Windows 7 Network Time(NTP) fails to restart on boot

If your scratching your head as to why you have to manually start NTP(Network Time Protocol) every time you boot into Windows XP, Vista, and 7, you’re not alone.  At first I thought this was a bug in Windows 7, but I’m guessing the developers were just being lazy and reused old ‘W32Time’ libs from XP because my friend has the problem on his XP box as well.  To further confuse the situation, Microsoft also call’s their implementation of NTP, ‘Windows Time’ and ‘Internet Time’.  Whats wrong with NTP?

It says date and time set...

It says date and time set...

I set my NTP server and Windows reports that, “This computer is set to automatically synchronize on a scheduled basis”.  But if you reboot it won’t resync until you manually do so again, defeating the whole concept of Internet Time all together.   I dug deep into my Windows tool bag and tried to put myself in the shoes of a Windows developer.  I would probably reason that, “we need to save something for Windows 8 so lets separate the service from Desktop applet”.

To solve this UI flaw ‘right click’ on your ‘Computer’ icon.  Select ‘manage’.  Under ‘Services and Applications’ select ‘Services’.  Scroll to the bottom of the list to ‘Windows Time’. ‘right click’ and select ‘properties’.

Once in the ‘properties’ dialog box set ‘startup type’ to ‘Automatic’.  Now NTP should check the time at boot.

If you reboot and the service still won’t start you may have a permissions issue.  After I rebooted my system the clock was still wrong.  When I atempted to start it manually(from the desktop) I got an error saying the service could not start.  To correct the permissions open manager console, right-click and select ‘properties’ from Windows Time service.  Navigate to the ‘Log On’ tab.

Select the ‘This account’ radio button, then click on ‘Browse…’

Next click the ‘Advanced’ button on the ‘Select User’ Dialogue box.

Select ‘LOCAL SERVICE’ then click ‘OK’ .  You will return to the screen below.  THIS IS IMPORTANT:  BY DEFAULT IT WILL APPEAR AS THOUGH A PASSWORD IS ALREADY ASSIGNED TO THE LOCAL USER.  ERASE THE PASSWORD BEFORE YOU HIT APPLY!  After you hit apply it will appear as though an encrypted password was set.  Bizarre.

I cannot believe how much googling and ‘trial & error’ I had to go through to get NTP working on boot with Windows 7.  What a huge hassle for such a common network resource.  Another example of poor UI design and a janky permissions system from Redmond.  But why compete for your business? Why compete when Microsoft has a ‘Desktop PC’ monopoly, delves out large political donations and harbors a deep patent chest?  At least they don’t have 88% market share in mobile devices yet…  Excited about the new Windows 7 phone?  Neither is anyone else.

Written by mattb in: Windows | Tags: , , , ,


  • I followed your instructions to help solve the problem of dual boot with Linux where Windows 7 would get the wrong time because Windows uses the local time at hardware level. The Windows Time Server service would not start on my Windows 7 64 machine in “Automatic” even with your instructions about the logon id. I had to set the service to “Automatic with delay” and set in the registry the (in)famous:
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    It still takes a few minutes to take the right time though. I will try to create a power shell script to run at start-up. I think that the delay is necessary because the service needs the network subsystem fully up before it can actually do something. Just a guess.

    Comment | February 20, 2011
  • mattb

    It’s so frustrating, I figured out the same thing after writing this article. Windows Time fails to start when I boot into my linux drive then back to Windows 7. This is a really old bug…

    I’m sure we aren’t the first person to discover this. It says something about Microsoft as a company…

    Comment | February 21, 2011
  • I don’t think hungry kids in Africa care if those “political donations” are political or non political. Also I don’t think they care if open source community gave them 0 non political or 0 political tons of rice.
    As for GUI bugs, Windows at least has a GUI :). I spent 18 months managing Red Hat server and Apache and it was a nightmare. After management decided to switch to Windows 2008 R2 and IIS, after 2 weeks everything was working better, faster, more stable and CHEAPER than on Linux 🙂
    I feel sorry for pathetic brain washed Linux “gurus”. I really enjoy when Linux “guru” starts speaking of his great success because he managed to compile someone else’s software with gcc, LOL. How HIGH LEVEL. I am c++ programmer for 20 years and I compile my own programs for years and I really don’t see any brain needed for compiling programs. But no, Linux guys are gurus, and they can not speak with windows users because windows users are stupid. They don’t understand that Linux is boring not complicated. Yes, it is BORING. And there is nothing special or complicated in compiling kernels, and setting up cron jobs. It is simply boring, and that is only reason windows users don’t use Linux. Now you also know why my Red Had experience was a nightmare 🙂

    Comment | January 1, 2012
  • mattb


    Thanks for reading my site! I think it’s awesome you took the time to write your thoughts down. Although it kinda devolved into a religious rant.

    I’d like to react to your points(starting at the top):

    1) “I don’t think hungry kids in Africa care if those “political donations” are political or non political…”

    What kids? Do kids care about politics usually anyways? And even if they don’t; I believe we still have an obligation to all human children.
    Africa is a very large place with hundreds of ethnic groups, languages, and many religions. The main historical reason Africa is so fucked up is because of partition by European empires from the 16th-19th centuries. Africa was divided on map without consideration to the tribal/national territorial borders. The continent was plundered and it’s populations doomed to serfdom or slavery for centuries. This is a historical fact.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the misery in Africa was/is created by white men. More specifically the Europeans, but we can’t overlook the American slave trades affect on West Africa. Bill Gates help with his illicit Microsoft money is a just drop in the bucket compared to the death and misery faced by young people across the continent. But I’m sure that won’t stop Bill from patting himself on the back and receiving awards for great generosity.

    2) “As for GUI bugs, Windows at least has a GUI”

    GUI doesn’t help if the product blows. You have never used Microsoft Lynx server. It’s obvious. It’s horrible to use, difficult to set up. Don’t take my word for it. Try it. BTW, download the 64 bit version. Asterisk PBX blows it away. Linux has like five desktop environments to Microsofts one. I think the Windows desktop is better and most fair minded Linux Admins would agree.

    3) I really enjoy when Linux “guru” starts speaking of his great success because he managed to compile someone else’s software

    Your statement is not well thought out. Compiling and installing software is a basic part of the job… would you hire a cabby that didn’t know how to drive? by the way, have you ever heard of a “Windows Guru” before? LOL.

    System Administration and Computer programming are two different fields of work. You would think a man of your experience would know that. The worst IT managers and System Admins are Computer Science majors. Why you ask? Because they train at just a few layers of the stack.

    For example, I have a friend with C.S. Major from UW. He used to work at Honeywell. He wrote software for a proprietary App in C for proprietary RISC based OS. One App he worked on. The Guy doesn’t know TCP/IP, Windows, Cisco, or UNIX/Linux. He knows C/C++ very well. I respect the hell out of him, but it’s a different job.

    This is why it’s not surprising you struggled with Linux. I bet you would have problems on any OS you were not used to because of your professional background. You say that you have 20 years experience with C/C++, this implies you are older middle aged worker. Change isn’t your thing, I get that. But if you were 25 years old today your perspective and career ambitions might be different. I know that’s hard to accept but please consider this point.

    Many Windows admins that make the leap to Linux are forced to compile programs learn shell scripting eventually. This opens the door for us to learn basic programming concepts. I never wanted to become a programmer… but Linux forced me to learn PHP,LAMP and BASH. It’s extremely empowering to know I can do my job and relate to developers on some level. If all MCSE’s had basic programming skills they would be able to help developers make their products better the same way the Open Source community does.

    So while MCSE’s usually have no programming skills, Linux admins are forced to learn. I taught myself, no degree. No trade school. I’m proud of that. Also compiling software has many pitfalls. Even something as simple as “./configure && make && make install” can go horribly wrong without the correct configure options, libraries, make options, or modules. But you already knew that, right?

    5) Linux guys are gurus, and they can not speak with windows users because windows users are stupid

    I don’t claim to be a guru of any sort. Many Linux admins are bit condescending, but so are MCSE’s when dealing with end users. Most IT professionals fell into their position in the late 90’s. Thus there exist a great skill disparity amongst technicians. I consult with 100’s of Windows admins. Many of my first meetings start with them jokingly apologizing about not knowing Linux. They’re embarrassed to specialize in Microsoft products; for obvious reasons. Oh, and they all use iphone or Android. I still haven’t met a real living person that uses Windows phone 7, but I heard it’s pretty good. : )

    5) Now you also know why my Red Had experience was a nightmare

    Nope. You never made it that far. If you were setting up an Apache web server you would most likely not need to compile a kernel, set up Cron jobs, compile additional software, etc… So it’s no surprise that you are frustrated.


    I’ve never met a real Microsoft fan boy. I live in Seattle all my life and have known a more than few Microsoft employees. The general view I get is one of ambivalence. They pay well, but only Xbox seems to bring enthusiasm to their court. Microsoft’s long string of failures(Vista, Zune, Communications server, Windows phones, etc.) are embarrassing when you consider the immense financial resources at their disposal. Don’t take my word for it check out their stock price the last five years; you can google it, because no one uses Bing! : )

    You had a bad experience because you’re a computer programmer with no background in Unix. Setting up Apache is as easy as it gets. You made claims about Microsoft Server platform being cheaper and easier with no facts or personal experiences to validate that claim. Linux didn’t save you any money because you wasted a lot of time getting in over your head. Change is tough. Good luck old man, you’ll need it!


    Comment | January 2, 2012
  • Thanks for this
    I made the mistake of changing Windows Time from “Log on as Local Service” to “Local System account”. Windows Time service would not start so I tried to reverse this back to Local Service but was unable to understand how to do this.
    It really is a nightmare

    Comment | October 12, 2013
  • gui

    I’ve tried your suggestions but there is a problem when I deleted the password and clicked apply. A message appeared saying that the change is not effective until the service is stopped and restarted. I clicked OK to close the pop up message and OK again in the log on tab and I restarted the service, restarted my computer. But the Windows Time Service still does not start automatically.

    BTW I have to use find in the advance option to see the Local Service.


    Comment | May 23, 2014

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