This question is related to this question and this earlier question I asked on serverfault.

Per my previous question, I'm interested in synchronizing the time on my machine in a fast (ideally less than a second), synchronous (if the process completes with 0 status, the time should be synced), and robust way ("robust" here meaning that as long we receive a response from the ntp server, the time should be set according to the response). I will run ntp in the background after this fast initial sync.

Using ntpdate seems to be too flaky, and isn't recommended anyway (I get sporadic "no server available errors", I think mostly stemming from discrepancies with the ntp server, not from a failure to reach the ntp server). However, one good thing about ntpdate is that it has an option -p that lets me shorten the time it takes to set my time to mere milliseconds (when it works).

Using sudo ntpd -gq, as suggested in the previous questions seems to make clock syncing more reliable, but it takes at least 7-8 seconds on my machine, presumably because ntpd is taking several samples with intervening sleep time. Worse, ntpd often hangs for minutes before exiting successfully. I'm not sure why this happens because the ntp server is reachable and responding to requests all throughout this timespan.

Thus, I'm looking for a way hopefully to speed up the time it takes to synchronize a machines clock using ntpd -gq, and I'm willing to sacrifice a few milliseconds of initial clock accuracy in order to have faster clock synchronization. The reason I'm willing to make this sacrifice is that synchronization is part of a bootstrap process that I'm running many times per day and waiting 8 seconds to several minutes for ntp to run each time is slowing the process down (to the point that I have no choice but to accept ntpdate's fast but deprecated and unreliable behavior).

Is there a way to achieve reliable fast performance with ntpd?

EDIT: Here is my ntp.conf (if you're wondering about the location of server, it was programmatically appended to the file after stripping out all existing servers):

# /etc/ntp.conf, configuration for ntpd; see ntp.conf(5) for help

driftfile /var/lib/ntp/ntp.drift

# Enable this if you want statistics to be logged.
#statsdir /var/log/ntpstats/

statistics loopstats peerstats clockstats
filegen loopstats file loopstats type day enable
filegen peerstats file peerstats type day enable
filegen clockstats file clockstats type day enable

# Specify one or more NTP servers.

# Use servers from the NTP Pool Project. Approved by Ubuntu Technical Board
# on 2011-02-08 (LP: #104525). See http://www.pool.ntp.org/join.html for
# more information.

# Use Ubuntu's ntp server as a fallback.

# Access control configuration; see /usr/share/doc/ntp-doc/html/accopt.html for
# details.  The web page <http://support.ntp.org/bin/view/Support/AccessRestrictions>
# might also be helpful.
# Note that "restrict" applies to both servers and clients, so a configuration
# that might be intended to block requests from certain clients could also end
# up blocking replies from your own upstream servers.

# By default, exchange time with everybody, but don't allow configuration.
restrict -4 default kod notrap nomodify nopeer noquery
restrict -6 default kod notrap nomodify nopeer noquery

# Local users may interrogate the ntp server more closely.
restrict ::1

# Clients from this (example!) subnet have unlimited access, but only if
# cryptographically authenticated.
#restrict mask notrust

# If you want to provide time to your local subnet, change the next line.
# (Again, the address is an example only.)

# If you want to listen to time broadcasts on your local subnet, de-comment the
# next lines.  Please do this only if you trust everybody on the network!
#disable auth
server pool.ntp.org
  • Post your ntp.conf
    – dfc
    Sep 28, 2014 at 21:32
  • Three questions: 1. Did you install fake-hwclock like I recommended in the other askubuntu question? 2. When you say bootstrap process are you rebooting this machine many times per day? 3. If not why do you think you need the time reset many times per day?
    – dfc
    Sep 28, 2014 at 21:42
  • 1. No, it seems like this is only relevant for rebooting (see #2). 2. I'm bootstrapping the machine, not rebooting (i.e., simulating the "out of box experience"). 3. I'm working on the bootstrap process to make sure it is accurate and reliable -- ntp has been a real pain point due to hard failures (simple errors in the case of ntpdate) and soft failures (the process taking a long time in the case of ntpd)
    – jonderry
    Sep 28, 2014 at 21:49
  • I forgot about the stupid dhcp client trying overriding the settings you put in ntpp.conf. Add diff -u /etc/ntp.conf /etc/ntp.conf.dhcp
    – dfc
    Sep 29, 2014 at 2:57

1 Answer 1


Things are easy when you post your config:


 server pool.ntp.org


 server 0.COUNTRY-CODE.pool.ntp.org iburst
 server 1.COUNTRY-CODE.pool.ntp.org iburst
 server 2.COUNTRY-CODE.pool.ntp.org iburst
 server 3.COUNTRY-CODE.pool.ntp.org iburst

Where country code is us / ca / uk / fr

The meat of this response is the iburst, the extra two server lines allow the clock to be set if one server is unreachable.

Also install fake-hwclock so the time persists somewhat across reboots. It wont be 1970 every time the machine comes on.

UPDATE: I saw your answers. Why not run a local ntp server so the time is super quick to set and you dont have to worr about connecting to ntp servers on internet?

  • Yes, the customer will likely configure a local ntp server -- pool.ntp.org is just what I'm using for testing (seems like it should be reliable enough for development purposes).
    – jonderry
    Sep 28, 2014 at 21:56
  • Your customers are not going to want -q sodont let it leave with that still enabled but they will appreciate fake-hwclock
    – dfc
    Sep 28, 2014 at 22:00
  • The -q option will be used only once, when the machine is configured for the first time. It is essential to use -q to ensure that the clock has synchronized.
    – jonderry
    Sep 28, 2014 at 22:06
  • Did iburst work?
    – dfc
    Sep 28, 2014 at 22:32
  • It didn't work. I couldn't tell a difference compared to the previous setting.
    – jonderry
    Sep 28, 2014 at 22:56

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