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Timekeeping best practices for Windows, including NTP (1318)

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This article provides best practices for achieving accurate timekeeping in Windows guest operating systems. These recommendations include a suggested configuration for time synchronization in the guest and on the host.


For achieving accurate timekeeping in Windows guest operating systems, there are two main issues to consider: correctly configuring time synchronization and avoiding excessive CPU and memory overcommitment. Time synchronization utilities are necessary to correct time drift introduced by hardware time drift and guest operating system timekeeping imprecision. Excessive overcommitment can cause timekeeping drift at rates that are uncorrectable by time synchronization utilities. This best practices document covers time synchronization recommendations.

Time Synchronization

Use either w32time or NTP as the primary time synchronization utility.

Note: w32time is the time synchronization utility that ships with Windows.

NTP (the Network Time Protocol daemon) is available for Windows through a variety of third-party ports to Windows.
Windows VersionRecommended Time Sync Utility
Windows 2008w32time or NTP
Windows Vistaw32time or NTP
Windows 2003w32time or NTP
Windows XPNTP
Windows 2000NTP

Configuring w32time

When using w32time, there are a number of configuration parameters that can be changed. The table below describes the relevant parameters and gives a recommended value. All of the parameters are stored in the registry. Some of them can also be modified through the w32tm utility instead of directly editing the registry. This best practices guide covers running w32time in NTP mode. w32time can also use the windows domain hierarchy as time servers, which is not covered in this best practices guide.

After changing w32time's settings it is necessary to restart w32time. Either reboot the virtual machine, run net stop w32time && net start w32time from the command line, or stop and start the w32time service. After restarting the w32time service, run the command w32tm /resync to force w32time to resync the time.
Recommended Value: 900
Description: This parameter controls how often w32time will poll the time server to check whether time on the client needs to be corrected. The parameter is specified as number of seconds to wait between polling. The recommended value of 900 specifies that the time server should be polled once every 15 minutes.
Recommended Value:
Type: REG_SZ

: This parameter specifies the time servers to use. It is specified as a string of space separated servers. Specifying ",0x1" after the server name indicates that the server should be contacted at the frequency specified by the SpecialPollInterval setting.

Note: Modify the recommended value to point to the ntp servers available in your environment.

w32tm Command:
w32tm /config "/manualpeerlist:

    Note: Modify the command to use the ntp servers available in your environment.
Recommended Value: NTP
Type: REG_SZ
Description: This parameter specifies the mode that w32time should use. A value of NT5DS indicates that w32time should use the Windows domain hierarchy as its time servers rather than the NTP servers specified in the NtpServer key.
w32tm Command:
w32tm /config /syncfromflags:

VMware Tools Time Synchronization and Configuration

When using w32time or NTP in the guest, disable VMware Tools periodic time synchronization.

To disable VMware Tools periodic time sync, use one of these options:

  • Set tools.syncTime = "0" in the configuration file ( .vmx file) of the virtual machine.


  • Deselect Time synchronization between the virtual machine and the host operating system in the VMware Tools toolbox GUI of the guest operating system.


  • Run the VMwareService.exe -cmd "vmx.set_option synctime 1 0" command in the guest operating system. VMwareService.exe is typically installed in C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Tools.


  • Run the vmtoolsd.exe  timesync {enable|disable} command from the guest operating system and located at c:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Tools\vmtoolsd.  

These options do not disable one-time synchronizations done by VMware Tools for events such as tools startup, taking a snapshot, resuming from a snapshot, resuming from suspend, or vMotion. These events synchronize time in the guest operating system with time in the host operating system even if VMware Tools periodic time sync is disabled, so it is important to ensure that the host operating system's time is correct. For more information about ESX 4/ESXi 4 or Workstation 7, see Timekeeping in VMware Virtual Machines. For vSphere 5, Workstation 8 or Fusion 4, see

To ensure the host operating system’s time is correct for VMware ACE, VMware Fusion, VMware GSX Server, VMware Player, VMware Server, and VMware Workstation run time synchronization software such as NTP or w32time in the host. For VMware ESX, run NTP in the service console. For VMware ESXi, run NTP on the VMkernel.

Necessary Patches

Time runs too fast in a Windows virtual machine when the Multimedia Timer interface is used (1005953) describes a known issue that may cause problems when running Windows in a virtual machine. This issue is addressed in recent VMware products. The table below specifies the actions required to ensure that you are using a product version that contains the fix:
ESX 3.5 and later
No action required
ESX 3.0.3
Ensure patch ESX303-200910401-BG is applied
ESX 3.0.2
Ensure patch ESX-1002087 is applied
ESX 3.0.1
Ensure patch ESX-1002082 is applied
ESX 3.0.0
Ensure patch ESX-1002081 is applied
ESX 2.5.x and earlier
Upgrade to ESX 3.0.0 or later
Fusion 2.0 and later
No action required
Fusion 1.x
Upgrade to Fusion 2.0 or later
Player 2.0 and later
No action required
Player 1.x
Upgrade to Player 2.0 or later
Workstation 6.0 and later
No action required
Workstation 5.x
Upgrade to Workstation 6.0 or later

Additional Information

Note :


configuring-ntp  ntp-time  timekeeping-windows  timekeeping-linux

Update History

3/26/2012 - Added note regarding time sync when a domain controller is involved.

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  • 114 Ratings