01 September, 2010

NTP (Network Time Protocol) Related Problems - Update Your Computer’s Date and Time!

Lately, I had a problem with my computers graphics card. It was making too much noise that it was unacceptable to work on a computer that is as noisy as your drill! So I had an RMA (Return Material Authorization) from XFX and I did a couple of days without my computer. Than remember that I bought an "Nvidia GeForce 9500 GT" video card for an old motherboard that used to be a test machine. So, after 3 days of being offline I changed the video card from a "ATI HD 4970" to a "Nvidia GeForce 9500 GT" and the problems starts right after the first boot with the new card! Windows asks me to restart… Windows will ask you this kind of questions only if there is really a need. I restarted the computer and my new graphics card driver was already installed and it took all my settings (because I'm using a monitor and an LCD television as a display). This is very nice of Windows 7… 

But for some reason my "Windows Update" wasn't working, my "BitDefender Anti-Virus" system wasn't able to update! I am using an application (it's more a service) called "Dropbox" where I can have a folder located on my computer and sync this folder with an online server and from there you can sync to all of your computers… It's very useful if you are dealing with more than 1 computer like most of the people today. This service wasn't able to get connections and start the sync process! Then, when I tried to open a web page from two different browsers (Windows Explorer, Mozilla FireFox), I was getting a "Internet Security" message trying to tell me that it couldn't find the certificate for the web page (www.dropbox.com a very trusted one). I was familiar with this kind of "certificate" messages but when it comes from a good source that you really trust, than you start to ask questions about it! By this time, I realize that one of my FireFox plug-ins doesn't sync my bookmarks! I smell a complicated problem but I'm putting this problem away too for now and I'm lunching my "Microsoft Outlook 2010". And as I was thinking, this one gives me a certificate issue message with my gmail account. 

I started to look around in "Control Panel" and in my firewall settings… Actually I was all around that the problem might come from. Then I realized that my pc's time was set to 15:34 pm and while my watch and the "mother nature" tell me that it's 20:34 pm… Instead of changing the clock manually by myself from "Date and Time Settings", I went a little bit far in the "NTP Server" settings and I tried to sync the time with the Windows 7's default "NTP Server" which is "time.windows.com" and time didn't sync. When I tried to ping this ntp server from command prompt, I wasn't able to reach the destination by ping. So, I googled for "free ntp server lists" and I found myself on a great project's web page that has a lots of lists for ntp servers from all around the world! http://www.pool.ntp.org

After changing the ntp server with the one that I got from the "NTP Pool Project", everything was waking up! My FireFox Sync, Anti-Virus, DropBox, Windows Update, Certificates and Outlook… Everything was working perfectly. So, as I you can see that even updating your time on your computer with a functional "ntp server" can help to solve lots of problems. 

Procedure of changing NTP Server on a Windows 7 computer:

  1. Open "Control Panel" and click on "Date and Time"

  2. Click on the "Internet Time" tab from the "Date and Time" window and click on "Change Settings…" button.

  3. You are now in the "Internet Time Settings" window. Make sure that this "synchronize with an internet time server" checkbox is checked. You can than enter your ntp server address in the "server" field and click on "Update" button as shown on the following picture. If your ntp server address is valid than your computer's time must adjust with whatever the time zone that you are in and the synchronization will do every time that your computer needs to do it!

    Kubilay Elmas

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