How to Set or Change Timezone on Debian 10

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Using the correct timezone is essential for many systems related tasks and processes. For example, the cron daemon uses the system’s timezone for executing cron jobs, and the timestamps in the log files are based on the same system’s timezone.

On Debian, the system’s timezone is set during the install, but it can be easily changed at a later time.

This article covers how to set or change the timezone on Debian 10 Linux.

Checking the Current Timezone

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:

timedatectl

The output below shows that the system’s timezone is set to “UTC”:

               Local time: Fri 2020-04-03 19:23:29 UTC
           Universal time: Fri 2020-04-03 19:23:29 UTC
                 RTC time: Fri 2020-04-03 19:23:29
                Time zone: UTC (UTC, +0000)
System clock synchronized: no
              NTP service: inactive
          RTC in local TZ: no

The system timezone is configured by symlinking /etc/localtime to a binary timezone identifier in the /usr/share/zoneinfo directory. You can also find the timezone by checking the path the symlink points to, using the ls command:

ls -l /etc/localtime
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 23 Nov 21 23:44 /etc/localtime -> /usr/share/zoneinfo/UTC

Changing Timezone in Debian

Before changing the timezone, you’ll need to find out the long name for the timezone you want to use. The timezones are using “Region/City” format.

To list all available time zones, you can either list the files in the /usr/share/zoneinfo directory or invoke the timedatectl command with the list-timezones option:

timedatectl list-timezones
...
America/Monterrey
America/Montevideo
America/Montserrat
America/Nassau
America/New_York
...

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

sudo timedatectl set-timezone your_time_zone

For example, to change the system’s timezone to America/Monterrey, you would run:

sudo timedatectl set-timezone America/Monterrey

Verify the change by checking the current system’s timezone with the timedatectl command:

timedatectl
               Local time: Fri 2020-04-03 13:30:30 CST
           Universal time: Fri 2020-04-03 19:30:30 UTC
                 RTC time: Fri 2020-04-03 19:30:30
                Time zone: America/Monterrey (CST, -0600)
System clock synchronized: no
              NTP service: inactive
          RTC in local TZ: no

If you are running an older version of Debian and the timedatectl command is not present on your system, you can change the timezone by symlinking the /etc/localtime file to the timezone binary in the /usr/share/zoneinfo directory.

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

sudo ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/America/Monterrey /etc/localtime

Verify the changes either by listing the /etc/localtime file or issuing the timedatectl or date commands:

date
Fri 03 Apr 2020 01:34:27 PM CST

Conclusion

To change your Debian system’s timezone, run 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.