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How to calculate moving average in Excel?

Author: Kelly Last Modified: 2024-01-19

When dealing with data that fluctuates over time, such as stock prices, weather patterns, or sales trends, it's crucial to discern the underlying patterns beneath the surface of volatile or chaotic data sets. This is where the concept of a moving average becomes invaluable. A moving average provides a clear view of the trend in data by smoothing out short-term fluctuations and highlighting longer-term trends or cycles.

Moving average example

In this tutorial, we'll explore methods to calculate the moving average in Excel, along with guidance on adding a moving average trendline to an existing chart. Let's get started and master these techniques.

What is moving average?

A moving average, often referred to as a rolling or moving mean, or sometimes a rolling or running average, is a statistical method for analyzing a series of data points. This is done by computing the average of different, overlapping subsets of the full dataset.

This technique is dynamic, meaning it's continually updated as new data comes in. This makes it particularly effective for reducing the impact of short-term variations or anomalies in data. For instance, consider a series of 10 numbers. If we choose a subset size of 3, the moving average process starts with calculating the average of the first three numbers. Then, the subset moves forward by one position – the first number is dropped, and the fourth number is included, forming a new group of three for the next average calculation. This shifting and averaging continue, one number at a time, until the end of the series is reached.

The moving average is widely used in various fields, including statistics, financial analysis, and weather forecasting to discern underlying trends over time.

Calculate moving average in Excel

In this section, we'll explore two effective methods to calculate moving averages in Excel. Step by step, we'll guide you through each process, ensuring that you can efficiently apply these techniques to your data analysis tasks.

Calculate moving average in Excel using the AVERAGE function

The AVERAGE function in Excel is a straightforward way to calculate the moving average. Imagine you have a table containing data for 8 periods, if you want to calculate a moving average for 3 periods, here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Click on the cell where you want to display the first moving average. In our example, this would be cell C4, as we're calculating a 3-period moving average.
  2. Enter the AVERAGE formula:
    Tip: This formula calculates the average of the first three data points (B2, B3, B4).
  3. Click on cell C4, and drag its fill handle down to the cell where you want the last moving average to appear.

    AVERAGE Formula


  • For a cleaner display of your moving average results, select the cells and click the Decrease Decimal button in the Number group on the Home tab to reduce decimal places.

    Decrease Decimal

  • After applying the formula, you might observe a small green triangle in the top left corner of each cell. To remove this, select the cells with the formula, click on the yellow triangle with an exclamation mark that appears, and choose Ignore Error.

    Ignore Error

Calculate moving average in Excel using the Data Analysis tool

Excel's Data Analysis command offers a suite of tools for data analysis, including the Moving Average tool that can help you calculate the average for a specific data range and create a moving average chart easily.

Note: The Data Analysis command can be found in the Data tab. If you do not see it there, enable it by going to File > Options > Add-ins. In the Manage box at the bottom, make sure Excel Add-ins is selected and click Go. In the Add-ins dialog, check the box next to Analysis ToolPak and click OK.

  1. Click Data > Data Analysis.

    Data Analysis

  2. In the Data Analysis dialog, choose Moving Average and click OK.

    Data Analysis - Moving Average

  3. In the Moving Average dialog box that appears, please:
    1. Input Range: Select the data range for the moving averages. For example, select range B2:B9.
    2. Interval: Enter the number of data points for each moving average. In our case, we enter 3 into it.
    3. Output Range: Choose where you want the moving averages results displayed, such as range C2:C9.
    4. Chart Output: Check this option if you want a graphical display.
    5. Click OK.

      Moving Average Dialog


After clicking OK, Excel will generate the moving averages in the specified output range. If the Chart Output option is selected, a corresponding chart will also be created.

Moving Average Dialog Result

Add a moving average trendline to an existing chart

If you already have a chart in your Excel worksheet as shown below, you can easily add a moving average trendline to analyze trends.

Existing Chart

  1. Click the chart to which you wish to add the trendline.
  2. Click Chart Design (or Design in earlier versions) > Add Chart Element > Trendline > More Trendline Options.

    More Trendline Options

    Quick Tip: If the default 2-period moving average suits your needs, you can directly select Chart Design > Add Chart Element > Trendline > Moving Average. This action will insert a trendline labeled as "2 per. Mov. Avg." by default.
  3. When the Format Trendline pane opens on the right side of your worksheet:
    1. Choose the Moving Average option, and specify the moving average interval in the Period box.
    2. (Optional) To personalize the trendline name, select Custom and enter your preferred name.

      Format Trendline pane


After these steps, the moving average trendline will be added to your chart, as illustrated below.

moving average trendline added

Tip: The legend name will appear once you add a legend to the chart. To do this, click the plus sign beside the chart and then select the Legend option.

Add Legend

Advanced Chart Customization and Analysis:

  • For more customization, use the Fill & Line or Effects tabs in the Format Trendline pane to experiment with different options like line type, color, and width.


  • To conduct a more in-depth analysis, add several moving average trendlines with different time intervals. For example, you can add 2-period (dark red) and 3-period (orange) moving average trendlines to compare how the trend changes over time.

    Compare how the trend changes over time

Above is all the relevant content related to moving average in Excel. I hope you find the tutorial helpful. If you're looking to explore more Excel tips and tricks, please click here to access our extensive collection of over thousands of tutorials.

Video: Calculate moving average in Excel

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