How to set an NTP time server in Windows 2008 (SBS 2008 and SBS 2011) 12

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Having a reliable external time server for your domain controller to sync with is important. By default some Windows servers are now configured to sync with the NTP server My personal experience and that of some of my colleagues is that the windows time service is not the most reliable choice for an NTP server.

In days gone by, I used to instead choose tick or tock, the USA Navy atomic clocks, as my servers of choice but they changed their support policy and were actively discouraging individual companies from using their time servers. Instead they are intended to provide sync services to other time servers. My search for a reliable time source found As the name implies is the home of the Network Time Protocol open source project. Members  work together to provide a public pool of time servers for use by individuals and businesses. Because the servers operate in a large network of pooled resources the time servers are highly redundant and reliable.

There are several pools of NTP servers for you to choose from based on what part of the world your server is located. You are not required to use the NTP servers pooled in your region, you could in fact choose the whole world by using pool.ntp,org as your specified time server. But would appreciate it if you selected your region from the list in the link.  Clicking through you’ll see that in North America, there’s,, and so on with 609 active servers in the pool. In Europe there’s a pool for every Country as well with 1386 servers total.

Here’s how to change your time server from what ever it is now to another NTP server. I’m going to use in my example.

To check the status of your current time server settings

In an elevated command prompt type: w32tm /query /status

The result will look something like this. Notice that in this example, no NTP server has been specified for this server so it is using it’s CMOS clock as a time source. This explains why many servers experience drifting time. As we know the CMOS batteries don’t last forever.


To set an NTP server

In an elevated command prompt type: w32tm /config /

Of course you will enter the name of the pool that you will be using after the : in the command above. Be sure not to leave a space after the :

After entering this command you will get confirmation as shown.


You now need to restart the windows time service for your change to take effect.

Once that is done you can check your work by executing the /status command again.


That’s the basics of how to change your time server from one source to another. The windows time service has much more to offer and tweak. TechNet has an excellent article on all of the settings available.


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12 thoughts on “How to set an NTP time server in Windows 2008 (SBS 2008 and SBS 2011)

  • Tim

    Thank you, this worked like a charm, although I had to execute the ‘w32tm /config /’ command twice.

  • Al

    SBS 2011 if you execute w32tm /config / you can see the change WITHOUT restarting Window Time service. In fact if you do restart the service, it returns to using CMOS to get the time.


  • Yves Fortin

    I have been struggling with setting up a Windows NTP infrastructure for over a year and the darn thing never works properly. It seems to work for a few months and then everything goes south. Could you provide a set of instructions that cover all aspects of this setup? It would be nice to have at least one person out there put instructions to accomplish the following: 1- setup the “pdc” to be the main NTP source for the company. (pretty much this article) 2- how to setup the other domain controllers to get their time from the “pdc”. 3- how to setup a group policy/dhcp options so that the other servers and clients in the network connect to the NTP servers. It should not be this hard to set this up but for some reason, I have never come across a full set of instructions and I have never gotten this to work properly. Can you help me out?

    • CG

      Any domain computer (windows client, windows domain controller, or windows application server that is added to the domain) gets its time from the 2008 DCs (PDC… sort of). It has to… if the time is off it can prevent a user from logging into the network. As far as configuring an external source for NTP… if the Third Tier instructions do not work for you… give what posted below a try. I hope it helps.

  • CG

    This didn’t work for me… the settings showed in the registry… but never seemed to be active.

    Windows Server Standard 2008
    Service Pack 2
    Processor: Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E3-1220 V2 @ 3.10GHz 3.09 Ghz
    Memory: 24GB
    System Type: 64-Bit Operating System

    This is what I did to make it work:

    Just the commands (elevated CLI):
    net stop w32time
    w32tm /config /syncfromflags:manual /manualpeerlist:”,″
    w32tm /config /reliable:yes
    net start w32time

    Time synchronized within a few seconds.

    • CG


      This should also enable your DC to be a time server for other devices on your network. I use my DCs as NTP servers for Cisco devices and Linux servers.

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