How to Change the Timezone on Ubuntu Server

If you’ve ever typed date into your Ubuntu Server and seen a different time or timezone appear than you expected, then it probably means that this tutorial is for you.

Check current timezone

Start by checking what data is returned using the following command:

timedatectl

In my case, I wanted to make sure my server’s time was in UTC, London. However, it was reported as being in Berlin.

$ timedatectl

                      Local time: Fri 2020-03-20 11:08:41 CET
                  Universal time: Fri 2020-03-20 10:08:41 UTC
                        RTC time: Fri 2020-03-20 10:08:42
                       Time zone: Europe/Berlin (CET, +0100)
       System clock synchronized: yes
systemd-timesyncd.service active: yes
                 RTC in local TZ: no

Ubuntu uses symbolic files to link configurations for timezones.

So if you type ls -l /etc/localtime, you will see why this configuration has been mapped:

$ ls -l /etc/localtime

lrwxrwxrwx 1 .. .. 33 Jul 14  2019 /etc/localtime -> /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Berlin

Find our new timezone

We can get a list of all the available timezones by typing timedatectl list-timezones.

I already know that I want London, so let’s filter that list for the value first:

$ timedatectl list-timezones | grep -i "london"

Europe/London

Set the new timezone

Next, we need to remove the symbolic link to the localtime file and then relink it.

sudo unlink /etc/localtime

Now we can relink the file:

sudo ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/London /etc/localtime

At this stage, everything is set up, so let’s see it working:

$ timedatectl

                      Local time: Fri 2020-03-20 10:10:24 GMT
                  Universal time: Fri 2020-03-20 10:10:24 UTC
                        RTC time: Fri 2020-03-20 10:10:25
                       Time zone: Europe/London (GMT, +0000)
       System clock synchronized: yes
systemd-timesyncd.service active: yes
                 RTC in local TZ: no

Reload all scripts and servers

It’s now important to reload Apache2 or any servers, or running scripts that had cached the date/time/timezone from before the change.

In my case, I will just kill all PHP scripts running and reload Apache2.

pkill php
service apache2 restart
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