How to Set or Change the Time Zone in Linux

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A time zone is a geographic region that has the same standard time. Typically the time zone is set during the installation of the operational system, but it can be easily changed at a later time.

Using the correct time zone is essential for many systems related tasks and processes. For example, the cron daemon uses the system's time zone for executing cron jobs. The time zone is also used for logs timestamps.

This tutorial covers the steps necessary to set or change the time zone in Linux.

Checking the Current Time Zone

timedatectl is a command-line utility that allows you to view and change the system's time and date. It is available on all modern systemd-based Linux systems.

To view the current time zone, invoke the timedatectl command without any options or arguments:

timedatectl
                      Local time: Tue 2019-12-03 16:30:44 UTC
                  Universal time: Tue 2019-12-03 16:30:44 UTC
                        RTC time: Tue 2019-12-03 16:30:44
                       Time zone: Etc/UTC (UTC, +0000)
       System clock synchronized: no
systemd-timesyncd.service active: yes
                 RTC in local TZ: no

The output above shows that the system's time zone is set to UTC.

The system time zone is configured by symlinking the /etc/localtime file to a binary time zone's identifier in the /usr/share/zoneinfo directory.

Another way to check the time zone is to view the path the symlink points to using the ls command:

ls -l /etc/localtime
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 27 Dec  3 16:29 /etc/localtime -> /usr/share/zoneinfo/Etc/UTC

Changing the Time Zone in Linux

Before changing the time zone, you'll need to find out the long name of the time zone you want to use. The time zone naming convention usually uses a “Region/City” format.

To view all available time zones, use the timedatectl command or list the files in the /usr/share/zoneinfo directory:

timedatectl list-timezones
...
America/Montserrat
America/Nassau
America/New_York
America/Nipigon
America/Nome
America/Noronha
...

Once you identify which time zone is accurate to your location, run the following command as root or sudo user:

sudo timedatectl set-timezone <your_time_zone>

For example, to change the system's timezone to America/New_York you would type:

sudo timedatectl set-timezone America/New_York

To verify the change, invoke the timedatectl command again:

timedatectl
                      Local time: Tue 2019-12-03 13:55:09 EST
                  Universal time: Tue 2019-12-03 18:55:09 UTC
                        RTC time: Tue 2019-12-03 18:02:16
                       Time zone: America/New_York (EST, -0500)
       System clock synchronized: no
systemd-timesyncd.service active: yes
                 RTC in local TZ: no

Mission accomplished! You've successfully changed your system's time zone.

If you are running an older Linux distribution and the timedatectl utility is not present on your system, you can change the timezone by symlinking /etc/localtime to the time zone in the /usr/share/zoneinfo directory.

Remove the current symlink or file:

sudo rm -rf /etc/localtime

Identify the timezone you want to configure and create a symlink:

sudo ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/America/New_York /etc/localtime

Verify it either by listing the /etc/localtime file or invoking the date command:

date

The output includes the time zone, in this example that is “EST”.

Tue Dec  3 14:10:54 EST 2019

Conclusion

To change the time zone in Linux systems use the sudo timedatectl set-timezone command followed by the long name of the time zone you want to set.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.