How to convert your VHS tapes into digital files

Whether they’re family holidays, kid’s birthdays, first steps or school plays, they’re all irreplaceable memories. Here's how to preserve those VHS memories forever.

19 Jun 2018

Preserve VHS home videos by converting them to digital files

Got a box of VHS home videos gathering dust in the cupboard? Those old tapes won’t last forever… and neither will that old VCR. So how do you keep your VHS treasure trove safe from the ravages of time?

It’s always a great idea to keep a copy of anything precious. Fortunately it’s easy to convert VHS tapes into digital files or DVDs. That way you’ll be able to keep watching them even as time and technology march on.

Just choose a conversion option below and follow the steps.


Good to know

Once you’ve converted, it’s worth making a second backup on an external hard drive or another DVD. That way you’re really covered.


Option 1: Converting VHS using your computer


You'll need

  1. A video converter
  2. These simple connectors come with the necessary software. They’re available online or from electronics stores at reasonable prices. They look something like this:

  3. A VHS video player


Before you start

  1. Wipe any dust from the housing of the VHS. Be careful not to touch the tape itself.
  2. Check the spindles aren’t stuck. Try moving them gently by hand.


To convert a VHS:

  1. Install the software that came with your video converter onto your computer.
  2. Connect your VHS video player to your computer using the cable supplied with the video converter.
  3. Open the video conversion software and start recording.
  4. Play your VHS tape from the point where you want the recording to start.
  5. Stop the recording software at the end of the video.
  6. Stop the video VHS cassette.
  7. Save the converted video on your computer as an MP4 file.


Can I watch the video on my phone or tablet?

Yes you can. Here’s how on an Android device:

  1. Connect the device to your computer with a USB cable.
  2. Your device will ask if you want to allow file transfer. Select Yes.
  3. Copy the MP4 video file you saved earlier to the Movies folder on your device.


Can I convert VHS to DVD?

If your computer has a DVD drive, you can burn the converted file to DVD using the conversion software.

  1. Insert a blank DVD into your computer's DVD drive.
  2. Open the video conversion software.
  3. Select Burn to DVD. This will vary slightly depending on your software.


Good to know

- DVDs will most commonly be either “DVD-R” or “DVD+R”. Some hybrid drives can record to both, but some drives can only record to DVD-R and some only to DVD+R. Check what kind of drive you have before buying DVDs for it.

- A DVD+R or DVD-R can only be burned onto – or ‘written to’ – once. But a DVD+RW or DVD-RW can be written over multiple times (the RW stands for rewritable). Choose RW if you want the option of re-writing the DVD again later. BUT if you have an older DVD burner, check first whether it can burn to RW dvds.


Can I convert VHS to DVD without a computer?

Yes, if you don’t have a computer or don’t feel comfortable using one you can still record your VHS tapes to DVD with these methods:


Option 2: Converting VHS using a DVD recorder

You will need:

  1. VHS Video player, also called a VCR
  2. A DVD recorder
  3. An A/V cable with 3 plugs at each end; red and white for audio, yellow for video.


To convert a VHS:

  1. Connect the video output (yellow) and the audio (red/white) outputs of your VCR to the corresponding inputs on your DVD recorder.
  2. Insert the VHS tape you want to copy into your VCR.
  3. Insert a recordable DVD into your DVD recorder.
  4. Press Record on the DVD recorder. Make sure you do this before you play the VHS so you don’t miss anything.
  5. Press Play on the VHS player.


Using a DVD/VHS combination unit

This way can be a lot easier as both the VCR and DVD recorder are in a single unit. You don’t need any cables.

  1. Insert the VHS you want to copy.
  2. Insert a recordable DVD.
  3. Press Record on the DVD side.
  4. Press Play on the VHS side.


Good to know

Some units have a Dubbing function that lets you do this with the press of one button.


Can I convert VHS to Blu-Ray?

You can. However because VHS has a relatively low quality picture, and copying to Blu-ray won’t improve the quality the extra cost of the Blu-ray disc won’t be worth the investment.


Good to know

There are companies that convert VHS to digital files or DVD. But be aware that prices can soon add up if you have lots of tapes.


Is converting my tapes worth the effort?

YES! It’s a pretty simple process, and once it’s done you have a permanent copy of your precious memories that you can watch anytime. You can also watch them anywhere; on your computer or device. Plus because it’s digital, you can skip the dull bits or jump to your favourite moments again and again! What’s more, you can share the memories with family and friends, and pass them on to new generations. Have we converted you yet?


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