Though it may appear as Windows will only let you configure one internet time server, it does actually support synchronizing with multiple time servers for increased accuracy and reliability. Here is how you set it up.
Your Windows PC isn’t really all that good at keeping time, and over time it will slowly drift away from what every other computer considers to be the correct time. To compensate for our computers’ inability to tell time accurately, we rely on internet time servers to correct and update the correct time. There are plenty of available free Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers around the world, and Windows will by default only connect to a single time server operated by Microsoft.
When is it useful or necessary to configure multiple NTP servers
Configuring multiple time servers will increase the reliability and accuracy of your PC’s timekeeping abilities. On unreliable and slow networks, it can be especially useful to configure more than one time server to improve accuracy.
Some managed networks, like a corporate network, may block public time servers — like the ones operated by Microsoft — and only allow use of their own internal time server. However, this internal server is unlikely to be available if you bring your device home or onto any other network. Ideally, you would want to keep using a public time server and only add the corporate time server as an additional time source.
How to add multiple NTP servers in Windows
Neither the Windows Settings app nor the Control Panel will let you configure multiple time servers in Windows. You’ll need to execute some commands in the Command Prompt to get this set up. I’ll walk you through the whole process:
- Open an administrative Command Prompt by searching for “cmd” in the Start menu, right-clicking on the program, and choosing “Run as administrator”.
- Ensure that the time service is currently running by stopping and starting it by entering following command and pressing Enter:
- Configure your list of preferred time servers by listing their IP or DNS addresses within the quotation marks in the following command; separating multiple servers with spaces:
The example configures Windows to use time servers operated by the NTP Pool Project, Windows, Apple, and Google. Note that there shouldn’t be any line breaks in the command; it’s all on one line.
- Lastly, we’ll tell Windows to resynchronize its time against the newly configured time servers and finally show the new configuration to confirm that everything is working:
Note that these changes won’t show up if you go to inspect your internet time configuration in the Time and Date section of the Control Panel. You shouldn’t make any changes there to avoid overwriting your manual configuration. You can use the peers-querying command, as shown in step 4 above to inspect your configuration. You can also overwrite your setup with different time servers by updating your configuration again as show in step 2.
You may find references online to changes you can make in the System Registry (regedit) to accomplish the same thing, but those changes are Windows-version dependent and won’t stick when you upgrade your system from one release version to the next.
The instructions in this article applies to Windows 10, 8.1, 8, and 7 (and corresponding releases of Windows Server.) Check out the macOS version of this tutorial.