Change Windows to Display a 4-Digit Year

There is a way to adjust how Windows 95, 98, and NT programs display dates, which may reduce confusion when entering or viewing data.

Well-behaved Windows programs use a common system setting to find out how to display things like dates, time, currency, and numbers. This allows Windows to be used in countries around the world. For example, while the United States uses a month/day/year format for dates, much of Europe uses a day/month/year format.

These settings are changed, like many other system-level settings, in Windows' Control Panel. To access the Control Panel, click your Start button, and then click Settings. The Control Panel window that appears will contain around thirty icons, each representing different system settings. For our purposes, double-click the one named "Regional Settings."

The first page of the dialog that appears has a map of the world, which allows you to pick your country and language settings. Click on the "Date" tab on the right to change date-related settings. 

Notice the Short Date Style defaults to "M/d/yy," which tells Windows to use a two digit year, with no leading zeroes for the month and day values. If you change this entry to "M/d/yyyy," Windows will tell programs to use a four digit year. This will make it easier to verify your programs are storing dates correctly. Once you change this setting click the Apply button to see an example in the Short Date Sample field. You may need to reboot before the setting will apply to your software.

Note that changing these settings does not affect data input. If your program does not properly handle dates, they will still be entered incorrectly. These settings only affect how these items are displayed.

January 2000

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