How to use MetaTrader 4
MetaTrader 4 (MT4) is the fourth iteration of the wildly popular MetaTrader platform suite designed by MetaQuotes Software Corp. MT4 has been in use since 2005, and it is still widely considered to be the current market standard for trading platforms among retail traders.
Though MetaQuotes has since introduced MetaTrader 5 (MT5), it has taken over a decade to gain traction over its predecessor, and only recently did the number of MT5 servers surpass MT4’s (read our BrokerNotes guide to MT5 to learn more).
MT4 is a versatile, powerful trading platform that enjoys widespread adoption among forex brokers (if you still need to pick a broker, check out our guide to choosing an MT4 broker). But, learning the MT4 ropes can be an overwhelming experience for novices or newcomers.
To help you get the most out of your MT4 experience, the BrokerNotes team created this guide that will walk you through setting up your MT4 platform on your favorite device, help you navigate MT4’s array of tools and shortcuts, and then dive deep into some of the platform’s most commonly used tools and features.
How to Get Started with MT4
Depending on your experience level, you’ll get started with MT4 either by opening a demo account to get the hang of things (without any real money at stake), or you’ll dive straight into using a live trading account.
We’ll start with the low-stakes version (demo accounts):
How to open a demo account in MT4
- Download MT4 from the MetaQuotes website or your broker’s website.
- Once installed, navigate to the File dropdown, and select Open an account.
- Fill out all of the fields in the registration window, and then click Next.
- Select an appropriate demo-trading server from the list of available trading servers.
- Now, a registration window should appear with all of your credentials. Save them somewhere secure, and click Finish – you should now be logged into your demo account.
Note: Your broker may also provide the ability to sign up for an MT4 demo account directly on their website.
How to open a live trading account for MT4
The process for opening a live trading account for MT4 is much the same as the process for starting a demo version of the platform. The key difference is that live accounts can only be opened through your broker, whereas the demo account version can be opened directly within the MT4 platform.
- Open a live trading account with the broker of your choice (we can help you pick an MT4 broker, just check out our other MT4 guide).
- Download the MT4 software from your broker’s website.
- Once the software is installed, log in to MT4 with the new login credentials from your broker.
- Click on Add new broker, type the name of your broker (or server), and click Scan.
- Select your broker from the generated list, then click Next.
- You should now be able to enter your login information, and click Finish.
Using MT4 on a PC, Mac, Browser, or Mobile
Once you’ve opened your account, there are several ways to access MT4, the most popular way of which is via the standard desktop software for Windows computers. This version of the software is of course available for download from the MetaQuotes website, or from your broker.
But what if you are a Mac user? Or if you just want to run MT4 through your browser? Or maybe you want to trade on the go, on your mobile device. If that’s you, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered:
Using MT4 on a Mac
It is possible to run MT4 or MT5 on a Mac (or Linux), but this requires an extra piece of open-source software called Wine or a similar Windows emulator. We’ve included a more in-depth tutorial on how to do this in our guide to trading on a Mac.
To install MT4 on a Mac computer, Wine’s developers recommend using another free application known as “Play on Mac” that is based on Wine. We’ve found that Parallels is another excellent choice for running Windows on a Mac computer.
Traders can use this additional software to easily install Windows applications (like MT4) onto their Mac devices. MetaQuotes’ website gives detailed instructions for the installation of the MT4 software using Play on Mac, while Parallels has its own set of installation instructions.
Linux users: MT4 can also be installed on Linux-based machines with a separate version of the Wine software.
Using MT4 in your browser
MetaQuotes offers a web-based version of MT4 that runs directly in your internet browser, allowing you to sidestep having to download and run the desktop client. However, the web version - also known as WebTrader - is not as powerful or versatile as the actual desktop software.
If you want to use the web-based version of MT4, all you need is the URL that connects to your broker’s MT4 server. This browser version can also be accessed on smartphones or tablets with internet access, but certain functionalities - like automated trading strategies - won’t be available.
Using the MT4 mobile app
MT4 offers apps for both iOS and Android, available as free downloads from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, respectively. The MT4 app can only be used for some of the most fundamental aspects of trading, such as order placement, simple technical analysis, charting, account management, and news headlines.
If you’re an Android user without access to the Google Play store, you can also download the MetaTrader 4 app directly from MetaQuotes here.
How to navigate MT4
Figuring out how to navigate MT4 can be an intimidating process for traders who are new to the software. To get you started on your MT4 journey, we put together a short, introductory primer for the most important menus and functions:
1. Main Menu
MT4’s Main Menu contains some of the most important shortcuts for traders, such as the ability to open a new chart, place a new order, activate or deactivate a forex robot, or select which charts to display. Traders who are unfamiliar with MT4 can hover over each button for information about its functionality.
2. Market Watch window
The Market Watch window displays the price quote for each tradeable asset on MT4. The window can be resized to accommodate more symbols, and you can select which symbols you want to display (or hide).
3. Chart window
MT4’s Chart window provides a space for the display of one or more charts. The layout is easy to navigate, and MT4 charts feature customizable templates, a few dozen different charting tools, and technical indicators. You can adjust the time frame or period for any chart by using the relevant button on the Main Menu bar.
MT4 includes all the most popular chart periodicities, ranging from one minute all the way to one month. Tick charts are also available, as are custom chart types (such as point and figure charts) if you install the necessary plug-in.
Each chart in the Chart window also includes one or more indicator boxes where you can display technical indicators, like the Relative Strength Index (RSI).
4. Terminal window
The Terminal window features a set of tabs that display important account details and other high-priority information for MT4 traders, such as your Mailbox, Journal, Signals, and Alerts, as well as your Account History.
5. Navigator window
MT4’s Navigator allows for fast access to a variety of MetaTrader features, such as indicators, EAs, and scripts, and the ability to apply those features to charts simply by dragging and dropping. The Navigator also shows your broker, server, and trading account numbers.
6. Strategy Tester
This section will be most useful for advanced traders who are conducting backtests for EAs. It features three tabs: Overview, Agents, and Journal. This section is mainly used by advanced traders for conducting backtests on their “Experts” (also known as EAs – more on that below).
What are the best MT4 features?
Out of the box, MT4 comes with a variety of functions designed to help traders test, automate, and manage their trading strategies.
Let’s take an in-depth look at MT4’s seven most important features:
- Algorithmic trading: Expert Advisors (EAs), also known as “Experts” for short.
- Strategy testing: How to backtest your trading strategy using your Expert file.
- Charting: Historical studies & technical analysis
- MT4 add-ons: How to find custom-built tools, EAs & indicators
- Signals: How do you copy trade on MT4?
- Scalping: How scalping and hedging work in MT4
- Instruments: What can you trade in MT4?
Expert Advisors (EAs) are programmed plug-ins that allow traders to automate their trading strategy. This is done by creating a trading program (usually called a “robot”) that operates automatically based on existing market conditions and the status of pre-determined technical indicators.
Traders can program their own EAs, or obtain them from a third party. EAs for MT4 can be configured for a wide variety of trading styles, with thousands of “robots” and technical indicators available from MetaTrader’s community marketplace.
They can be free to use, but the most successful EAs might run you thousands of dollars. The most expensive EAs can even be rented. In these cases, the source code remains hidden, allowing the developer to protect their proprietary code so that users can lease the software.
Traders can also program their own plug-ins using the MT4 platform’s built-in programming function. Hitting the F4 button from within MT4 brings up the MetaQuotes Language (MQL) interface. This feature allows a programmer to create brand new expert advisors, indicators, and scripts.
Furthermore, traders can modify existing plug-ins, provided they have the appropriate permissions to do so and the EA is not locked. It is also possible to use DLL (dynamic link library) protection to lock your EAs and prevent them from being decompiled, modified, or copied without permission.
The testing and optimization of your programmed EAs can be accomplished using MT4’s backtesting feature.
You can access this function by hitting Ctrl+R on your keyboard, or by clicking View > Strategy Tester. Strategy testing requires historical data from the M1 time frame, which can be viewed using MT4’s History Center.
The testing feature is mainly useful for experienced traders, and it can take time to learn how to use this complex function properly.
MT4 is known for its powerful charting capabilities, which are presented in an easy-to-navigate layout. Traders can find built-in tools to add lines, indicators, arrows, and text notes to MT4 charts, as well a host of plug-ins for performing customized forms of technical analysis.
MT4’s charts feature three popular methods of representing prices or exchange rates:
- Bar charts
- Line charts
- Candlestick charts
Other methods of price representation, such as Renko and point and figure charts, can be added using external plug-ins. Candlestick and bar charts are useful for showing the open, high, low, and closing price for the chosen time period at a glance, while multi-period candlestick patterns can be further analyzed to signal possible future market moves.
MT4 Add-ons via the MQL Community
The MQL Community was launched by MetaQuotes as a response to the many requests from users for a one-stop MT4 shop for tools, indicators, scripts, expert advisors, and other add-ons.
This community marketplace website is directly integrated with the MT4 platform. Traders looking to buy (or sell) strategies, indicators or forex robots can do so directly within MT4 using the “Market” tab in the Terminal window. Traders can purchase or even sell their add-on software for MT4 on the MQL Community website.
Direct integration within MT4 also means that payments for products bought or sold on the MQL Community website can be made from your trading account balance.
MT5 Note: Plug-ins that were written for MT4 will not work with MT5, and will need to be re-written to do so.
It’s worth mentioning that many of the best brokers for MetaTrader typically offer plugins from popular providers such as Autochartist, Trading Central, and Fx Blue Labs, which you can access for free with a live account.
Copy Trading with MT4
MT4 offers a social trading feature called Trading Signals, which allows you to automatically copy the trades of another trader, in real-time. Signal providers sometimes provide these for free, while other times there is a fee required to copy their trades.
To copy another trader, you’ll need both an active MT4 live account with your broker and an account on MQL5.com (which requires a paid subscription). You will then be able to see a list of signals providers in the ‘Signals’ window.
Scalping and hedging in MT4
Scalping, an intraday trading strategy that takes advantage of small moves in the market, can be implemented quite successfully on the MT4 trading platform due to its fast “one-click” trading feature.
However, the use of this strategy may not be allowed by an online broker that has an explicit prohibition on it, or a broker might impose a required holding time for trades that could make the strategy less viable. Check out our BrokerNotes guides on Scalping and High-Frequency Trading if you’d like to learn more.
Hedging remains possible in the MT4 trading platform, though – like scalping – certain brokers and jurisdictions may have rules that prohibit strategies that involve hedging on positions.
For example, many U.K. MT4 brokers allow their U.K. clients to hedge trades using MT4, and they also net out the trader’s margin requirements accordingly. On the other hand, U.S. brokers must net trades on a First-in First-out (FIFO) basis, and hedging is not permitted.
What can you trade in MT4?
As MT4 isn’t a broker, there isn’t a predetermined selection of tradeable assets. The range of assets available to you on MT4 will depend on your broker and the range of markets that it offers.
You can view what’s offered by your broker directly within the MT4 platform by hitting Ctrl+U (or by clicking View followed by Symbols).
Generally speaking, IG and Saxo Bank offer the widest range of instruments (over 20,000) among the highly reputable MT4 brokers that we evaluate. That being said, their range of markets available on MT4 is limited (their full range is available only on their proprietary trading platforms).
IC Markets (our favorite MT4 broker), on the other hand, offers over 3,000 tradeable symbols on its MT4 platform.
Here are six typical CFD assets and asset classes that you might expect to see when trading on MT4:
- Currency pairs – The majority of retail forex traders use MT4 (though in recent years, those numbers are increasingly shifting towards MT5). In MT4, currency pairs are denoted by their symbols, and include major pairs (e.g., EUR/USD), minor pairs (e.g., EUR/CHF), and exotic pairs (e.g., USD/SGD). Most forex brokers will offer the seven majors, but availability varies for minor and exotic pairs.
- Stocks – MT4 delivers a limited offering of popular stocks. These are usually blue-chip stocks, such as Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Coca-Cola, and Tesla.
- Stock Indices – You can sometimes trade the major stock indices in MT4. These indices, such as the U.K.’s FTSE 100, France’s CAC 40, or Germany’s DAX 30, measure the performance of national stock exchanges around the world.
- Cryptocurrencies – Some brokers offer an execution service via MT4 for major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, and EOS (in addition to derived cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Gold and Bitcoin Cash). However, be aware that these relatively new markets can be illiquid, and the possible rapid price movements may be unsuitable for beginners.
- Commodities – Most brokers offer their MT4 clients access to popular tradeable commodities such as precious metals, energy products, and agricultural products. Some brokers provide even greater access to the commodities market via contracts for difference (CFDs) (learn more about how that works in our BrokerNotes guide to trading CFDs).
- Fixed Income Securities – Some online brokers offer a small range of fixed-income instruments for their MT4 clients. In most cases, these are limited to government bonds issued by the United States, Japan, and some European countries.
What are the best MT4 shortcuts?
We put together a handy guide with all of the most important keyboard shortcuts for MT4, to help you quickly and easily access all of MetaTrader’s powerful trading tools and features:
- New Order: F9
- Candlestick Chart: Alt+2
- Save As: Ctrl+S
- Close: Ctrl+F4
- Symbols: Ctrl+U
- Indicator List: Ctrl+I
- Volumes: Ctrl+L
- Market Watch: Ctrl+M
- Data Window: Ctrl+D
- Navigator: Ctrl+N
- Terminal: Ctrl+T
- Strategy Tester: Ctrl+R
- MetaQuotes Language Editor: F4
- Global Variables: F3
- History Center: F2
- Chats: Alt+M
- Full Screen: F11
- Tile Windows: Alt+R
- Properties: F8
- Options: Ctrl+O
- Next: Ctrl+F6
- Help: F1
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Forex Risk Disclaimer
There is a very high degree of risk involved in trading securities. With respect to margin-based foreign exchange trading, off-exchange derivatives, and cryptocurrencies, there is considerable exposure to risk, including but not limited to, leverage, creditworthiness, limited regulatory protection and market volatility that may substantially affect the price, or liquidity of a currency or related instrument. It should not be assumed that the methods, techniques, or indicators presented in these products will be profitable, or that they will not result in losses. Learn more about foreign exchange risk.