How to keep system time in sync with Internet Time Servers on Debian 10

It is a good practice to keep your clock synchronized with the Internet according to your specified time zone unless there is a need to alter system time manually. This article describes ways through the command line and the graphical user interface of Debian 10 to keep your clock sync with the internet time servers. This facility was originally developed for older computers that had trouble keeping up with the current time.

We have run the commands and procedures mentioned in this article on a Debian 10 Buster system.

Sync System Clock through the Command Line

Check Current Time Status

The timedatectl command lets you check the current time status of your system clock. Open your Debian terminal through the Application Launcher Search as follows:

Debian Terminal

Then, run the following command:

$ timedatectl status

Check system time with timedatectl

Among other details, you can see the Local time, the Universal time and also if your system clock is synchronized with the internet time servers or not.

Synchronize the System Time

The chronyd command lets you check the time by which your system clock is off. If you run a chronyd command without installing the utility first, you will get the following message:

Chronyd not installed

First, let us install it as follows:

$ sudo apt-get install chrony

Install Chrony

If your time was already not synced, like mine, you would notice that the utility immediately syncs the time right after installation.

Check time after chrony install

This is how Chrony will help you:

  • You can then use the following command to see how much your time varies from the internet server. The “System clock wrong by” line in the output indicates this thing.
$ sudo chronyd -Q

Check time difference

  • You can also synchronize the system time and see the “System clock wrong by” information in one go through the following command:
$ sudo chronyd -q

In the following example, you can see that when I first ran the chronyd -q command, my system was off by 103.43 seconds. After running the command, my internet time was reset and that can be observed when I re-ran the command. This time my system clock is only off by 0.001331 seconds which is an ignorable difference.

See how wrong system time is

Sync System Clock through the GUI

Operating Systems these days are set to fetch Date & Time and Time zones automatically through the internet. You can set your system to fetch date and time according to the selected time zone as follows:

Click the downward arrow located at the top right corner of your Debian desktop and then click the settings icon located at the bottom left corner:

Settings menu on Desktop


Type Settings in the Application Launcher search as follows:

Settings icon

Click the Details tab and then select the Date & Time option. Click on the Unlock button on the Date & Time view and provide the password for sudo/authorized user in the Authentication dialog.

Authenticate as admin

Then, make sure your Automatic Date & Time button is turned on. This will enable you to automatically fetch the current date and time from the internet server.

Date and time settings

Important: On Debian, you will be able to turn the Automatic Date & Time On /Off only when the Chrony utility is uninstalled first. You can do so by running the following command in the Terminal:

$ sudo apt-get remove chrony

By following the steps described in this tutorial, you can be 100 percent sure that the current time of your system is in sync with that of your internet time server.