Setting the Time Zone in Linux: A Step-by-Step Guide

One crucial aspect of managing a UNIX computer involves ensuring accurate configuration of both time and time zone. Now, let us delve into the process of setting the time zone in Linux.


Dealing with time zones can become intricate, particularly if you and your Linux server are situated in different regions.

Time zones, designed to assist individuals worldwide in keeping track of daytime and evening hours, hold minimal relevance for computers. In most cases, it is advisable to align your Linux time zone with your own or the majority of your users' time zones.

Thankfully, configuring the time zone on Linux post-installation is a straightforward process. Here is a step-by-step guide:

The Significance of Time Zone in Linux

Linux efficiently handles numerous scheduled tasks. This may involve executing backups or checking for software updates. Ideally, such tasks should be scheduled during periods of minimal computer usage, such as after regular working hours. Aligning the time zone with your own facilitates effective coordination.

At some point, you may need to analyze log files for potential issues. Having a clear understanding of the chronological sequence of events is much simpler when both you and the Linux server interpret 5 p.m. in the same manner. This underscores the importance of synchronizing time zones.

Verifying the Configured Time Zone in Linux

Linux offers a couple of methods to verify the time zone. The traditional method involves checking the file location where the system's /etc/localtime points. This location is determined during the time zone configuration process. In the early days of system administration, the procedure involved manually establishing a symbolic link from the appropriate time zone file to /etc/localtime.

To check this, you can run the command ls -l /etc/localtime from the terminal.

In this example, the time zone is set as Central Standard Time or UTC-6.

A more contemporary approach employs the timedatectl command, which is utilized on present-day Linux systems for time zone configuration as well.

Once again, the time zone is displayed as CST.

Changing the Time Zone on Linux

Utilizing the timedatectl command, we can modify the time zone. However, prior to doing so, it is crucial to ascertain the correct long name of the desired time zone. For several years, Linux has adopted long names based on the region and city to define time zones.

To list the available time zones, enter the command timedatectl list-timezones in the terminal. The resulting output may be lengthy, so you can navigate through it using the spacebar. Once you have identified the appropriate choice, you can press "q" to exit the list.

Suppose we wish to adjust the time zone based on the local time in New York City. We will take note of a listing for America/New_York, which is precisely what we desire to utilize. It is possible to configure it by executing the command sudo timedatectl set-timezone America/New_York. Subsequently, we verify the implementation of this modification by employing the previous vacant timedatectl command.

That concludes the process. However, what if your Linux server is older and lacks timedatectl?

Setting a time zone in Linux without timedatectl is comparatively more intricate, although still straightforward. To accomplish this:

  • Determine the appropriate time zone file in /usr/share/zoneinfo.
  • Eradicate the former symbolic link from /etc/localtime.
  • Create a symbolic link from the correct time zone file to /etc/localtime.
  • Confirm the modification by executing the date command from the terminal. The output will display the current time zone, which I have reverted to Central Standard Time.
  • Configuring the Time Zone using Gnome Settings

    Lastly, I should mention that if you administer your Linux computer using Gnome or any other graphical user interface (GUI), the settings application for Gnome, KDE, and other prominent desktop environments allows you to set the time zone.

  • In Gnome or KDE, navigate to Settings > Date & Time or its equivalent.
  • Select Time Zone.
  • Choose the appropriate option on the displayed map.
  • Gnome Time Zone Map

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