Home Learn Linux How to convert UTC to your local time in Linux

How to convert UTC to your local time in Linux

Managing time zones can be intricate, especially when coordinating across borders. Dive into our tutorial to effortlessly convert UTC to your local time in Linux and never miss a beat.

by John Horan
linux guide for time conversion

When working on a platform as versatile as Linux, it can be difficult to navigate the world of time zones, especially when dealing with international tasks. It’s essential to have a thorough understanding of how to convert Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to your local time to avoid confusion.

In this guide, I will share some useful Linux commands that have personally saved me time and helped me manage international tasks more efficiently. With these commands, you will be able to convert UTC to your local time with ease.

1. What are UTC and time zones?

Before we dive into the how-to, it’s crucial to understand the basics. UTC is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. On the other hand, time zones are regions on Earth that have the same standard time.

A trip down memory lane: I recall a time when I, naively, scheduled all my meetings based on my time zone. The result? A 3 am conference call. Not fun!

2. Meet the date command

The date command is a simple, yet powerful tool in Linux that deals with dates and times.

General syntax:

date [OPTION]... [+FORMAT]

For a quick conversion of UTC to local time:

By default, if you run:


It will display the current time in your system’s local time zone.

Sample output:

Tue Oct 31 14:45:25 EDT 2023

Want to see the UTC date and time instead? Use the -u option:

date -u

Sample output:

Tue Oct 31 18:45:25 UTC 2023

3. Playing with the TZ environment variable

The TZ environment variable is a quick hack to display time from any time zone without altering your system settings.

General syntax:

TZ='Timezone' date

For example:

To peek at London’s current time:

TZ='Europe/London' date

Sample output:

Tue Oct 31 19:45:25 BST 2023

Personal preference: I absolutely adore the simplicity of this trick. Quick, easy, and super efficient!

4. How to permanently change your system’s time zone

If you’re permanently relocating or simply prefer another time zone, Linux has got you covered.

Using timedatectl

For those on modern Linux systems equipped with systemd, you can use the timedatectl utility.

General syntax:

timedatectl set-timezone [Timezone]


Set the time zone to, let’s say, New York:

timedatectl set-timezone America/New_York

From this point, your date command will resonate with New York’s time.

5. Analyzing file timestamps with the stat command

When inspecting file timestamps, they often appear in UTC. The stat command can give you insights about these files.

General syntax:

stat [OPTION]... FILE...


stat sample.txt

Sample output:

You’ll receive information about sample.txt, including its Access, Modify, and Change timestamps in your local time zone.

What irks me: Unfortunately, the stat command lacks a built-in feature to display timestamps in UTC. We’d need the TZ trick for that:

TZ='UTC' stat sample.txt

6. Online converters: A worthy mention

As much as I vouch for Linux commands, there are times when I simply resort to online converters. It’s quick, intuitive, and gets the job done.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about time conversion in Linux

1. What is the difference between GMT and UTC?

Answer: GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) was a time system originally referring to mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), on the other hand, is the time standard used in aviation, computing, navigation, weather forecasting, and many other fields. Practically speaking, GMT and UTC represent the same time. However, UTC is more precise, especially with the inclusion of occasional leap seconds.

2. Can I use the date command to convert a specific UTC time to my local time zone?

Answer: Yes, you can! Here’s how you do it:

date -d '2023-10-31 18:45:25 UTC'

Replace the date and time with your desired UTC time.

3. How can I list all available time zones on my Linux system?

Answer: You can list all the available time zones using the timedatectl command:

timedatectl list-timezones

This will give you a long list of time zones, which you can navigate using the arrow keys.

4. My Linux system’s time is off by an hour. Why?

Answer: This could be due to Daylight Saving Time changes. Some regions adjust their clocks for daylight savings, which can sometimes lead to this discrepancy. Ensure your system is updated, and the correct time zone is set. Modern Linux distributions usually handle these changes automatically, but occasional glitches can happen.

5. Is there a GUI-based method for changing time zones in Linux?

Answer: Absolutely! Many Linux desktop environments, like GNOME, KDE, and Cinnamon, provide graphical tools to manage date and time settings. You can typically find these options in the “System Settings” or “Control Panel” of your desktop environment.

Summary of commands we discussed

Command/Action Description
date Displays the current date and time in the system’s local time zone.
date -u Displays the current UTC date and time.
TZ='Timezone' date Uses the TZ environment variable to show time from a specific time zone. Example: TZ='Europe/London' date
timedatectl set-timezone [Timezone] Sets the system’s time zone to the specified one. Example: timedatectl set-timezone America/New_York
stat [FILE] Gives information about the specified file, including timestamps in the local time zone. Example: stat sample.txt
TZ='UTC' stat [FILE] Uses the TZ trick with the stat command to display the file’s timestamps in UTC. Example: TZ='UTC' stat sample.txt
date -d 'YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS UTC' Converts a specific UTC time to local time. Example: date -d '2023-10-31 18:45:25 UTC'
timedatectl list-timezones Lists all available time zones on the Linux system.


In today’s interconnected digital age, it is crucial to navigate the maze of time zones and understand UTC conversions. In our exploration of Linux’s capabilities, we have discovered its robust, flexible, and user-friendly system when it comes to managing and converting time. Linux offers an array of tools, from simple commands like ‘date’ to utilities like ‘tzselect,’ and FAQs to clarify any doubts. This comprehensive discussion reaffirms that with the right knowledge and a handy reference table at your disposal, time-related challenges on Linux can be addressed efficiently and precisely.

You may also like

Leave a Comment



FOSS Linux is a leading resource for Linux enthusiasts and professionals alike. With a focus on providing the best Linux tutorials, open-source apps, news, and reviews written by team of expert authors. FOSS Linux is the go-to source for all things Linux.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user, FOSS Linux has something for everyone.

Follow Us


©2016-2023 FOSS LINUX



“Linux” is the registered trademark by Linus Torvalds in the U.S. and other countries.