Question Smart devices and computers can't sync time

Nov 30, 2020
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Not sure which forum category this fits in, but I can no longer sync time on my devices (smart or computer) at home. This was not preceded by any changes to my home network.

I first noticed because the leviton smart switch controlling my outdoor lights started behaving erratically. Hours with leviton tech support determined the switch is unable to reach its time server, pool.ntp.org. It won't function without it, and there is no way to choose a different time server.

Then I realized I can't sync on my laptop (or any other computer in the house) either, regardless of what time server I select. I tried it wired directly to my modem/switch, to rule out the router, and still couldn't sync.

My ISP denies blocking any ports or NTP, but I'm not even convinced they even understand my problem. I have wireless, rural internet so my ISP is basically a guy. And not, it seems, an IT guy.

My laptop immediately syncs when I connect to a different network/ISP (work/cell hotspot/etc).

I don't know if it's meaningful, but tracert and stripchart both reach pool.ntp.org.

Resync returns no time data available error.

Is there any way for me to prove from my end that this is an ISP issue so they're obliged to do something? What else could be causing this?? Thanks for any suggestions!
 

kanewolf

Titan
Moderator
Not sure which forum category this fits in, but I can no longer sync time on my devices (smart or computer) at home. This was not preceded by any changes to my home network.

I first noticed because the leviton smart switch controlling my outdoor lights started behaving erratically. Hours with leviton tech support determined the switch is unable to reach its time server, pool.ntp.org. It won't function without it, and there is no way to choose a different time server.

Then I realized I can't sync on my laptop (or any other computer in the house) either, regardless of what time server I select. I tried it wired directly to my modem/switch, to rule out the router, and still couldn't sync.

My ISP denies blocking any ports or NTP, but I'm not even convinced they even understand my problem. I have wireless, rural internet so my ISP is basically a guy. And not, it seems, an IT guy.

My laptop immediately syncs when I connect to a different network/ISP (work/cell hotspot/etc).

I don't know if it's meaningful, but tracert and stripchart both reach pool.ntp.org.

Resync returns no time data available error.

Is there any way for me to prove from my end that this is an ISP issue so they're obliged to do something? What else could be causing this?? Thanks for any suggestions!
You could test if it is a DNS issue by opening a cmd.exe window and typing the following: nslookup.exe pool.ntp.org
That should return 1 or more IP addresses. You could then try to ping those IP addresses.
If you don't get an IP address for the name then you have a DNS problem.
In your laptop, manually set the DNS server to 8.8.8.8 (Google DNS) and see if it will sync -- https://www.windowscentral.com/how-change-your-pcs-dns-settings-windows-10
 
Nov 30, 2020
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Thank you for the reply :) Based on your suggestion, I do not have a DNS problem. nslookup.exe returned 4 IP addresses, all of which pinged without any lost packets.

Using 8.8.8.8 did not change anything either - resync still returns no time data available.
 
Do you get IPV4 or IPv6 addresses when you do the nslookup. Try to disable IPv6 support in your pc and see if the time server works. IPv6 can be very unstable at times and there are time servers on ipv6 that it will use if IPv6 is enabled.

After this try to load wireshark and see if the messages work. You want to use a NTP display filter to make it less messy.
 
Nov 30, 2020
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Well, I've put some time into trying to understand wireshark, but it seems to be beyond me. I'm also unclear on what exactly I'm looking for or what the results could tell me.

I've installed it, but haven't managed to record any NTP packets. I'm not sure if that's just because I haven't figured out the filters or indicative of a problem. I read something about being able to filter by port 123, but I'm afraid without step by step instructions (which I haven't been able to find) I must give up on wireshark for now.

I was hoping wireshark would show me what was happening to my computer's time sync requests. I must keep in mind tho that this isn't a problem with my computer settings, but rather something that is affecting all my smart devices as well.

Thank you!
 
NTP is one of the easier ones. Just use a display filter to start with capture filters only matter if you are needing to capture over very long periods of time. You should be able to just key in NTP in the filter box on the screen and it will show you NTP packets only. Not sure how you force NTP packets to test it been a while since I look at NTP stuff.
 
Nov 30, 2020
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I played more, and maybe it had defaulted to recording the wrong network adapter. This time it picked up the NTP packets when I attempted to update the date & time - outgoing packets to 4 different pool.ntp.org IP addresses, but no replies. Date & time window returned a timeout error (sometimes it's "peer unreachable"). Does this tell me anything?

For what it's worth, tracert will successfully ping pool.ntp.org, but then that's not NTP or using port 123.

Is there a way to increase the timeout period for syncing with the time server?

Thanks!
 
Something must be blocking the packets. It can't really be the pc itself since mulitple devices are affected. Is there some way to bypass your router and plug directly into the modem or what ever device is behind the router. That would eliminate the router as the cause.
I would next try a vpn service this will quickly show if it is the ISP doing it. To fix all your devices you woulds need to run the vpn on your router but to test this you can run it on just your PC. Not sure which to recommend. The so called free ones tend to be very hard to find one that is not doing bad stuff. What you would look for is one that has a very low cap each month for its free users trying to twist their arm into paying. Still even the better services are only about $10-$15 when you buy just 1 month so it might be worth it. If it fixes it you likely will need to use one of the better services because they have much better support on how to run vpn on a router.....you likely will have to replace your router or put another in front that can run vpn.

If NTP used tcp you could use the trick of telneting into the port number and watch for the handshake messages even though it would not actually function. I know of no similar way to test UDP stuff unfortunately.
 
Nov 30, 2020
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Well the time did sync through the VPN! I'm so glad you suggested that! Does that mean it's for sure my ISP blocking stuff? I can't tell you how much I wish I had other ISP options.

I didn't realize NTP went through a VPN so I never even thought to try that. I did try eliminating the router right when this started, and that made no difference.

I guess that means I'm off to research VPN options, and how to install on my router.
 
For VPN I would look to a asus router you can run merlin on. Your best option is to force only NTP data into the vpn and let the rest pass normally. Maybe the base version of asus has that ability now but find client vpn on a router is not real common and many are pretty basic. You could load dd-wrt on a different router.

Now if you want to run all your traffic through the vpn you are going to need a particular router. VPN has huge overhead and most routers will cap out at about 30mbps. A small number of routers have one of the rare cpu that supports AES acceleration. This means you can get about 200mbps. The cheapest one is a asus ac86u. There are a couple others with this cpu ,,,,the very newest wifi6e model has it also but since you can not actually buy it yet it is unkown if they have the feature active. There are other brands of routers that use this cpu chip but did not add the support for vpn acceleration.
 

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