5 Methods to Excel Convert Text to Date Format: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Converting Data to Dates in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

As we delve into converting various data formats into date format in Excel, it’s essential to keep in mind that users often encounter non-standard date values and need a clear-cut way to transform them into recognizable and usable date formats.

Understanding Date Formats in Excel

Excel stores dates as serial numbers where each whole number represents a unique day counting from January 1, 1900. This little-known fact is crucial for understanding why Excel can perform mathematical operations on dates just like any other numeric value.

Converting Text to Dates

Sometimes data imported into Excel is recognized as text instead of a date. Excel provides a couple of straightforward methods to convert these text entries into a date format.

Using the DATEVALUE Function

The DATEVALUE function is designed to convert a date in the form of text to a serial number that Excel recognizes as a date.


Replace “text_date” with the cell reference or the text string representing the date. Keep in mind that the success of this method depends on the date being in a format that Excel understands.

Using Text to Columns

Another way to convert text to dates is using the Text to Columns wizard:

1. Select the column with text dates.
2. Go to Data > Text to Columns.
3. Choose ‘Delimited’ and click ‘Next’.
4. Uncheck all delimiters and click ‘Next’.
5. Under Column data format, select ‘Date’ and choose the appropriate format.
6. Click ‘Finish’.

Fixing Dates in Serial Format

Dates imported from different systems might appear in serial format that doesn’t match Excel’s. Converting them involves changing the date system or using a formula.

Changing Excel’s Date System

Excel allows you to switch from the 1900 date system to the 1904 date system (used by Mac):

1. Go to File > Options > Advanced.
2. Under “When calculating this workbook…”, check or uncheck “Use 1904 date system”.
3. Click ‘OK’.

Using Formulas to Convert Serial Numbers to Dates

Sometimes, you might need to use a formula to convert these numbers if they don’t correspond to actual dates. The key is to understand the originating system’s date serial and apply the appropriate conversion formula.

Handling European Dates

Excel may misunderstand dates in European format (DD/MM/YYYY) if your system uses the American format (MM/DD/YYYY). To remedy this, use the following method:

1. Use the Text to Columns wizard as described earlier, but in Step 5, be sure to select the correct date format that matches the source data.


What if Excel doesn’t recognize my date format?

If Excel doesn’t recognize your date format, first double-check if the date is in a format Excel typically understands. If it’s a custom format, you might need to parse the date using string manipulation functions like LEFT, MID, and RIGHT before applying the DATE function.

How can I prevent date conversion errors in the future?

Preventing date conversion errors involves ensuring that date data is entered consistently and in a format Excel recognizes. You can also set up data validation rules to restrict the input format to valid date formats.

Can I handle dates from different locales?

Yes, you’ll have to customize Excel’s locale settings or use the Text to Columns feature with the locale’s date format selected, ensuring the data converts correctly.

Why do some dates turn into a number after conversion?

After conversion, if a date displays as a number, it likely means the cell is formatted as a number rather than as a date. You can change the cell’s format to a date by right-clicking the cell, selecting Format Cells, and choosing the Date category.


Converting data to date format in Excel doesn’t have to be a headache. By understanding Excel’s date system and using the proper functions, you can swiftly manage date conversions and troubleshoot common issues. Remember, consistency is key when working with dates to avoid conversion errors. And if you’re dealing with non-standard formats, don’t hesitate to use the Text to Columns wizard or formulas for a custom conversion.

This has been a real-world issue that I, Tracy, have seen time and again, and I hope this guide helps you navigate the date conversion process in Excel smoothly.