Why your computer clock falls behind, and how to fix it

zuvapatrick@gmail.com' By: Patrick Zuva
6 minute read
computer clock falls behind

Has your computer clock fallen behind? The problem has probably been going on a while. And you have now finally had it and want to get this issue fixed. Well, there are several reasons why your computer clock falls behind, which, as well as the fixes, we will discuss in this article.

Here is why the problem is especially irritating. Every time you boot your computer it seems the time has fallen behind yet again. In fact, it seems the clock has barely moved since the last time you shut down your PC.

If you browse a lot of websites as part of your job, it can get quite dicey as some sites will deny you access, unless you correct your date and time. Before long, your PC may start returning a CMOS checksum error on startup.

Also if you depend on your computer clock for keeping your time, a clock that falls behind may cause you to miss meetings and other important appointments. The clock just needs to display the correct time.

Reasons why your computer clock falls behind

As with many PC issues, there is rarely a single possible cause for each error. For that reason, it is important to keep an open mind and investigate all possible angles.

Indeed, some people often find that a problem goes away for a short time, only to crop up again. This proves there would likely be an underlying problem you may have yet figured out.

Dead CMOS battery

The time and date settings for all PCs are stored on the CMOS chip that is fixed to the PC’s motherboard. These settings are part of the BIOS, which also define the relationships between all the peripheral devices connected to your computer.

The BIOS checks all system configurations, including the date and time before it can even load the Windows OS.

The CMOS battery uses a small battery so the BIOS settings remain active when the PC is switched off. This battery usually runs for between two and 10 years before it needs to be replaced.

So, if your clock can’t seem to keep the correct time and the PC is fairly old, there is a strong chance the CMOS battery may be failing. The clock essentially stops the point you switch off the PC.

Wrong or corrupted BIOS settings

Even after replacing your CMOS battery the clock may still display the wrong time, especially on startup. You may want to check if the CMOS chip is getting power from the battery.

You could be dealing with a loose battery. A quick fix will be to remove the battery and lift the negative power pin upwards a bit. Also press the positive pin down before replacing the battery, making sure the battery has firm connections.

However, even that may not fix the problem. At this point, the problem could be a result of a corrupted or out of date BIOS. Try resetting the BIOS values, including the date and time settings. Or, if the computer is quite old and does not update automatically, consider installing a more up-to-date BIOS.

Wrong time zone

If your clock is set to the wrong time zone, you will find that, even after correcting the time, the clock will fall behind the next time you boot. Depending on what time zone it is set to, it may even be ahead by a few hours.

Usually, if the clock is set to the wrong time zone, the minutes are usually correct while the hour value will be behind or ahead. Where the CMOS battery is the issue both the hour and minute values are usually wrong.

Malware infection

Now, this one should worry you. Chiefly because a virus or malware is rarely deployed to just throw your time off. The frequently wrong time and date is often a symptom of a more serious problem. The malware may be targeted right at the BIOS or at the Windows OS itself. Either way, the effect will be damaging.

What to do if your clock frequently falls behind

Now that we are up to speed with what could be causing your PC’s clock to fall behind, let’s go through the possible solutions you could try to fix the problem.

Solution 1 – Synchronize your PC’s clock with the default Microsoft Time Server

The best way to set your time on automatic update is perhaps to synchronize your PC’s clock with an internet time server. This way, you don’t always have to correct your time every time you boot your computer.

Being a Windows PC, the first option ought to be Microsoft’s own time server. Follow the following steps to synchronize your PC’s clock and date settings with the Microsoft Time Server;

  1. Restart your computer in Safe mode,
  2. Click the time tab in the bottom right corner of your screen,
  3. Click Change and time settings… at the bottom of the pop-up window, PC clock fall behind
  4. Click on the Internet Time folder. This small screen will come up; PC clock fall behind
  5. Select the time.windows.com server using the down arrow as shown in the image above. Click Update now, 
  6. After you click OK, this confirmation screen will come up; fix PC clock falls behind

As you can tell from the image above, this internet time is not updated on startup. Rather, the synchronization happens after a set period of time. This is thus not an adequate fix if your PC’s time is falling behind or slowing as a result of a dead CMOS battery.


Solution 2 – Update your BIOS

Sometimes an outdated or corrupted BIOS may be the reason your PC’s clock is falling behind. BIOS corruption may be a result of improper shutdowns, where you pull the computer from the power source without properly shutting down the PC first. Getting into the habit of doing a proper shutdown should easily fix this issue.

However, in the event your BIOS is now outdated, the only option may be to update. Get in touch with your PC’s manufacturer and find out if there is an updated version available. You can also find such information on their website.

Remember resetting or flashing your PC’s BIOS so you can correct the time and date settings from there is an option, but it is fraught with risks. This isn’t something you should do if you are unsure of what to do. It can easily harm your computer. Consult a professional technician.


Solution 3 – Replace your CMOS battery

Let’s face it, if your CMOS battery is now flat, your PC’s clock is always going to fall behind. You will have to constantly update it and, at the same time, grapple with all manner of errors. The more permanent fix is to just replace the battery with a new one.

The CMOS’s battery slot is normally fitted to the computer’s motherboard. But it can be a little tricky to remove and replace the battery on some PCs. If you have one of those computers it is best you take the computer to a repair technician.

However, the CMOS battery is fairly easy to replace on most modern desktop PCs. It is with laptops that the process may get a bit tricky. Just remember to properly shutdown the PC and disconnect it from its power source before you disassemble it. Again seek help from a professional if you are unsure of what to do.


Solution 4 – Clean your computer of viruses and malware

If, after trying all of the above solutions, your PC’s clock continues to slow or fall behind, there is a probability your PC may have been infected by a virus. In case you hadn’t updated your anti-malware software or installed one, now is the time to do it.

If you had up-to-date security software installed, you may also consider upgrading it. To ensure the malware does not evade your anti-malware software, or launch on startup, start and install the software in Safe Mode.

This way, all non-essential programs, including malware and viruses, don’t get to launch. You can then properly scan and clean your PC without interference from the malware.

Microsoft has its own free Malware Removal Tool. But, if you want to go premium, there are several good options you can choose from, including Malwarebytes and others. Otherwise, be vigilant with how you use your computer to protect your it against virus and malware infection.

Any one of the solutions we have discussed here should help solve your PC’s time and date issues so you don’t have to correct it all the time. Even when this problem does not cause any serious errors, it can get annoying having to do the same thing all the time.

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