Accurate computer time is absolutely essential for successful QSOs using digital modes such as FT8, FT4 and JS8. While millisecond accuracy is not necessary, if the computer clock is off by more than a second, you are likely to experience problems. It is very easy to check the accuracy of your computer’s clock by using the website time.is.
Recent versions of Windows will frequently update the clock through time servers, but the updates are not usually as frequent or accurate as I would like. There are also several applications that will connect to Internet time servers to periodically update the computer clock. Some examples are Meinburg NTP, BktimeSynch, Dimension 4, and NetTime. I have Dimension 4 loaded on my shack computer.
But what if you don’t have Internet access, due to an outage or working in the field? Fortunately, there are computer applications that will synchronize your clock using GPS signals. To do this, you need the software and a GPS receiver for the computer.
The GPS receiver connects to a USB port on the computer as a serial device. I have the receiver in a windowsill near the computer.
After the GPS receiver, I installed the NMEATime2 software. It was very easy to set up the software to work with the GPS receiver. Once installed, the software runs in the background to keep the computer clock updated. There is an icon in the system tray that shows the current status.
A right click on the tray icon and selecting “Show Panel” will bring up the software control panel with menus for settings and four tabs: Status, GPS Status, Loop Status, and NMEA Output. For my purposes, the Status panel and GPS Status panel contain the most important information.