Set a Windows Server's time zone using Group Policy

Learn how to set time zone information for Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 via Group Policy and the tzutil utility or by adding it to an existing GPO object.

Windows Servers should be set to the correct time zone when possible. This is one step you can take to have a consistent time management policy for your systems. I think Group Policy is the best way to centrally manage this setting; unfortunately, Group Policy doesn't have a built-in value to configure the time zone setting on a Windows Server.

The good news is you can use tricks to centrally manage this information. You can still use Group Policy, but you'll need a little help from the new Windows utility tzutil. You can also get very granular and use security group membership to apply specific Group Policy Objects (GPOs). (Read my tip on how to filter GPOs by security groups.)

The tzutil command, which is built in to Windows 2008 and Windows 7, allows the time zone to be set or retrieved. The full list of time zones can be found by running tzutil /l; each entry is shown with its variance from UTC and the time zone name. Here is an example for my most frequently used time zone:

(UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
Eastern Standard Time

The second line is the one that is used to set the command with tzutil. So, in my example, I'll set the Windows Server to go to Eastern Time by running:

tzutil /s "Eastern Standard Time"

Each time zone can be set to not update for Daylight Saving Time by putting the string _dstoff at the end of the time zone name. For the example above, this would be represented as:

tzutil /s "Eastern Standard Time_dstoff"
An easy way to put this into a GPO is to use the startup script option. Figure A shows this being configured. Figure A

Click the image to enlarge.

Be sure to use a configuration script on a central server so changes can be made centrally.

Other ways to set the time zone

You can use PowerShell to set the time zone, but it is overly complicated in my opinion. This TechNet blog outlines how to set it via PowerShell, which can be launched through Group Policy.

Another approach is to use installation options that can set the time zone option.

What tricks have you employed to manage the locally configured time zone? Let us know in the discussion.


Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

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