Use Calculations and Formatting to Convert Seconds to Minutes and Seconds in Microsoft Excel

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated April 6, 2021

Applies to: Microsoft® Excel® 2013, 2016, 2019 and 365 (Windows)

Although you can convert seconds to minutes and seconds in Excel, it can be a bit tricky to convert and display times in combined units (hours, minutes and seconds). Because time is calculated in Excel as a fraction of a day, you can convert fractions to appropriate time increments by combining calculations and custom number formatting.

Let’s say you have entered 80 in a cell (representing 80 seconds) and you want to convert it to the equivalent of minutes and seconds. Since there are 60 seconds in a minute, you may try to divide it by 60, but the result will be a minute and a fraction, not minutes and seconds (in this case, 1.34). However, 80 seconds is actually 1:20 or 1 minute and 20 seconds.

To convert seconds to minutes and seconds, you can divide the seconds by the total number of seconds in a day and then apply the time custom number format to display as minutes and seconds.

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Applying a custom number format for minutes and seconds

To apply custom number formatting for minutes and seconds, enter or select a time format using the Format Cells dialog box:

  1. Select the cells, columns or rows to which you want to apply a custom number format.
  2. Press Ctrl + 1 or right-click and select Format Cells. A dialog box appears.
  3. Click the Number tab.
  4. Click Custom in the category on the left.
  5. In the General Area, enter mm:ss or click it in the list.
  6. Click OK.

Below is the Format Cells dialog box with the minutes and seconds custom format:

Microsoft Excel Format Cells dialog box with custom time format for minutes and seconds.

There are several time formats in this dialog box. Codes include h for hour, m for minute and s for seconds.

Converting seconds to minutes and seconds

To convert seconds entered in cells to minutes and seconds, divide the seconds by the total number of seconds in a day (60 multiplied by 60 multiplied by 24) and then apply the time custom number format of mm:ss (minutes and seconds).

In the following example, we have entered seconds in column A that we want to convert to minutes and seconds in column B:

Excel seconds entered in column to convert to minutes and sections.

To convert seconds entered in column A to minutes and seconds in column B:

  1. Click in B2.
  2. Enter the formula =A2/(60*60*24) and press Enter. Keep in mind that there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day.
  3. Click in B2, click the bottom right corner handle and drag down to row 18 to copy the formula down.

Column B appears as follows with the General format applied:

Excel calculation to convert seconds to minutes and seconds.

To format column B as minutes and seconds:

  1. Select column B.
  2. Press Ctrl + 1 or right-click and select Format Cells. A dialog box appears.
  3. Click the Number tab.
  4. Click Custom in the category on the left.
  5. In the General Area, enter mm:ss or click it in the list.
  6. Click OK.

Column B appears as follows with the mm:ss format applied:

Excel format fractions ad minutes and seconds.

Here’s another example. In this worksheet, we’ve entered start times and end times. The times are entered as hours:minutes:seconds and then AM or PM (with a space before AM or PM):

Microsoft Excel worksheet with start times and end times.

To calculate the time difference between the two columns:

  1. Click in C2.
  2. Enter the formula =B2-A2 and press Enter.
  3. Click in C2, click the bottom right corner handle and drag down to row 6 to copy the formula down. Excel calculates the difference as a fraction.
  4. You may need to select column C and apply the General format to view the result as a fraction. Click the Home tab in the Ribbon and in the Number group, select General from the drop-down menu of formats.

The values in column C appear as fractions with the General format applied as follows:

Microsoft Excel calculation of time difference between start time and end time with fractions.

To format column C as minutes and seconds:

  1. Select column C.
  2. Press Ctrl + 1 or right-click and select Format Cells. A dialog box appears.
  3. Click the Number tab.
  4. Click Custom in the category on the left.
  5. In the General Area, enter mm:ss or click it in the list.
  6. Click OK.

Column C appears as follows with the mm:ss format applied:

Microsoft Excel applying time formatting to fractions.

However, in the above example, there is a problem with row 6. The time differential is in hours, minutes and seconds so let’s change the format for column C to hh:mm:ss.

Below is the final result with hh:mm:ss formatting applied to column C::

Microsoft Excel worksheets with times formatted as hours, minutes and seconds.

There are other functions and calculations you can use to calculate time but the strategies we’ve used here are useful for many scenarios. Working with time can be tricky and if start times and end times are not entered correctly, you won’t be able to calculate time differences.

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Summary
How to Convert Seconds to Minutes and Seconds in Excel
Article Name
How to Convert Seconds to Minutes and Seconds in Excel
Description
Although you can convert seconds to minutes and seconds in Excel, it can be a bit tricky to convert and display times in combined units (hours, minutes and seconds). You can combine calculations and custom number formatting to display minutes and seconds in Excel.
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Avantix Learning Inc.

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