What's the time?
September 29, 2010 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Why is my laptop stuck in the past? How do I fix its lagging time?

I've had a Dell D620 for about a year and half. It was a cast off at work, and hardly used - plus who can beat free, right? In the last couple months, however, it's started doing this odd thing with time. I've googled, and found a few suggestions (including both using ntp and *not* using ntp), but nothing seems to work, or fit my situation. My first thought, when this started, was that it was the cmos battery. However - it's losing time when it's on. If I set the time and power it off for 30 minutes, and back on, it is just as likely to be correct as not. I've tested this. To give you an idea of how bad it is - tonight I corrected my date and time at 8:30pm (it thought it was 4:00pm and Sept 18th) and at 10 it thought it was 9:17pm. Right now it's 12:25am and my laptop is saying 10:43pm.

AVG says I'm virus free - I'm malware free as well. I could reimage the thing, but would prefer not to, and I have a hard time believing it would help. The thing is I almost never look at the clock, so it could have been happening at a lesser degree before I really picked up on it. My attention span, sadly, is such that I keep meaning to watch it more carefully and see if I can catch a pattern, but I always forget, and then when I remember it's lost a couple hours and a week of days.

Its running XP, SP3. It's primarily used for internet stuff - the biggest beast of software on it is Office, and I almost never use it. It's out of warranty, so Dell won't be any help. I have updated all the hardware drivers since this started and it's up to date with Windows. It's currently set to synch with a public ntp server local to my region, and if I manually synch it, it works. It just won't do it on its own.

Registry settings for w32time - I followed instructions in this microsoft article when it started. It's polling every 15 minutes and the maxposphase correction is set to 1 hour. Changing that hasn't made a difference. I tried a few weeks on the internal clock, without ntp - same thing. It's been rebooted maybe a dozen times since this started.

I know software exists that will periodically synch time. I don't want to go this route. I want my system clock to do what it's intended to do. Not sporadically take a break and stop ticking off seconds.

Is it possible for a bad cmos battery to cause time loss when the machine is on? Has anyone else ever dealt with anything like this? Looking for any and all suggestions, at this point, with a reimage (or a fresh install) as a last resort.
posted by routergirl to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
I'd do a fresh install.
posted by k8t at 9:34 PM on September 29, 2010

My guess is that the CMOS battery is not in the circuit when connected to AC power. So failed time on AC power doesn't suggest a battery to me. A failed battery would result in time starting out at some reference time and date; not an hour behind actual time. Battery failure would also mean loss of BIOS settings. Perhaps a marginal battery or connection does fit with the symptoms. I don't have a theory where re-installing Windows could resolve what seems to be a hardware problem. The workaround is to frequently auto-reset the time. I don't follow how this route isn't desired and yet there is something polling every 15 minutes.
posted by llc at 11:50 PM on September 29, 2010

Best answer: I'll disagree with either of those things and say it IS the CMOS battery, because a desktop would be doing the exact same thing, and it's running on AC power 24-7.

Follow this to replace.
posted by deezil at 4:19 AM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: To clarify - the route not desired is installing third party software to periodically synch the time.
posted by routergirl at 7:20 AM on September 30, 2010

It's absolutely the CMOS battery. You can get replacements pretty much anywhere that sells watch batteries; Deezil's link will show you how to install it.
posted by Verdandi at 7:54 AM on September 30, 2010

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