported at Northwestern. Be advised that if you use multicast NTP, there is no mechanism to verify the authenticity of the source, and therefore no guarantee a client is connecting to the University's central time server. Use of multicast NTP is at your own risk, as is neither supported nor recommended by Northwestern IT.

Configure NTP

Configure a Windows operating system to synchronize to

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Open Date and Time.
  3. Select the Internet Time tab.
  4. Add
    The Internet Time tab of the Date and Time Properties window for Windows. The box is checked for Automatically synchronize with an Internet time server, and in the Server field, is entered.

Configure a Macintosh computer to synchronize to

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Open Date & Time.
  3. Add to the Set date & time automatically list.
    The Date & Time tab of the Date & Time window for Macs. The box is checked for Set date & time automatically, and in the field, is selected.

Configure a Linux system to synchronize to

  1. In most cases, you need to add the following to /etc/ntp.conf.
  2. Server prefer.
  3. Consult the relevant man pages for more information. Please note that NTP on Linux is not officially supported by Northwestern IT and we are unable to provide additional NTP configuration support.

Last Updated: 20 December 2018

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