Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated March 27, 2021)
This tip applies to Excel 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365
Dennis regularly needs to convert decimal values into other number systems, such as base 6 or base 24. Excel makes it easy to convert to binary or octal, as there are built-in functions for that. Dennis wonders if there is a way to convert to other number systems, however.
The functions that Dennis refers to for common conversions are DEC2BIN, DEC2OCT, and DEC2HEX. These convert decimal values to, respectively, binary, octal, and hexadecimal. If you want to convert a decimal value to an entirely different number system, then the easiest way is to use the BASE function. This function uses the following syntax:
In this usage, value would be the decimal number you want to convert and base would be the numbering system desired. (The value you use for base must be between 2 and 36, inclusive.) As an example, if Dennis wanted to convert 123,456 to base 24, he could use the following:
The result returned by the function is 8M80. The BASE function always returns a string as its result. You can also, if you'd like, add an optional third parameter to the function which indicates how many digits you want returned. Here's an example:
The result returned is 008M80, which is six digits with leading zeroes.
The BASE function was introduced with the advent of Excel 2013, so it is available in all the newer versions of the program.
Remember that BASE returns a string, which means that you cannot use what is returned in formulas. You can, however, use a number in a different base in a formula if you first convert it to a decimal value. You do this with the DECIMAL function (also introduced in Excel 2013) which requires two parameters: a string containing the value in the other numbering system and the base used for that value. Thus, to convert 8M80 (base 24) into decimal, you could use the following:
If you use a base designation that doesn't make sense given the value in the first parameter, then the function returns a #NUM! error.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13840) applies to Microsoft Excel 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365.
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