From what I've read the hwclock -r command only returns the time in local time no matter how it is set. I think hwclock --utc or hwclock --localtime will change the clock to UTC or localtime. But I don't want to change it; I want to know how it is currently set.

So how can I check if my hardware clock is set to UTC time or local time?

  • Check your BIOS setup. The computer's time is usually set here. Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 5:25
  • Which version of Ubuntu? What does grep -i utc /etc/default/rcS say?
    – muru
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 8:28
  • @muru that command returned UTC=no so I assume it was changing it based on the localtime. I changed that to UTC=yes and now the clock is working properly.
    – chaptuck
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 16:25

2 Answers 2


Ubuntu 15.04 and later uses systemd as the default init system and includes the timedatectl program. Running timedatectl will output:

      Local time: Tue 2016-02-02 09:47:54 MST
  Universal time: Tue 2016-02-02 16:47:54 UTC
        RTC time: Tue 2016-02-02 16:47:54
       Time zone: America/Denver (MST, -0700)
 Network time on: yes
NTP synchronized: no
 RTC in local TZ: no

RTC time is the hardware clock. Compare it to the Local time and Universal times returned by timedatectl to determine how the hardware clock is set.

RTC in local TZ: no means the hardware clock is interpreted as UTC

RTC in local TZ: yes means the hardware clock is interpreted as local time

To switch using timedatectl

sudo timedatectl set-local-rtc 0 sets RTC to UTC

sudo timedatectl set-local-rtc 1 sets RTC to local time

Switch using config file

Setting the UTC= setting in /etc/default/rcS will change how the system interprets the hardware clock (UTC=yes or UTC=no).

  • +1 for this answer being simple and does not require sudo
    – Alex Jones
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 18:32
sudo hwclock --debug

Gives you the unmodified time before spitting out the interpreted (local or UTC) answer.

  • This was what I was hoping for thank you. The man pages weren't very descriptive for that option so I wasn't sure what it did.
    – chaptuck
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 16:26
  • 1
    timedatectl is better, you dont need sudo for it
    – Alex Jones
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 17:33
  • @FriarTuck what is the correct answer is totally up to you, no judgement over it
    – Alex Jones
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 18:26
  • I certainly don't mind =) Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 18:27
  • 1
    If your system does not have timedatectl, this is your best bet (for the googlers here)
    – Mat M
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 14:51

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