Active Directory was something I used to spend quite a lot of time working with, but not quite as much these days. However, this is a trick not many people are aware of. If you’re familiar with Active Directory, you know that the PDC Emulator FSMO Role Holder in the root domain of the forest needs to be configured to use an external time source. All other domain controllers should not. It’s easy enough to do; however, anytime this FSMO role needs to be moved, especially unplanned but even when planned, configuring the new domain controller is often overlooked, as is the old FSMO role holder being reset back if it is to continue running.
However, it’s actually pretty easy to just configure a GPO to target only the PDC Emulator in the root domain to configure NTP settings. This automates the configuration. You can simply leave all your domain controllers to default NTP settings, and let this do the work for you. It’s self-tuning and corrective. I don’t know about you, but I like stuff that does work for me.
First, create a WMI Filter called “PDC Emulator” that targets the PDC Emulator in the root domain of the forest. The filter should be:
Select * from Win32_ComputerSystem where DomainRole = 5
Next, create a GPO to accomplish this task, apply the WMI filter above to it, diable the User Configuration portion of the GPO to help reduce login times, and link it to the Domain Controllers container.
Set the following options as follows:
Administrative Templates/System/Windows Time Service/Time Providers
Configure Windows NTP Client – Enabled with the following options:
NTP Server: tock.usno.navy.mil,0x1 ntp-s1.cise.ufl.edu,0x1 ntp.colby.edu,0x1 (Use whatever servers you want, but it’s recommended to use an odd number greater than 1 that are geographically dispersed, but are managed by the same entity. All three of the above are run by the US Naval Observatory across the east coast.)
SpecialPollInterval: 900 (Default is 3600, but if your PDC Emulator is ever running on a virtual machine, VMware recommends this be set to 900 due to higher clock drifts within VMs. This simply causes the machine to sync time more often with the NTP server, so it shouldn’t harm physical machines honestly, either.)
Enable WIndows NTP Server – Enabled
Allow Active Directory replication to occur or force replication if you like, and refresh the PDC Emulator’s GPOs.
Hope this helps!