Configuring Windows XP Date and Time Settings

If there’s one thing that PCs are notorious for, it’s not being terribly good at keeping the time. In fact, over the course of just a few days, it’s not uncommon for a system running XP to end up with time settings more than 5 minutes out of whack. While many users might not fret over such a small discrepancy, correct system clock settings are critical to ensure the proper operation of many applications, including databases. The good news is that Windows XP includes the Windows Time service, allowing you to synchronize your system clock with accurate Simple Network Time Protocol (SNTP) servers on the Internet. Unfortunately, the default system settings on XP also contribute to time variance issues. With a few key configuration changes, however, your system can be keeping close to perfect time automatically.

The key utility for the configuration of time settings on a Windows XP system is the Date and Time utility available via Control Panel or the System Tray. Unlike previous Windows versions, this utility now includes an Internet Time tab, as shown at right. This tab is configured to automatically synchronize your system’s time with a known SNTP server, such as While synchronization with an SNTP server obviously requires an Internet connection, the default schedule at which synchronization occurs is sorely lacking – once a week by default. Although the Update Now button can be used to force synchronization immediately, it’s also possible to change this setting via the Registry as explained in the steps below:

Step 1: Click Start, type regedit, and click OK. When the Registry Editor window opens, browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\W32Time\TimeProviders\NtpClient

Step 2: In the list of available values, find the entry named SpecialPollInterval, and double-click on it. This entry is of type REG_DWORD, and lists the current interval for synchronization, which is once per week (every 604800 seconds) by default.

Step 3: Change the value to your new preferred synchronization schedule value, in seconds. For example, to change the interval to a more reasonable value of once per day, click the Decimal radio button, type 86400 in the Value data box, and click OK.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.