How to Set a Date and Time in Microsoft Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Setting a date and time in Microsoft Excel is a straightforward process. You start by selecting a cell where you want the date and time to be displayed. Then, you input the current date and time using a simple keyboard shortcut or the Excel commands. Once entered, Excel will format the date and time according to your system’s regional settings. This quick overview should give you a basic understanding of how to complete the task.

After setting the date and time, Excel will automatically update the timestamp whenever the worksheet is recalculated or the workbook is opened. This ensures that you always have the current date and time displayed without having to manually update it.


Have you ever needed to track important dates and times in Excel but weren’t sure how to go about it? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Whether you’re managing project deadlines, scheduling appointments, or keeping track of important events, Excel can be an invaluable tool. Setting a date and time in Excel may seem daunting at first, but I promise it’s easier than you think.

Understanding how to set a date and time in Microsoft Excel is crucial for anyone who relies on the software for scheduling or data entry. Excel is widely used in various fields, from business to education, and mastering this skill can save time and improve efficiency. Moreover, Excel’s date and time functions can be used to perform complex calculations, track project timelines, and analyze temporal data, making it a versatile skill to have in your toolkit.

Step by Step Tutorial: Setting a Date and Time in Excel

The following steps will guide you through the process of setting a date and time in Excel.

Step 1: Select the Cell

Click on the cell where you want to set the date and time.

This step is about choosing the location for your date and time. It’s important to select the right cell so that your data is organized and easy to find.

Step 2: Enter the Date

Input the date in the selected cell using the ‘Short Date’ format (e.g., 03/14/2021).

In this step, you’ll be entering the date. It’s essential to use the correct format so that Excel recognizes it as a date. You can customize the date format later if needed.

Step 3: Enter the Time

Type in the time right next to the date using the ‘Time’ format (e.g., 1:30 PM).

After the date, you’ll put in the time. Keep in mind that Excel uses the 24-hour clock, so you might need to adjust your time accordingly.

Step 4: Use Excel Functions

Alternatively, use Excel functions such as NOW() or TODAY() to automatically insert the current date and time.

Excel functions can automate the process of entering the date and time. NOW() inserts the current date and time, while TODAY() inserts the current date only.

Step 5: Format Date and Time

Adjust the cell’s format by right-clicking, selecting ‘Format Cells,’ and choosing your preferred date and time format.

Customizing the date and time format can make your data more readable and is especially helpful if you’re sharing the document with others.


AccuracyUsing Excel’s date and time functions ensures accurate timestamps.
AutomationExcel can automatically update date and time, reducing the need for manual input.
CustomizationExcel offers a range of date and time formats to suit your needs.


Learning CurveIt might take some time to learn all the different functions and formats available in Excel.
System DependencyExcel’s date and time functions depend on your system’s regional settings, which may lead to inconsistencies when sharing files.
Calculation LimitationsComplex date and time calculations may require additional functions or formulas not covered in this guide.

Additional Information

When working with dates and times in Excel, there are a few additional tips to keep in mind. First off, Excel stores dates as serial numbers. This means that each date is actually a number, with 1 representing January 1, 1900. This system allows Excel to perform calculations with dates, such as finding the number of days between two dates.

Another tip is to use keyboard shortcuts to speed up the process. For example, pressing CTRL + ; (semicolon) will insert the current date, and CTRL + SHIFT + : (colon) will insert the current time. These shortcuts can be a real time-saver when you’re entering a lot of dates and times.

Lastly, remember that Excel’s date and time functions are dynamic. This means the NOW() function will update every time the worksheet recalculates. To keep a static timestamp, you’ll need to use CTRL + ; and CTRL + SHIFT + : instead.


  1. Select the Cell
  2. Enter the Date
  3. Enter the Time
  4. Use Excel Functions
  5. Format Date and Time

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the shortcut for inserting the current date and time in Excel?

The shortcut for inserting the current date is CTRL + ; (semicolon), and for the current time, it’s CTRL + SHIFT + : (colon).

Can Excel automatically update the date and time?

Yes, using the NOW() function will insert a dynamic date and time that updates automatically.

How does Excel recognize dates?

Excel recognizes dates by their serial number, with 1 representing January 1, 1900.

Can I customize the date and time format in Excel?

Absolutely, you can customize the format by right-clicking on the cell, selecting ‘Format Cells,’ and choosing your preferred format.

Does Excel use the 24-hour format for time?

By default, Excel uses the 24-hour format, but this can be changed in the cell’s formatting options.


Setting a date and time in Microsoft Excel is an essential skill for anyone who uses the program regularly. Whether you’re a project manager keeping track of deadlines, a student organizing a study schedule, or a business owner analyzing sales data, knowing how to correctly input and format dates and times can make your life a lot easier.

With the steps outlined in this article, you should now feel confident in your ability to set a date and time in Excel. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different functions and formats. Happy scheduling!