Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Time settings on electronic devices should be able to sync accurately, but for some reason, they don't. All I can say is I feel your pain!

Why does my computer clock not agree with my self-setting watch? It's always slower than my watch?

In this excerpt from Answercast #70, I talk about the inconsistency of time across devices and networks.

What time is it?

You know, it's one of those interesting things. I'm really shocked at the lack of consistency among various so-called self-setting timepieces, including computers.

So let me first make sure that your computer is in fact automatically updating its time.

  • Right-click on the Clock.

  • Click on Adjust time/date.

  • There, in the resulting dialog box, I believe there's a tab for automatically updating the time.

Make sure that's configured; that it's working; there's no error message there. Pick a time service that works for you. You can test it and run it right there and make sure that it's running properly. In most cases, that is on by default so your computer should in fact be setting the time correctly.

The problem that I've seen (and I honestly have no explanation for it; I have no solution for it; and unfortunately, it frustrates me just about as much as it does you I'm sure, and that is)... for whatever reason, all of these devices (your watch, the computers, the network, various devices around the house, my cable company, my satellite company, the television networks on the satellite), they all seem to have a different idea of exactly what time it is. And that shouldn't have to be that way.

Official time

There is in fact one time. Given the fact that your watch is self setting, it's probably picking up the radio signal from the master clock in Colorado. That would theoretically be the most accurate and it's accessible to everybody.

There's no reason not to have that time be available to just about any device that might need it. A device that is connected to the internet has many different ways of getting that information, even accounting for the fact that it might take a certain amount of time to get the information from its source to your computer and actually make the adjustment on the fly.

There are different ways to get it to the television networks, to your cell phone providers; they should be perfectly in sync. There really isn't a reason that they shouldn't be. And unfortunately, as you've seen and as I experienced, it seems like they just can't get it together and I don't know why.

So, I can't really answer your question other than to say I feel your pain. It's frustrating. Things should be better, but for whatever reason they're not.

Article C6034 - November 15, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Texas Mike
November 16, 2012 8:58 AM

And the worst is the cable networks when their own DVRs record programs nearly 5 minutes off schedule, cutting off the end of the shows.

November 16, 2012 6:33 PM

It appears that XP will sync the time once a week. It could be that your system is drifting and self correcting itself weekly.

Ravi Agrawal
November 16, 2012 7:14 PM

One more point that goes unnoticed is that your current clock must show an approximately accurate time and date. If it is way off with the actual, then atleast Windows XP will not sync automatically unless you get your time date setting within range.


Dick Kutz
November 16, 2012 9:24 PM

I've been very pleased with a time freeware that I use - so much so, that I disconnected my tray clock. Their website is
The variety of display options and synchronization sources is extensive. (I use the NIST in Boulder, CO - the clock itself is in Boulder, the radio station, WWV, is in Ft. Collins.) BTW, a time readout from WWV is available at (303) 499-7111.

Ken in San Jose
November 17, 2012 10:13 PM

National Institute of Standards and Technology has a program (nistime-32bit.exe) you can download that when run updates your computer to the NISTclock.

November 19, 2012 5:42 PM

...And if you're moving near the speed of light, that really fouls things up!

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