Excel/Windows: Change default date display format

By default, the “short date” display format for Windows (and thus Excel) is “M/d/yyyy.” For example, June 1, 2011 would be displayed as 6/1/2011. For varying reasons, you may want to zero-fill your dates and have June 1, 2011 read as 06/01/2011. Doing this actually involves a Windows setting, not an Excel setting. So, be prepared to have your dates displayed accordingly across the whole operating system and many other programs.

To change the default date format in Windows:

  1. Go to Start –> Control Panel and select “Regional Settings” or “Region and Language,” depending on your operating system.
  2. In the Short date format list, select the desired format:
  3. Click OK.

Now, unless the dates in Excel were formatted using the format menu, they should now display as you’ve defined them.

  1. #1 by dennis brannon on June 1, 2011 - 9:32 pm

    If I make this entry in a cell: 1/15/11 I end up with the desired result. (note: I’m not so worried about the zero-fill as I might have indicated)

    But if I make this entry in a cell: 1/15 I end up with “1-Jan”

    This would indicate the default date setting is dd-mmm
    I’ve still not met anyone that really digs that default format. Most would prefer mm/dd/yy, mm/dd/yyyy, or even dd/mm/yy. But dd-mmm???
    That one’s a puzzle to me.

    So my intention would be to establish a default date setting of mm/dd/yyyy or mm-dd-yyyy.

    Thank you for your help with this.

  2. #2 by dennis brannon on June 1, 2011 - 9:34 pm

    my bad – 1/15 entry in a cell yields 15-Jan

    • #3 by Tim Gavin, CPA on June 1, 2011 - 9:54 pm

      Rats! I was hoping the easy answer was it. I have also been plagued by the problem you describe, and in all my years of searching I have not found a reasonable solution.

      I have heard complaints about the both the chosen format of “dd-mmm” and the fact that the automatic conversion of a number takes place at all. I have entered account numbers such as “01-1000, 01-1500, 01-2000” and end up with “01-1000, 01-1500, Jan-00.” This is excruciating and I feel your pain.

      If you or anyone else comes up with a solution, please share with the rest of the class!

      • #4 by Dennis Brannon on May 22, 2013 - 9:21 am

        Just checking in Tim. I’m still fumbling around with the 15-Jan formatting. FYI. (Hadn’t visited this thread in awhile, so thought I’d post where I’m at – i.e. same spot!)

  3. #5 by dennis brannon on June 1, 2011 - 10:01 pm

    In the prehistoric era (i.e. 15 years ago), Lotus users changed Lotus’ “global default” and moved on.

    I suspect we’ve simply missed the logic as to why Windows prefers dd-mmm. Once we figure that out, then we’ll know where to fix the default. When we see 15-Jan, it sure looks a bunch like a date-formatting issue – but this could be a red herring.

    Still stumped – after all these years….

    Great post. Much appreciated.

  4. #6 by Joanna DeVlamynck on December 31, 2012 - 9:06 am

    Beware Canadians! You must set to English (USA) to use dd-mmm. For some reason this format is not allowed in the Canadian English setting. Go figure, eh?

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    • #8 by Dennis Brannon on May 22, 2013 - 9:22 am

      Any wisdom to share with us Janine?

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  10. #13 by barry on January 7, 2014 - 3:07 am

    I’ve changed my default in the regional settings to DDD/DD/MMM – Tue-07-Jan – but when I go back into Excel it still defaults to 07-Jan. Any ideas?

  11. #14 by Sam on April 23, 2014 - 11:13 am

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  13. #16 by Pam Spears on May 2, 2014 - 2:06 pm

    Check out this link:

    This solved the default date format issue in Excel for me. Now when I type ‘5/2’ I get ‘5/2/14’ in the cell, not ‘5-May’.

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