How to Set Time, Timezone and Synchronize System Clock in Linux

The ‘timedatectl‘ command is a new utility for RHEL-based and Debian-based distributions. It is a part of the ‘systemd‘ system and service manager, serving as a replacement for the old traditional date command used in ‘sysvinit‘ daemon-based Linux distributions.

The timedatectl command allows you to query and change the configuration of the system clock and its settings, you can use this command to set or change the current date, time, and timezone or enable automatic system clock synchronization with a remote NTP server.

In this tutorial, am going to take you through the ways you can manage time on your Linux system by setting the date, time, timezone, and synchronize time with NTP from the terminal using the new timedatectl command.

It is always a good practice to maintain the correct time on your Linux server or system and it can have the following advantages:

  • maintain a timely operation of system tasks since most tasks in Linux are controlled by time.
  • the correct time for logging events and other information on the system and many more.

How to Find and Set Local Timezone in Linux

1. To display the current time and date on your system, use the timedatectl command from the command line as follows:

# timedatectl  status
Check Time and Date
Check Time and Date

In the screencast above, RTC time is the hardware clock time.

2. The time on your Linux system is always managed through the timezone set on the system, to view your current timezone, do it as follows:

# timedatectl 
# timedatectl | grep Time
Check Linux Time Zone
Check Linux Time Zone

3. To view all available timezones, run the command below:

# timedatectl list-timezones
List All Timezones in Linux
List All Timezones in Linux

4. To find the local timezone according to your location, run the following command:

# timedatectl list-timezones |  egrep  -o "Asia/B.*"
# timedatectl list-timezones |  egrep  -o "Europe/L.*"
# timedatectl list-timezones |  egrep  -o "America/N.*"
Find Local Timezone in Linux
Find Local Timezone in Linux

5. To set your local timezone in Linux, we will use the set-timezone switch as shown below.

# timedatectl set-timezone "Asia/Kolkata"
Set Local Timezone in Linux
Set Local Timezone in Linux

It is always recommended to use and set the coordinated universal time, UTC.

# timedatectl set-timezone UTC
Set UTC Time in Linux
Set UTC Time in Linux

You need to type the correct name timezone otherwise you may get errors when changing the timezone, in the following example, the timezone “Asia/Kolkata” is not correct therefore causing the error.

Set Correct Timezone in Linux
Set Correct Timezone in Linux

How to Set Time and Date in Linux

6. You can set the date and time on your system, using the timedatectl command as follows:

Set Time in Linux

To set time only, we can use a set-time switch along with the format of time in HH:MM:SS (Hour, Minute, and Seconds).

# timedatectl set-time 15:58:30
Set Local Time in Linux
Set Local Time in Linux

You may get the below error when setting the date as shown above:

Failed to set time: NTP unit is active

7. The error says that the NTP service is active. You need to disable it using the below command.

# systemctl disable --now chronyd

Set Date and Time in Linux

8. To set date and time, we can use a set-time switch along with the format of date in YY:MM:DD (Year, Month, Day) and time in HH:MM:SS (Hour, Minute, and Seconds).

# timedatectl set-time '2015-11-20 16:14:50'
Set Date in Linux
Set Date in Linux
Set Date and Time in Linux
Set Date and Time in Linux

How to Find and Set Hardware Clock in Linux

9. To set your hardware clock to coordinated universal time, UTC, use the set-local-rtc boolean-value option as follows:

First Find out if your hardware clock is set to the local timezone:

# timedatectl | grep local

Set your hardware clock to the local timezone:

# timedatectl set-local-rtc 1
Set Hardware Clock Timezone
Set Hardware Clock Timezone

Set your hardware clock to coordinated universal time (UTC):

# timedatectl set-local-rtc 0
Set Hardware Clock to UTC
Set the Hardware Clock to UTC

Synchronizing Linux System Clock with a Remote NTP Server

NTP stands for Network Time Protocol is an internet protocol, which is used to synchronize the system clock between computers. The timedatectl utility enables you to automatically sync your Linux system clock with a remote group of servers using NTP.

Please note that you must have NTP installed on the system to enable automatic time synchronization with NTP servers.

To start automatic time synchronization with a remote NTP server, type the following command at the terminal.

# timedatectl set-ntp true

To disable NTP time synchronization, type the following command at the terminal.

# timedatectl set-ntp false


These are very easy examples described in this tutorial and I hope you will find them helpful for setting various Linux system clocks and timezones. To learn more about this tool, head over to the timedatectl man page.

If you have anything to say about this article, feel free to leave a comment for any more information to add. Stay connected to Tecmint.

Hey TecMint readers,

Exciting news! Every month, our top blog commenters will have the chance to win fantastic rewards, like free Linux eBooks such as RHCE, RHCSA, LFCS, Learn Linux, and Awk, each worth $20!

Learn more about the contest and stand a chance to win by sharing your thoughts below!

Aaron Kili
Aaron Kili is a Linux and F.O.S.S enthusiast, an upcoming Linux SysAdmin, web developer, and currently a content creator for TecMint who loves working with computers and strongly believes in sharing knowledge.

Each tutorial at TecMint is created by a team of experienced Linux system administrators so that it meets our high-quality standards.

Join the TecMint Weekly Newsletter (More Than 156,129 Linux Enthusiasts Have Subscribed)
Was this article helpful? Please add a comment or buy me a coffee to show your appreciation.


Leave a Reply
  1. If I want to set time on different Linux machines in one go or use single command so that all of them stay in sync, is this possible?

    if yes, how we can achieve this?

  2. Hi

    I am facing a new issue with my server time every day it exceeds 2 seconds. Can you please suggest the server time synchronization.

    root@bigdata:~# date
    Mon Apr  6 18:17:38 CEST 2020
    root@bigdata:~# timedatectl
                          Local time: Mon 2020-04-06 18:19:48 CEST
                      Universal time: Mon 2020-04-06 16:19:48 UTC
                            RTC time: Mon 2020-04-06 16:19:47
                           Time zone: Europe/Madrid (CEST, +0200)
           System clock synchronized: no
    systemd-timesyncd.service active: no
                     RTC in local TZ: no
  3. I have one doubt.

    Lets say if i have 2 system and both are in same time zone have “System clock synchronized: yes” or “NTP synchronized: yes” . so does it mean both systems the have exact times.

    • @Harshal Wagh

      Yes, they should have the same time if they both have NTP client service running and synced with an NTP server.

  4. Thanks for the examples this helped me to quickly set up ntp synchronization.

    One issue found on a minimal Centos7 server install was:

    # timedatectl set-ntp true
    Failed to set ntp: NTP not supported.

    The solution was to install chrony. After that the set-ntp true command worked.

    # yum install chrony
  5. Tip:

    I had problems setting my timezone, e.g.

    # timedatectl set-timezone Europe/Berlin

    resulted in

    Failed to set time zone: Invalid time zone 'Europe/Berlin'

    though this is listed by timedatectl list-timezones.

    The actual files to which the program timedatectl puts a symlink are very few. E.g.

    ls /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/

    only lists 3 cities, one for each available timezone in Europe. So find your timezone city (e.g. Paris for Berlin, Copenhagen etc.) and set this if you encounter the same issue.

  6. And ofcourse we set “timedatectl set-ntp true” and it magically works, but who sets the desired server, where, how. This is a big mess. Having the systemd and having to manually add the servers to the “/etc/systemd/timesyncd.conf” just looks wrong.

    Also the timestamp of “/etc/systemd/timesyncd.conf” is used for the internal workings of the timedatectl and guess what, if you manually modify this file you will actually change its timestamp. Really, this is a big huge mess.

  7. Hello,

    I did the following,

    # timedatectl set-ntp true

    But afterwards, the file /etc/systemd/timesyncd.conf, still had the Time servers commented out,


    My question is, does the timesyncd.conf file have to be edited after running, timedatectl set-ntp true ?

    Thank you.

    • @Brett

      The default the internet cluster of ntp servers will be used. Unless you want to use the specified servers in /etc/systemd/timesyncd.conf, you can leave the time servers commented out.

    • I had the very same thought about the animated examples since I came here just for a quick glance at timedatectl syntax and was turned off by visual bloat. Ironically, there’s a typo in item #8 — and the correct syntax can be seen in the GIF.


Got Something to Say? Join the Discussion...

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. We appreciate your decision to leave a comment and value your contribution to the discussion. It's important to note that we moderate all comments in accordance with our comment policy to ensure a respectful and constructive conversation.

Rest assured that your email address will remain private and will not be published or shared with anyone. We prioritize the privacy and security of our users.