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I have 3 debian computers connected to a network switch across LAN without WAN access. I would like to manually set the date and time on one of the computers, then automatically sync the time to the other computers on my network.

I have followed some of the guides online, but they include syncing the master ntp server to another server across WAN. Because my use case is different than the instructions, I am unsure if I followed them correctly and don't know how to individually troubleshoot the server and client.

Additionally, once the ntp server and clients are working, how do I manually set the time? Is the time represented in ntp the same as date?

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You can teach ntpd to regard the host clock as "accurate".

server 127.127.1.1      # LCL, local clock
fudge  127.127.1.1 stratum 12   # increase stratum

See http://www.ntp.org/ntpfaq/NTP-s-refclk.htm

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