Linux timedatectl command examples

Date Command Examples

The "timedatectl" command is a new replacement to the traditional date command found on Linux systems. "timedatectl" is part of the systemd system.

"timedatectl" may be used to query and change the system clock and its settings and modify your time zone. It can also enable and disable time synchronization services.

Display your current time/date and time zone settings

Issuing the "timedatectl" with no additional parameters will display the output below. Your current time and date are displayed along with your time zone. You current synchronization status is also displayed.

# timedatectl
               Local time: Wed 2021-06-02 21:02:38 BST
           Universal time: Wed 2021-06-02 20:02:38 UTC
                 RTC time: Wed 2021-06-02 20:02:38
                Time zone: Europe/London (BST, +0100)
System clock synchronized: yes
              NTP service: active
          RTC in local TZ: no

Setting your time zone

Your time displayed will always be based around the time zone that has been configured on your system. To configure your time zone if it is not already set to the correct location, you can issue the following commands.

timedatectl list-timezones

The above command will display all available time zones on your system. If you know the region you are in, you can narrow your search down by combing the command with "grep". For example If my time zone was in the "UK", I could issue the following command.

timedatectl list-timezones | grep -i london

The above command would search through all the time zones looking for the string "london". The "-i" on the "grep" command is used to ignore case.

# timedatectl list-timezones | grep -i london

If we wanted to change the current time zone to be "America/New_York", we would issue the following command:

timedatectl set-timezone "America/New_York"

# timedatectl set-timezone "America/New_York"

# timedatectl status
               Local time: Wed 2021-06-02 16:17:11 EDT
           Universal time: Wed 2021-06-02 20:17:11 UTC
                 RTC time: Wed 2021-06-02 20:17:10
                Time zone: America/New_York (EDT, -0400)
System clock synchronized: yes
              NTP service: active
          RTC in local TZ: no

From the above output, we can see that the time zone has now been changed to be "America/New_York". Notice, the time has also change now to match the time zone

Manually Configuring the time

It is possible to use the "timedatectl" command to manually configure the time on your Linux system. Generally, most Linux systems will be using some form of time synchronization, on newer systems this will be "chronyd" and on older systems this will be "ntpd". Both of this time synchronization daemons will keep your systems time synchronized to an external time source for accuracy. Many larger organizations will have their own time sources, however, there are plenty of public time servers that can be used for this purpose.

If you try to change the time on a system that is using "Time Synchronization", you will receive an error similar to the one below:

Failed to set time: NTP unit is active

# timedatectl set-time 20:15:00
Failed to set time: NTP unit is active

To amend the time on a system using time synchronization, you will first need to stop the "chronyd" or "ntpd" service.

The format for changing the time is as follows:

timedatectl set-time HH:MM:SS (Hours:Minutes:Seconds)

In the example below, I will stop the "chronyd" service and then modify the time manually.

# systemctl stop chronyd

# systemctl disable chronyd
Removed /etc/systemd/system/

# timedatectl set-time 20:00:00

# timedatectl
               Local time: Wed 2021-06-02 20:00:04 BST
           Universal time: Wed 2021-06-02 19:00:04 UTC
                 RTC time: Wed 2021-06-02 19:00:04
                Time zone: Europe/London (BST, +0100)
System clock synchronized: no
              NTP service: inactive
          RTC in local TZ: no

From the above output, we can see that the time has now been set to "20:00:00" and the NTP service is showing as inactive.

Manually setting the time and date

The time and date can be set together in one command. The syntax of the command is as follows:

timedatectl set-time 'YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS'

# timedatectl set-time '2021-04-20 19:00:00'
# timedatectl
               Local time: Tue 2021-04-20 19:00:03 BST
           Universal time: Tue 2021-04-20 18:00:03 UTC
                 RTC time: Tue 2021-04-20 18:00:03
                Time zone: Europe/London (BST, +0100)
System clock synchronized: no
              NTP service: inactive
          RTC in local TZ: no

If you need to reactivate the "chronyd" service, issue the following commands:

# systemctl enable chronyd
# systemctl start chronyd

chronyd - chrony daemon

chronyd is a daemon for synchronization of the system clock. It can synchronize the clock with NTP servers. The configuration file for "chronyd" can be found at the following location: /etc/chrony.conf".

Below is an example of a default "chrony.conf" file from a CentOS 8 system.

# These servers were defined in the installation:
pool iburst
# Use public servers from the project.
# Please consider joining the pool (

# Record the rate at which the system clock gains/losses time.
driftfile /var/lib/chrony/drift

# Allow the system clock to be stepped in the first three updates
# if its offset is larger than 1 second.
makestep 1.0 3

# Enable kernel synchronization of the real-time clock (RTC).

# Enable hardware timestamping on all interfaces that support it.
#hwtimestamp *

# Increase the minimum number of selectable sources required to adjust
# the system clock.
#minsources 2

# Allow NTP client access from local network.

# Serve time even if not synchronized to a time source.
#local stratum 10

# Specify file containing keys for NTP authentication.
keyfile /etc/chrony.keys

# Get TAI-UTC offset and leap seconds from the system tz database.
leapsectz right/UTC

# Specify directory for log files.
logdir /var/log/chrony

# Select which information is logged.
#log measurements statistics tracking

The actual time synchronization server in use is found on the second line: The "pool" directive is used as the address has multiple IP addresses associated with the DNS name.:

# dig +short

The "iburst" option specifies that the when a server is unreachable it should send a burst of eight packets instead of the usual one packet. This process is also used for speeding up the initial synchronization process.

chronyd diagnostic commands

chronyc tracking

The above tracking command will display parameters about the system’s clock performance.

# chronyc tracking
Reference ID    : A29FC87B (
Stratum         : 4
Ref time (UTC)  : Wed Jun 02 20:56:47 2021
System time     : 0.000266695 seconds fast of NTP time
Last offset     : +0.000310321 seconds
RMS offset      : 0.001164054 seconds
Frequency       : 10.591 ppm fast
Residual freq   : +0.112 ppm
Skew            : 5.596 ppm
Root delay      : 0.027314197 seconds
Root dispersion : 0.001606827 seconds
Update interval : 64.9 seconds
Leap status     : Normal

chronyc sources

The chronyc sources command will display the servers that are being used for time synchronization.

# chronyc sources
210 Number of sources = 4
MS Name/IP address         Stratum Poll Reach LastRx Last sample               
^?        0   6     0     -     +0ns[   +0ns] +/-    0ns
^*           3   7   377   124   -331us[ -393us] +/-   15ms
^- fluffykins.positive-inte>     3   6   377    59   +463us[ +463us] +/-   62ms
^-                1   7    45   181  -1630us[-1692us] +/-   13ms

Below is a guide to the flags displayed from the "chronyc sources" command above:

M: The mode of the source.
^ means a server.
= means a peer.
# indicates a locally connected reference clock.

S: The state of the sources.
* indicates the source to which chronyd is currently synchronized.
+ indicates acceptable sources that are combined with the selected source.
- indicates acceptable sources that are excluded by the combining algorithm.
? indicates sources to which connectivity has been lost or whose packets do not pass all tests.
x indicates a clock that chronyd thinks is a false ticker, that is, its time is inconsistent with a majority of other sources.
~ indicates a source whose time appears to have too much variability.

The ? condition is also shown at start-up, until at least three samples have been gathered from it.

Name/IP address: This shows the name or the IP address of the source, or reference ID for reference clocks.