What to do when your Mac displays the wrong time

By , Nov 23, 2016

clock app icon

Have you ever ran into a scenario where your Mac displays the incorrect time? It can throw a lot of things out of whack across all of your apps.

Despite all the things that can go wrong when your Mac’s time is incorrect, it can be pretty easy to fix the problem. We’ll walk you through some possible fixes in this piece.

Why is my Mac showing the wrong time?

Your Mac may show the incorrect time for a number of reasons; some of the most common are:

  • Software glitches
  • Location services can’t determine your correct time
  • The Mac hasn’t been powered on for a long time
  • The Mac might have been brought into a new time zone
  • Someone may have changed your time on you

More scenarios are also possible, but these are typically the most common. Regardless of what caused it, the steps to fix it are outlined below.

How to fix incorrect time on your Mac

To fix a Mac displaying the wrong time, take yourself through the following troubleshooting steps:

Restart your computer

This one should seem obvious from anyone involved in IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again? This can sometimes fix this problem without any headaches.

Check your date and time settings

Look at your date and time settings from  → System Preferences → Date & Time. Check to see if the Mac is set to change your time automatically based on your location or not. If it is, and your Mac is showing the wrong time, continue through the steps below. If it’s not, turn it on and allow your Mac to set your time automatically based on your location.

Make sure you have location services enabled

Setting your time and time zone automatically requires location services be enabled on your Mac. You can double check you have this enabled by going to  → System Preferences → Date & Time → Time Zone and then making sure the Set time zone automatically using current location check box is enabled.

Make sure you have an internet connection

If you have your Mac set to set the time automatically, make sure it has a solid internet connection so it can refresh your time based on your location. If it can’t connect to the internet properly to check your date and time, things like time zones and daylight savings can throw it off and keep it from updating when the time changes.

Keep your time zone in check as you travel

If you moved from one side of the country to another, or even did something as simple as cross a state border, then you may have crossed a time zone. These are fidgety things that rule the time of day based on your position in the world. If you move out of your time zone, then your Mac might still be showing the time from your previous time zone and needs to be updated accordingly.

This will be done automatically when you connect to the internet if you have automatic time enabled, but it may need to be done manually if you don’t have automatic time enabled by going to  → System Preferences → Date & Time → Time Zone.

Set your date and time manually

In the case of some software glitches, you might need to set the time manually. You can do this from  → System Preferences → Date & Time by un-checking the Set date and time automatically check box. You will then need to fill in the time manually based off of your knowledge of what time it is.

Keep your Mac’s battery charged

If you keep your Mac powered off for a long period of time, then all of its on board power source may be depleted. Some Macs may rely on a system or PRAM battery to keep certain functions like timekeeping in check. When the PRAM battery dies, your Mac will try to source power from the system battery instead. In cases where both have died, timekeeping may be affected. You should probably contact Apple for hardware support if you suspect PRAM battery issues.

Reset your Mac’s NVRAM

If your Mac is having trouble keeping track of your time no matter what you do, you may want to try resetting your NVRAM. This component in your computer deals directly with timekeeping and some software glitches related to your NVRAM can trigger problems with the time that gets displayed.

Contact Apple

In almost all other situations where any of the above suggestions can’t fix a timekeeping issue on your Mac, you should probably call Apple and see what they have to say.

Good to go?

In most cases, one of the steps above should have fixed your timekeeping woes on your Mac. If it didn’t, then your best bet is to check with Apple.

Also read:

If you’ve ever had time issues on your Mac, tell us in the comments below how you managed to fix it.

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  • 7000rpm

    Can’t seem to reset pram or nvram, I have FileVault on. Is that the problem because whenever I hit the reset keystrokes after restart it brings the FileVault log-on screen…