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Why isn’t the time on my computer the same as that on my self-synchronizing watch?


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

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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

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

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

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6 comments on “Why isn’t the time on my computer the same as that on my self-synchronizing watch?”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.


  3. 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.


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