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Troubleshooting NTP on Solaris

News NTP -- Network Time Protocol Recommended Links Viewing Syslog Messages Reference FAQs
ntpdate ntpq ntptrace Humor Etc  

You need to use a combination of tools, such as viewing system error logs and using the snoop utility, to troubleshoot NTP.

Determining NTP Peers

The ntpq utility is the standard NTP query program. It is an interactive program but it can also run command in batch mode using option -c. All interactive commands are available with help command:

Commands available:

addvars     associations authenticate  cl       clearvars
clocklist   clockvar     cooked        cv       debug
delay       exit         help          host     hostnames
keyid       keytype      lassociations lopeers  lpassociations
lpeers      mreadlist    mreadvar      mrl      mrv
ntpversion  opeers       passociations passwd   peers
poll        pstatus      quit          raw      readlist
readvar     rl           rmvars        rv       showvars
timeout     version      writelist     writevar

Use the utility to identify NTP peers on the network. For example:

myhost# ntpq -c peers

remote refid st t when poll reach delay offset disp
*LOCAL(0) LOCAL(0) 3 l 36 64 377 0.00 0.000 10.06 16 --64 0 0.00 0.000 16000.0
ntpq> exit

Viewing Syslog Messages

Solaris ntpd write messages to syslog  /var/adm/messages on start and stop: 

Jan 7 13:04:24 myhost xntpd[177]: [ID 866926 daemon.notice] xntpd exiting on signal 15
Jan 7 13:09:43 myhost ntpdate[24288]: [ID 774510 daemon.notice] step time server 10.20
1.145.9 offset 318.644492 sec
Jan 7 13:09:43 myhost xntpd[24290]: [ID 702911 daemon.notice] xntpd 3-5.93e+sun 03/08/
29 1623:05 (1.4)
Jan 7 13:09:43 myhost xntpd[24290]: [ID 301315 daemon.notice] tickadj = 5, tick = 1000
0, tvu_maxslew = 495, est. hz = 100
Jan 7 13:09:44 myhost xntpd[24290]: [ID 266339 daemon.notice] using kernel phase-lock
loop 0041, drift correction 0.00000

If you set time forward ( a minute or two) on the system on  which you are trying to debug, then log messages will be generates as the system sends out its periodic NTP requests with the incorrect time. The NTP servers should respond with the correct time and clocks should gradually adjust.

Note: According to Sun, NTP can only sync time if it is off by no more than 17 minutes.  Furthermore, adjusting time being off by seconds will take several minutes because NTP is architected to slowly adjust to the NTP master's time. 

Use the snoop utility when you attempt to track NTP activities on the network.

To view NTP server multicast advertisements, use the snoop utility.

# /usr/sbin/snoop -d bge1 udp port 123 

The following is an example of an NTP client multicast:

myclient -> NTP client (Thu Dec 27 02:25:10 2001)

Samples of a snoop trace of the process follow:

1. The NTP client sends a message to an NTP server with its idea of the local time.

myclient ->  NTP client (Thurs December 27 02:16:03 2001)

2. The NTP server responds with the correct time.

-> myclient NTP server (Thurs December 27 02:14:51 2001)

3. This exchange between the NTP server and the NTP client repeats many times. Eventually, the NTP client acknowledges that its time is incorrect. The client will then take action to change its own time, based on NTP time advertisements received from one or more NTP servers. Information about the actions taken by the NTP client are
sent to the syslog utility for proper processing.

myclient ->  NTP client (Thurs December 27 02:15:27 2001)

4. The NTP server responds again with the correct time.

-> myclient NTP server (Thurs December 27 02:15:27 2001)
The following is an example of an NTP server response:

 -> NTP broadcast (Thu Dec 27 02:25:33 2001)
The following is an example of an NTP client time request:
myclient ->  NTP client (Thu Dec 27 02:26:19 2001)
The following is an example of an NTP server response:
-> myclient NTP server (Thu Dec 27 02:26:19 2001)
Note – Another easy way to monitor NTP traffic by using snoopis to use the command: snoop -V port 123.

ISC provide pretty good description of basic issues  in Chapter 9

9. Troubleshooting NTP

9.4. Check the syslog  output

Look at the contents of your syslog  output file. There is a good chance that ntpd  has output some information describing any problems it has encountered.


9.5. Problems with RESTRICT

Many people have difficulties with using RESTRICT. They want to set themselves up to be as secure as possible, so they create an extremely limited default RESTRICT line in their /etc/ntp.conf  file, and then they find that they can't talk to anyone.

If you're having problems with your server, in order to do proper debugging, you should turn off all RESTRICT lines in your /etc/ntp.conf  file, and otherwise simplify the configuration as much as possible, so that you can make sure that the basic functions are working correctly.

Once you get the basics working, try turning back on various features, one-by-one. When turning on the RESTRICT features, make sure that you have read, understood, and followed the instructions found in AccessRestrictions.

9.5.1. Problems with RESTRICT NOTRUST

The behavior of NOTRUST changed between versions 4.1 and 4.2.

Please note that most servers are not set up to do cryptographic authentication. Therefore, if you use RESTRICT NOTRUST in your configuration file, you will most likely be configuring your machine to query one or more upstream servers but then throw away any answer that they may send you. This may result in your client sending out one or more packets per second to each of your configured upstream servers, and that would be considered to be "seriously unfriendly".

Many server operators would be likely to firewall themselves off from you (and perhaps the rest of your network), to try to protect themselves against this kind of abuse.

See the page at Flawed Routers Flood University of Wisconsin Internet Time Server to get an idea of how bad this can be, when a vendor mis-configures commodity-grade hardware and causes all their devices in the field to start bombarding time servers with a packet every second. See for a more recent example.

Do NOT use RESTRICT NOTRUST unless you know what it means and you know how to use it properly!!!

9.6. Check the NTP port

The first thing to do is to make sure that UDP port 123 is open on all firewalls between you and the remote time servers that you wish to synchronize to. See 9.8. On-line Troubleshooting Utilities for browser-based tests.

When trying to debug problems using ntpdate  and ntpq, note that these utilities may use unprivileged high-numbered ports, while ntpd  requires full bidirectional access to the privileged UDP port 123. So, ntpdate -u  may work, but ntpd  may not. Or ntpq  may work, but ntpd  may not. OpenNTPD also uses high-numbered source ports so if it is able to synchronize but ntpd  is not, it is very probable that the incoming UDP port 123 is blocked.

If you're going to run ntpd, you need to fix your network/firewall/NAT so that ntpd  can have full unrestricted access to UDP port 123 in both directions. However, this may not be allowed by your firewall administrators.

If this is not possible, you may need to run ntpd  on the firewall itself, so that it can have full unrestricted access to UDP port 123 in both directions, and then have it serve time to your internal clients. However, this may also be disallowed.

If that's not possible, your only other option may be to buy the necessary hardware to connect to one or more of your own computers and run your own Stratum 1 time server (typically $200-300 for the radio or GPS receiver hardware, plus the computer to connect it to), or buy a pre-packaged Stratum 1 time server (frequently $1000-2000 or more). With your own Stratum 1 time server, you can sync your internal clients to it, it will get its signal via a radio signal from WWV/WWVB/DCF77/CHU/etc... (depending on where you live) or maybe a GPS or CDMA radio signal, and no packets will be required to cross your firewall on UDP port 123.

Only your management and your firewall administrators will be able to tell you which options are feasible.

9.7. Check the status of ntpd

Run ntpq -p HOSTNAME, or one of the web-based utilities at 9.8. On-line Troubleshooting Utilities, to see the status of ntpd  on HOSTNAME  (without HOSTNAME  the local host is queried). Check the official documentation for a detailed description of the ntpq  utility ( It will report something like this:


     remote           refid      st t when poll reach   delay   offset  jitter
 ff05::101       .MCST.          16 u    -   64    0    0.000    0.000 4000.00
* .PPS.            1 u  320 1024  377    1.955   -1.234   1.368


The very first column

contains the "tally code" character. See the ntpq page for more information.


the hostname or IP of the remote machine.


the identification of the time source to which the remote machines is synced. May be (for example) a radio clock or another ntp server)


the stratum of the remote machine. 16 is "unsynchronized". 0 is the best value, that could be (for example) a radio clock or the ntp servers private caesium clock (see for more information about ntp in general).


how many seconds since the last poll of the remote machine.



the polling interval in seconds.



an 8-bit left-rotating register. Any 1 bit means that a "time packet" was received.



the time delay (in milliseconds) to communicate with the remote.



the offset (in milliseconds) between our time and that of the remote.



the observed jitter (in milliseconds) of time with the remote.


9.8. On-line Troubleshooting Utilities

The following on-line troubleshooring utilities are available for testing an ntpd  from an "outside" IP address:

  1. Test the time server at the IP address you are browsing from (time, peers, variables)

  2. Test the time server at any IP address (time, peers, variables, associations, versions AND trace)

9.9. ntp.conf and dhcp

If your /etc/ntp.conf  is being automatically overwritten, this may be due to DHCP. Either run your dhcpd (dhcp server) with the dhcpd.conf option "option ntp-servers <your ntp server>;", or run your dhcpcd (dhcp client) with the -N  arg to prevent ntp.conf  from being rewritten at all.

9.10. synchronizing ntp with a server running w32time

To synchronize ntp with a Windows server 2003 running w32time, you have to install a hotfix on that server first, otherwise ntp cannot reach (and therefore not sync with) that server.

This hotfix is available from Microsoft on request only, see

[Nov 14, 2005] Summary ntpd on Solaris 10

Andreas Höschler ahoesch at
Mon Nov 14 06:48:17 EST 2005

Hi all,

thanks to

"Jonathan Birchall" <Jonathan.Birchall at>
Hutin Bertrand <Bertrand.Hutin at>

> The config file is in the same place as the later Solaris,s - ie 
> /etc/inet/ntp.conf.
> Check what dependencies xntp relies on - svcs -l 
> svc:/network/ntp:default
> If all dependencies exist then
> svcadm enable svc:/network/ntp
> svcadm refresh svc:/network/ntp
> svcadm restart svc:/network/ntp
> This should start xntpd.

This is what I was looking for. I now get

	svcs | grep ntp

	online         12:31:24 svc:/network/ntp:default

Thanks a lot!









ntpq queries NTP servers which implement the recommended NTP mode 6 control message format, about current state. It can also request changes in that state. The program can be run in interactive mode; or it can be controlled using command line arguments. Requests to read and write arbitrary variables can be assembled, with raw and pretty-printed output options available. By sending multiple queries to the server, ntpq can also obtain and print a list of peers in a common format.

If one or more request options are included on the command line, ntpq sends each of the requests to NTP servers running on each of the hosts given as command line arguments. By default, ntpq sends its requests to localhost, if hosts are not included on the command line. If no request options are given, ntpq attempts to read commands from the standard input and execute them on the NTP server running on the first host given on the command line. Again, ntpq defaults to localhost if no other host is specified.

ntpq uses NTP mode 6 packets to communicate with an NTP server. Thus, it can be used to query any compatible server on the network that permits queries. Since NTP is a UDP protocol, this communication will be somewhat unreliable, especially over large distances. ntpq makes one attempt to retransmit requests; requests timeout if the remote host is not heard from within a suitable period.








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