How To Install And Use MT4 Custom Indicators and EAs (full guide)

How To Install And Use MT4 Custom Indicators and EAs (full guide)
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Installing and using MT4 custom indicators and EAs is straightforward and we will show you exactly how in this post with both a quick guide and full pictorial rundown. We also explain what custom indicators are and why they are useful.

Quick step guide

  1. Download the files you want to your computer (unzip if needed)
  2. Open MT4
  3. Locate your MT4 data folder by going to File Menu > Open Data Folder
  4. Then click through to the MQL4 folder. For indicator installation open the Indicator Folder, or for EAs open the Experts Folder
  5. Copy your files across into the folder
  6. Restart MT4
  7. The indicator or EA will now be installed
  8. To use the indicator go to Navigator Window and double click the indicator or EA or drag it from the window onto the active chart

Note: Custom Indicators and EAs only work on desktop, not mobile.

Custom indicators and expert advisors (EAs) are the standout feature of MT4 that has kept it firmly at the top of the list of the most widely used trading platforms in the world year on year.

What Indicators Are Built Into MT4?

Every trading platform will have a set of trading indicators and automations built in which allow traders to analyse their market of choice and manage their trades.

There are default indicators built into MT4. You would expect to find the most commonly used indicators like Moving Average or RSI built into most platforms and MT4 is no exception. In a standard MT4 installation you will get 30 indicators in 4 categories.

Indicator Category Number of built in indicators
Trend 7
Oscillators 13
Volumes 4
Bill Williams 6

For more information on the built in indicators see this link to the MetaTrader4 website:

https://www.metatrader4.com/en/trading-platform/help/analytics/tech_indicators

What Are MT4 Custom Indicators And EAs?

Simply put, a custom indicator is any that is not built into MT4. Custom indicators are coded and created to meet a specific (custom) function.

There is almost no limitation to what can be created. There are custom indicators built that cover everything from the very simple like a candle countdown timer to complex analysis tools like a correlation matrix.

Correlation Matrix Tool Example
Correlation Matrix Tool Example
Candle Timer Indicator Example
Candle Timer Indicator Example

Difference Between An Indicator And An Expert Advisor (EA)

There is a key difference between an indicator and an EA. This is the ability to open and close trades. This includes automated trading based on a set of rules which is why EAs are often called Robots.

Warning: If you activate an EA on a live account then it can open and close real trades! Be extremely cautious with EAs on a live account and make sure you fully understand what their function and what inputs could trigger a trade.

When installing indicators and EAs there is a slight difference in how to complete the process for each as described in steps 4 and 5.

  • Indicators should be copied into the Indicator subfolder of your MT4 data folder: In MT4 click file > Open Data Folder > MQL4 > Indicators
  • EAs should be copied into the Experts subfolder of your MT4 data folder: In MT4 click file > Open Data Folder > MQL4 > Experts

How To Tell The Difference Between Indicators And EAs?

It is not easy to tell the difference between the two files as both have the same file extension .EX4. One way to tell the difference is the default icon for each.

Indicator Icon:

EA Icon:

However, Windows doesn’t always handle this correctly and they may look the same. So if you are ever downloading a mixture of indicators and EAs we suggest you put them in separate folders so you can identify them (or copy them straight into the correct MT4 folder).

What About MQ4 Files?

MQ4 files are the source code files for indicators and EAs. MQ4 files can be opened in a special program built into MT4 called the MetaQuotes Language Editor.

In the editor it is possible to view, modify and compile the code. However, it is not necessary to use the editor to install the file.

In order to install and use an indicator or EA in the form of an MQ4 file, the process is exactly the same as for an .EX4 file. You just copy them into the appropriate folder and when MT4 restarts, it will automatically compile them into .EX4 files.

If the file compiles correctly you will notice that you now have two files in the indicator folder instead of one.

If nothing happens then there could be an error in the MQ4 file that stops it from being compiled correctly. If that does happen, you can troubleshoot it in the MetaQuotes editor but it would probably be better to find an indicator from a reliable source that works first time!

Programming MT4 Indicators

It is possible to program your own indicators if you are willing to put in the work to learn. You will need to study how to programme in the MQL4 coding language.

Many developers will give away the source code for simple indicators so there is a lot of resource out there to learn. Other sources to learn to programme MT4 indicators:

  • From the MQL4 website
  • Udemy has several courses
  • Or just by searching Google for forums

Where To Get MT4 Indicators - The MT4 Ecosystem

The great thing about MT4 being the world’s most used trading platform is that there is a huge network of programmers out there that have created a ton of resources for MT4.

And if you want something custom made, you will not struggle to find a programmer to make it for you. In addition, many brokers have also invested some time in building custom indicator packs for their clients.

A good example of this is Admiral Market’s excellent MetaTrader4 Supreme Edition. This is an add on pack of indicators and expert advisors provided by the broker that would normally cost £1000’s to commission yourself.

You can access it via this link here: Admiral Markets MT4 (click on supreme edition).

Risk Warning: CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 81% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

MQL5 Marketplace

By far the biggest marketplace for MT4 indicators is the MQL5 market place: https://www.mql5.com/en/market/mt4.

Hint: If you search for MQL5 marketplace make sure to select MetaTrader 4 from the left hand menu as the site defaults to MT5 when you go on the page.

Here you will be able to find thousands of free, paid and subscription indicators. Many of the paid versions will have free demos as well.

Indicator Sites

You wouldn’t have failed to notice that in addition to the formal marketplace and programmers there are hundreds of sites offering both free and paid indicators as well. That includes sites such as our own NothardTrading.com – see our indicators here.

Warning - As with anything you download off the internet, please be careful and make sure you trust the source. *MT4 files are not executable, so in most cases (unless there is some sort of special pack), an individual download should not be in the form of an .EXE file.

Suggested article – Are MT4 custom indicators safe? DLL and virus fears explained. Click HERE.

At Nothard Trading our aim is to bring you useful and practical information and our indicators are all very practical tools to help you in your trading and strategy building.

Drawbacks

One of the biggest drawbacks of such a big market is that there are a lot of poorly coded tools out there and a lot of not very useful ones as well! It is also easy to fall into the trap of installing too many indicators that do not actually help you improve your trading.

Quality tools are not always easy to find and like in anything there are good and bad programmers. A well programmed tool should be efficient and not pull too much resource from your computer. It will also be tested for conflicts and remove itself cleanly from the chart when closed.

As already mentioned, be careful online and look for quality. At Nothard Trading we have curated the tools we find useful and had even the simple ones re-coded from scratch for best performance (check it out here).

Full Pictorial Guide - Installing and Using MT4 Indicators and EAs

This guide follows the same steps as the quick guide, just with more detail and pictures. To review the quick guide just jump to the top.

Step 1: Download the files to your computer

It is important to note that custom indicators are only usable in the desktop version of MT4 not the mobile versions. However you can have alerts sent to mobile and our article for that is HERE.

After you have found the indicator you want, download it to your computer.

Step 1: Choose your indicator
Step 1: Choose your indicator
Step 1: Download your indicator
Step 1: Download your indicator

If your download comes as a zip file, you will need to unzip it before step two.

Step 1: Unzip the indicator file if it is zipped
Step 1: Unzip the indicator file if it is zipped

Note that most downloads will go to the Downloads folder on your computer. For more information on zip files have a look at this article: Zip Files Win 10.

Step 2: Open MT4

This step is simple, launch your MT4 program.

Step 3: Locate Your Data Folder

The easiest way to do this is from MT4 itself. Go to the top menu and click File. In the menu you will see the option Open Data Folder.

Step 3: Locate your data folder
Step 3: Locate your data folder

Step 4: Navigate to the MQL4 Folder

From the data folder, now open the MQL4 folder. The next step will be different depending on whether you are installing an indicator or an EA.

  • For an indicator, open the Indicators folder.
  • For an EA, open the Experts folder.
Step 4: Navigate to the MQL4 folder​
Step 4: Navigate to the MQL4 folder​

Step 5: Copy Your Files Across

Now you can copy your file from the download folder into the correct MQL4 folder for your indicator type (Indicator or Experts folder).

Step 5: Copy your files across​
Step 5: Copy your files across​ from your download folder to MQL4 folder

Step 6: Restart MT4

You can now close all the folders and MT4. Next, restart MT4. On restart MT4 will check the data folder and load your new indicator.

Hint: The process above is the same for .MQ4 files as it is for .EX4 files. On load MT4 will automatically compile the .MQ4 file and create a copy of the file as an .EX4 in the same folder.

Step 7: Locate Your New Indicator or EA

Your indicator has now been installed. There are two ways to find it.

1. In the Navigator Window

Tip: To open the navigator window use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+N.

Indicators will be in the navigator window near the top under the Indicators and EAs will be further down and have a different icon. Your navigator will look different depending on how many indicators you have installed.

Step 7: Locate your new indicator
Step 7: Locate your new Indicator
Step 7: Locate your new Expert Advisor
Step 7: Locate your new Expert Advisor

2. For indicators only: from the top menu select Insert then Indicators then Custom

Step 7: Locate your new indicator from menu section
Step 7: Locate your new indicator from menu section

Step 8.1: Activate and Use Your New Custom Indicator

The only step remaining is to put it to use by activating the indicator. There are 4 ways to to this:

  1. From the navigator window, double click the indicator OR
  2. From the navigator window, click and drag the indicator onto the active chart OR
  3. Right click on the indicator and click Attach to chart OR
  4. From the file menu click through to the desired indicator

As soon as you do the above, the indicator dialogue box will show. Click OK to load straight away or click the inputs tab to select the settings you prefer. Once you are happy click OK.

Step 8.1: Activate and use your new custom indicator
Step 8.1: Activate and use your new custom indicator
Step 8.1: Click Inputs
Step 8.1: Click Inputs

Your indicator is now active on the chart! To manage your indicator quickly, use the Ctrl+I shortcut. This will bring up the Indicator List window where you can remove or edit settings.

Step 8.1: Use short cut Ctrl+I
Step 8.1: Use short cut Ctrl+I

Step 8.2: Activate and Use Your New Custom Expert Advisor (EA)

Expert Advisors are installed in the same way but in order to use them you will need to activate some additional settings. As we have already said, EAs can execute live trades so for extra security there are additional steps.

First you need to allow automated trading. This can be done by clicking the button Auto Trading button in the taskbar.

Step 8.2: Activate and use your new custom expert advisor (EA), activate auto trading
Step 8.2: Activate and use your new custom expert advisor (EA), activate auto trading

Another option is via the options menu. Select Tools from the top menu then Options.

Tip: Quickly access the Options menu with the Ctrl+O keyboard shortcut.

In the options menu, select the Expert Advisors tab and click Allow automated trading checkbox. Click OK to complete.

The next step is to activate the EA from the navigator window in the same way as with the first 3 indicator options by double clicking or dragging onto the chart or right click and attach to the chart.

Once opened, check you are happy with the settings and click OK. The EA is now active. You can confirm that it is working if you see a smiley face in the top right corner of the active chart window.

Step 8.2: Click allow live trading
Step 8.2: Click allow live trading

Troubleshooting

Contact the developer or store

If your indicator or EA won’t load by following these steps then your first option should be to contact whoever you got it from for support.

Check for old versions

It is also worth noting that if the indicator is old, it may not load on newer versions of MT4. MT4 did not build in backward compatibility with new versions. As such some older indicators will just not work unless the developer updates them.

Check the label colours

Another simple error that can occur is that the colour of the indicator labels is the same colour as your chart background! Check the indicator inputs to change the text colour.

Related Questions

How to Organise The Indicators And EAs In The Navigator Window?

If you like to be organised and you have more than a few indicators installed then you will probably want to group your indicators in a way that suits you.

The good news is that this is easily done and is just a matter of creating a few folders. Have a look at the example below.

In this example we have our Nothard Trading Indicator Bundles already organised, but below them are a mixture of other indicators which we would like to be in separate folders.

Go to data folder

To get this organised, go to your data folder as already shown.

File > Open Data Folder
Then open the folder MQL4 > Indicators

Navigator Window
Navigator Window

You will notice the structure in the folder matches the structure in the navigator window. All you need to do is is create whatever folders you want and move the indicators into them.

Tip: You can also rename any indicators you want or delete ones you don’t like.

Now your indicators are neatly organised!

Indicators Neatly Organized
Indicators Neatly Organized

Disclaimer and Affiliate:

Affiliate Links:

In this article we recommended some links to Admiral Markets which are affiliate links. This means we may receive a commission in some instances.

Disclaimer:

This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Trading financial instruments offered by Admiral Markets (CFDs, ETFs, stocks) carries a high level of risk which is not suitable for all investors due to their complex nature. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks involved. Read more at www.admiralmarkets.com.

Justina Nothard

Justina Nothard

Hi, I’m Justina Nothard, a retail investor trading Stock Index Futures.

I understand how hard it can be for the ordinary trader to learn the basics and find useful tools and practical information.

This is why I decided to create Nothard Trading to help you take control of your trading.

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