How to Install and Configure NTP Server and Client on Debian?

The Network Time Protocol (NTP) is a protocol used to synchronize time on computers within a network. Accurate timekeeping is important for many systems, including databases, email servers, and financial applications. In this article, we'll show you how to install and configure an NTP server and client on Debian.

Before we begin, you should have root access to your Debian server and be familiar with command line interface.

Step 1: Install NTP on Debian

The first step is to install NTP on your Debian server. Open terminal and enter following command −

sudo apt-get install ntp

This command will install NTP package and its dependencies.

Step 2: Configure NTP Server

The next step is to configure NTP server on your Debian system. To do this, open /etc/ntp.conf file using your preferred text editor.

sudo nano /etc/ntp.conf

In this file, you'll find a few default NTP servers. You can either keep these servers or add your own. We recommend adding your own servers to ensure that your NTP server is synchronized with correct time.

Add your preferred NTP server by inserting following line in configuration file −

server [server-name-or-IP-address]

Replace [server-name-or-IP-address] with name or IP address of NTP server you want to use. You can add multiple servers by adding multiple server lines.

Once you've added server(s), save and close file.

Step 3: Restart NTP Service

To apply changes made in NTP configuration file, restart NTP service by entering following command −

sudo systemctl restart ntp

Step 4: Configure NTP Clients

Now that your NTP server is up and running, you can configure NTP clients to synchronize their time with server. To do this, install NTP package on clients using following command −

sudo apt-get install ntp

Once package is installed, open /etc/ntp.conf file on client using your preferred text editor.

sudo nano /etc/ntp.conf

In this file, add following line −

server [ntp-server-IP-address]

Replace [ntp-server-IP-address] with IP address of your NTP server.

Once you've added server line, save and close file.

Step 5: Restart NTP Service on Clients

Finally, restart NTP service on clients using following command −

sudo systemctl restart ntp

The clients should now be synchronized with NTP server.

Step 6: Verify Time Synchronization

To verify that time synchronization is working, you can use ntpq command on both server and client systems.

On server, enter following command −

ntpq -p

This command will display a list of NTP servers that server is synchronizing with, as well as their status.

On client, enter same command −

ntpq -p

This command should display NTP server that client is synchronizing with, as well as its status.

While above steps will get you up and running with an NTP server and client on Debian, there are some additional considerations you may want to take into account to optimize your NTP setup −

Firewall Configuration: If you're using a firewall on your Debian system, you'll need to allow incoming NTP traffic on port 123. You can do this using following command −

sudo ufw allow 123/udp

This command allows incoming UDP traffic on port 123, which is default port used by NTP.

  • Server Stratum − stratum of an NTP server indicates its level of accuracy and reliability. lower stratum, more accurate and reliable server is considered to be. When configuring your NTP server, it's important to use servers with a low stratum. You can check stratum of a server using ntpq -p command.

  • Server Pooling − Instead of relying on a single NTP server for time synchronization, you can use a pool of servers to improve reliability and accuracy. NTP pool project ( provides a list of NTP servers that you can use for this purpose. To use a pool of servers, simply add multiple server lines to your NTP configuration file, each with a different server address.

  • Authentication − By default, NTP traffic is not authenticated, which means that it can be vulnerable to attacks such as spoofing and man-in-the-middle. To improve security of your NTP setup, you can enable authentication using symmetric key authentication method. This involves generating a shared secret key that is used to authenticate NTP traffic between servers and clients.

To enable symmetric key authentication, you'll need to generate a key file using ntp-keygen command, and add key to your NTP configuration file using keys directive. You'll also need to configure authentication settings in restrict directive in your NTP configuration file.

Overall, configuring an NTP server and client on Debian is a straightforward process that can help ensure accurate and synchronized time across your network. By considering additional steps outlined above, you can further optimize your NTP setup for reliability and security.

Here are a few more tips to consider when installing and configuring NTP on Debian −

  • Monitor NTP Service − It's a good idea to monitor NTP service to ensure that it's running correctly and that time synchronization is working properly. One way to do this is to use ntpq -p command periodically to check synchronization status of NTP servers. You can also use monitoring tools such as Nagios, Zabbix, or Munin to monitor NTP service and receive alerts if there are any issues.

  • NTP Leap Second Handling − Occasionally, NTP servers need to handle leap seconds, which are added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to account for slowing of Earth's rotation. By default, NTP servers and clients will automatically handle leap seconds, but you can disable this feature if necessary using leapfile directive in NTP configuration file.

  • NTP Version − latest version of NTP is version 4, which is version used in this article. However, if you have older systems in your network, they may only support older versions of NTP. In this case, you may need to install an older version of NTP on those systems or upgrade systems to support NTP version 4.

  • NTP Best Practices − NTP Best Current Practices (BCP) document provides recommendations for configuring and securing NTP servers and clients. This document includes best practices for server selection, server configuration, client configuration, and security. You can find latest version of NTP BCP document at

Here are a few more advanced NTP configuration options you may want to consider −

  • Using GPS or Radio Clocks − If you require even more accurate time synchronization, you can use specialized time sources such as GPS or radio clocks. These devices provide highly accurate time signals that can be used as a reference for NTP servers. NTP servers can be configured to use GPS or radio clocks as their primary time source, or as a backup time source in case of network outages.

  • Using a Local Stratum 1 Server − If you require highest level of accuracy and reliability, you can set up a local stratum 1 server using a GPS or radio clock. This server would act as primary time source for your network, and would synchronize with other NTP servers as a backup. Setting up a local stratum 1 server requires specialized hardware and software, and may not be necessary for all applications.

  • Customizing NTP Metrics − NTP provides a wide range of metrics and statistics that can be used to monitor and troubleshoot service. These metrics include information about server and client synchronization status, clock offset and jitter, and network delay. By default, NTP logs this information to a file, but you can also configure NTP to send these metrics to a monitoring system such as Graphite, InfluxDB, or Prometheus.

  • Peer Relationships − NTP can be configured to use peer relationships between servers, rather than default server-client relationships. In a peer relationship, two or more servers synchronize with each other and act as backups for each other. This can improve reliability and redundancy in event of network outages or server failures.


In this article, we've shown you how to install and configure an NTP server and client on Debian. By following these steps, you can ensure that time on all systems in your network is accurate and synchronized.

By considering these advanced NTP configuration options, you can further optimize your NTP setup for your specific requirements and use cases. However, these options require more specialized knowledge and expertise, and may not be necessary for all applications.

Updated on: 12-May-2023

6K+ Views

Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started