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Windows 7: W32Time, Group Policy, and Control Sets

18 Apr 2011   #1

W7 Pro, W7 Ult, W7 Enterprise
W32Time, Group Policy, and Control Sets

After days of trying to figure out the relationship of Group Policy v. Control Sets with respect to the operation of W32Time, I've hit the wall. I need professional help. I'm not sure whether a psychiatrist or a Certified Gold Partner would be appropriate. Maybe there's someone here who can save me from the padded room....

Here's what I'm up to: I have a solid NTP server running on Linux. (They make it soooo easy.) I want all my local Windows machines to sync up with it, and hold a pretty tight tolerance -- something under +-20msec is the goal. MS says that W32Time isn't capable of accuracies under a couple of minutes. I don't believe that, given the complexity of the time adjustment algorithm built into Windows. If you look under the hood, it's similar to that in Linux which is capable of msec-level sync. Anyway, the point is how to go about configuring the multitude of settings that influence clock operation.

We have a couple of knobs to turn:
1) Group Policy - you can enable a UI for all clock control settings
2) Registry edit - W32Time shows up in HKLM... [control sets]
3) The GUI that appears when you click on the clock in the notification area.

Now the problem is that these all claim to have some control over the clock, but experimentation reveals that they don't talk to each other.

You can, for example, set parameters in Group Policy, but these do not propagate into the Control Set(s). They do not propagate into the Notification Area UI interface either.

You can edit the Control Sets in the registry, and those values are not reflected in the Group Policy settings, but do, in the case of SpecialPollInterval, show up in the UI.

None of these settings, with the exception of the Brute Force SpecialPollInterval seem to affect what the clock control actually does. I think. I'm not completely sure because the clock operational log sometimes shows one thing, while the Notification Area UI shows something else.

I've spent hours with Google trying to find a coherent explanation of 1) the settings and how they relate to each other, and 2) how one is to set them appropriately so they take effect when W32Time runs at boot. Most everything you find pertinent to this matter is little more than a regurgitation of the "help" that appears in the GP editor. Help that is most definitely Not Helpful.

So here are the questions: 1) What's the right way to get the clock control set properly? 2) What is the relationship between GP inputs and the Control Sets? 3) (This one's wishful thinking) Does anyone have a clear explanation, that's not a regurgitation of the useless "help", for how the clock control parameters relate to each other, and how one goes about choosing a workable set of parameters?

Please. No speculation or guesses.

My System SpecsSystem Spec


 W32Time, Group Policy, and Control Sets

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