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Converting VHS Tapes to DVD: A First-Hand Experience

         

Preserving family videos is an important task, because no one wants to lose the precious memories of their loved ones. Recently, my family started the process of converting several VHS tapes to DVD format. My mother had been thinking about doing this for years; however, since she doesn’t consider herself to be especially tech-savvy, she was intimidated and kept postponing the job. However, after recently watching some of the tapes with the family, she decided it was time to transfer them. She was reminded of how special these home movies are, and she also knows that the tapes can deteriorate over time. Some of them are more than two decades old.

First, she researched options and costs. Phone calls to professional companies that transfer tapes were discouraging. Prices she was quoted ranged from $15 to $50 per video tape, and since we have a total of 22 tapes, the estimates seemed cost prohibitive. Ultimately, she opted to borrow a VHS-to-DVD converter from a family friend.

The process was simple. She connected the VHS-to-DVD converter to the TV, put in the VHS tape, put in a blank DVD and pressed the “Dubbing” button. It was even possible to edit as it was recording, although this involved sitting with it while it was converting. If you don’t want to edit, you can just come back when the VHS tape is finished playing. The first conversion she did took 2 hours and 36 minutes. As my mother neared the end of the process, all she needed to do was to “finalize” the DVD, and she was finished.

While this isn’t the only way to transfer your VHS tapes to DVDs, it’s certainly an easy way. In addition to this option, there are three other methods for conversion:

  1. Use a VHS player with a separate DVD recorder.
  2. Use an analog-to-digital adapter bundled with software, such as an Elgato Video Capture, or similar products, such as Roxio Easy VHS to DVD for Mac, or Corel Easy VHS to DVD for Windows. These systems connect your VHS player to a computer, and enable you to create a digital file that you can burn to DVD.
  3. Head to the photo department of a retail store like Walgreens or CVS, or seek out mail order options. (Groupon sometimes offers mail-in deals on VHS conversions).

Click images above for more information.

While it’s time consuming to do this yourself, it’s not complicated. The cost savings can be significant—our family saved between $500 and $1,000 by doing it this way. Most converters, like the one my mother used, cost less than $175. Even though we already had a spindle of DVD-/+R discs, these are inexpensive and widely available. Plus, you have the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

DIY conversion also affords more control, because you can edit as you convert each VHS tape. A professional company can edit out blank or damaged sections, but they wouldn’t be able to do personalized editing, without additional effort and expense.

One more thing to note is that the DVD won’t improve the quality of the VHS recording, which, given the state of video recording two or three decades ago, can be spotty. Couple that with the effect of aging on the tape, and you may have a somewhat messy viewing experience. However, starting the VHS-DVD conversion process will preserve your priceless memories no matter which option you choose, and it may be better to have them with some artifacts than not have them at all.

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I have dozens of VHS tapes to convert to DCDs.  I purchased a Toshiba DVD/VHS recorder (DVR620KU) at Best Buy for $265.

I have been unable to make it work.  When cdomplaining to Best Buy- they said I needed to purchase an external TV tuner to conect to it.  Isn't there a profduct out there to simply transfer VHS to DVD without hooking up to a TV or computer? Richard Slocomb

I came here this morning hoping for an answer to the same question...waiting with fingers crossed.
 

Review from Amazon that will answer

I bought this DVD recorder to copy many old family home movies on videocassettes to DVDs. Our home movies date back to 1988. After some advice from customer service at Toshiba, I have been able to use the recorder to dub my old home movies successfully to DVDs.

Like several other users, I found that when I followed the instructions for dubbing to DVDs, the recorder showed a "Barred" icon, a slashed red circle. After several attempts with different brands of DVD disks, I called Toshiba. I got some very helpful advice from the first customer service agent at Toshiba, but I was still unable to resolve the problem. I called back and talked to another agent, who was able to help me resolve the recording issues. Both customer service agents at Toshiba were very knowledgeable and did an excellent job of explaining their advice. I was very satisfied with Toshiba customer service. I will summarize the advice below so that other people who have difficulties with the recorder can try these steps to resolve their problems.

1. Because old videotapes may not track well when they have been unused for several years, fast forward to the end of the tape and rewind the tape before attempting to copy it. The recorder may refuse to copy a tape if it does not track well.

2. Eject the videotape. Apparently Toshiba DVRs (both the 610 and 620) can balk if the videotape is inserted before the DVD.

3. Push the DVD button and insert the blank DVD.

4. Press Record Mode (not Record) button and set the speed (I use SP).

5. Press the Setup button and select Recording. Select Dubbing Mode. Select VCR > DVD.

6. Press the VCR button and insert the videotape. Press Play and then Pause (not Stop) at the point slightly before you wish to start copying.

7. Press the Dubbing button. Push Stop when you want to stop dubbing. You can then insert another videotape to dub onto the same DVD, until it is full.

8. You can add titles on the DVD disk with the Top Menu button by selecting the part you wish to title and clicking on Edit and Edit Title.

9. After adding titles, you should finalize the DVD by pressing the Setup button, selecting DVD Menu and then Finalize (this may take a few minutes). Then you should be able to play the disk on another machine. I have been able to play finalized disks on my Sony DVD player.

I hope this is helpful for others having some trouble with these machines. I am very happy to be able to make digital copies of my old home movies.

Hi Richard -

With 1080p HD video upconversion, exquisite digital audio sound, the Toshiba DVR620 DVD/VCR Recorder Combo combines superb functionality and versatility, with abilities to record your favorite home movies onto DVD-R/W and DVD+R/W discs with a choice of 5 different recording speeds. Your current DVD library will look and sound better than ever before, because this unit is a progressive-scan player capable of upconverting your DVDs to 720p, 1080i, and 1080p through the HDMI output. With its coaxial digital audio output and 192KHz/24-bit audio D/A conversion; enjoy the awesome power of Dolby Digital audio for a wider, more enveloping surround sound experience. In addition, plug in your digital camcorder to the front-panel DV input and make high quality DVDs of your memories quickly and easily.

My VHS player is getting old and has begun "eating" my tapes. I still have several home movies that I would like to convert to digital. I have a converter, and really don't want to purchase another VHS player, as I don't think I will need it once I save my memories to digital.  I think I remember quite some time ago, seeing a converter advertised that played the VHS, while converting it to digital. It had a viewer, perhaps when hooked into the computer, and editing could be done while converting. Did I dream this? I can't find anything like this out there. 

I believe what you may have seen is a DVCAM recorder, which has USB and Firewire connections for digitizing DVCAM tapes.  This will not accept VHS sized tapes though.  The best option is to use a USB digitizing which connects the AV output (Composite RCA) to the computer for digitizing tapes.  This does require using a VCR though.  So, you would be looking at purchasing a new VCR to do this (or check if any of your friends/family/neighbors have a working VCR you could use for this project). 

my tapes, although stored in a cupboard have a mouldy residue on them.  Is there any way to recover these?

Hi Julia -

Remediating moldy VHS or any other type of acetate or mylar based magnetic tape medium is not a task for the "do-it-yourselfer".  Valuable footage could easily be lost with any home-grown remedy. My advice is to leave this to a professional service.  There are several reputable video tape repair services that can be found with these search terms:  "video tape repair"

Is there any way to edit the DVD on the computer once finished converting from tape?

Hi Birgit -

Once you have saved the digitized file from your DVD onto the computer.  You may export this file into an editing program.   If you have a Mac, then the free iMovie program will work for you.  If you are using a Windows PC then consider using this software:

Optimized for HD import and editing, Pinnacle Studio 19 Standard is the fundamental version of the three Studio 19 editions. Studio 19 Standard is designed as an easy-to-use editing software with pretty much every feature you may need for creating pro-level videos. This new version supports multi-cam editing from up to 2 cameras, allowing you to shoot scenes with two cameras simultaneously. When you import the footage from both cameras, the Multi-Camera Editor feature will help you align all the camera takes and audio automatically. Pinnacle Studio 19 Standard is built to support 64-bit speeds, enabling increased performance on 64-bit versions of Windows, and is also streamlined for Intel's Skylake processors.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Will this process give me raw footage so I can make a movie using my pinnacle software to make movies? I am using Windows on a 64 bit Samsung. Also, I have VHS, 8mm and one other tape. Can I plug my old camera into the Capture device to my computer just like the VHS player?

If DVDs become obsolete what is the best media to convert to? Thanks for your response.

Hi Donna -

You can use Pinnacle software with most  of the products offered.  Your camera connects to the hardware in the same fachion as it did to a VHS VCR.  Convert to files only and transfer to USB flash drives or portable USB hard drive or portable SSD drives as needed for longevity and reliability.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

i am in need of a converter to be able to burn the mini cassette on my funai dvd recorder it's the actualy square converter that you put the mini cassette into that you pop into the vcr side now these are the mini cassettes not the next size up what can I use to pop this mini cassette into to be able to burn it on to a dvd// Thank you for your prompt input.

Hi Michelle -

B&H no longer offers the VHS to VHSC adapter cassette you are looking for.

An internet search reveals several vendors that may still offer this device.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

i have a dvd/vcr combo that does copy vcr to DVDs (it's a Go Video brand) but I'm not having any luck getting the DVDs to read or copy. I'm using dvd-r is it possible I need a different type of blank dvd?

Hi Courtney -

Your GO VIDEO device might not be able to duplicate "copy-protected" tapes or DVD's (non-Macrovision-encoded).  Be sure to check if your machine is set-up to actually record VHS tapes to DVD. Most GO VIDEO products seemed to record disc to tape only.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Will that work with European PAL/SECAM tapes??

Hi -

This system offers both NTSC and PAL compatability:

The Elgato Systems USB Analog Video Capture Device is a compact USB device, perfect for converting analog video to a digital format. You'll be able to use the device to capture old home movies, VHS recordings, or any other analog media to a modern digital format. Simply plug your playback device into the S-Video or RCA composite input of the device, and capture.

Video is digitized into a format that is compatible with iTunes, any iPod, the iPhone, the Apple TV, YouTube, and iMovie. This gives you extreme flexibility as to how you utilize the captured video, without having to jump through the hoops of manual file format conversion. Elgato's Video Capture is an excellent tool for any Mac or Windows user who would like to bring their old analog videos into the digital age.

Standard USB interface

Captures from RCA composite and S-Video sources

Perfect for digitizing old home movies

Compatible with NTSC, PAL, PAL/60, and SECAM signals

Includes free download of Elgato Video Capture software for Mac and Windows

Software features basic video editing tools, allowing you to trim unwanted footage away

Exports to H.264 format, perfect for iTunes, the iPod, an iPhone, the Apple TV, YouTube, and iMovie

Compatible with Mac and Windows (please click on "Specifications" tab)

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

im using Roxio and copying VHS to an iMac and the audio and Visio are nit in sync. Any ideas?

Hi Karl -

Let us know via the e-mail provided below exactly which ROXIO product you are using. 

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

And does your business sell the needed equipment to convert vhs to dvd?

Hi Larry -

We sure do, Larry.  Just click on the photos or item description above:  "Items discussed in article".  You will be taken to the corresponding B&H webpages where you may make purchases.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

We have some favorite old movies (not home movies) we would like to get put on DVD ar some other digital storage.  Since we bought the movies on VHS can we copy them to a digital format, or is there something on the VHS tape that will block that?

Hi Larry -

Unfortunately copy-protected media, including VHS tape,s may not be copied or duplicated. Not even for private use.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

HI BH-SMILE, 

ARE YOU DON'T HAVE THAT SERVICE TO COPY VIDEO TO CD OR FLASH DRIVE?

I'M PHISICAL DISABLED AND IT IS EASER FOR ME TO GO TO YOU  FROM BROOKLYN THAT BUY AND DOMYSELF.IF YOU DON'T, WHERE YOU SUGGEST ME TO GO TO THRUST

I'M STILL ON YOUR DATE BASE OR MAYBE YOU REMOVED ME.

THANK YOU

Film processing and related services are available in our NYC store, as well as instant digital printing and video transfers for walk in customers. One of these services would be transfers from VHS to DVD.  For specific questions about the service, including pricing, you would want to contact our Film Processing Desk directly:

 (212) 239-7546 or (800) 947-9950  ex1543

How can I print these instructions so I can follow them

Hi Roberta -

Just click on the light grey printer icon at the  very top right-hand portion of this article (across from the author's by-line).  Alternatively you may press the Control +P keys for a windows computer or the COMMAND +P buttons on a MAC computer's keyboard to print this page out for your reference.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I bought this and the first one was fine....but I found that on many tapes I would have Easter and later in the tape, Christmas.  The taping would STOP after the Easter was done.  It sucked because if you were like me, you taped several events on the same tape.  AND NO, I don't have time to watch the tape.

I purchased a Honestech vhs to dvd and have it all hooked up lst thing it ask for was product id number I have no clue where to find 

Hi Sharon -

Contact the manufacturer directly for your product ID/Key:

http://www.honestech.com/main/Login.asp?strReURL2=www.honestech.com/main/MyRegProductList.asp

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I transferred a video to a dvd on my toshiba  vhs/dvd player and when I finalized it, the dvd would only play on the toshiba machine.  I expected it to play on my dvd player on my computer.  What did I do wrong???  I have misplaced the instruction manual for the Toshiba.

Hi Judy -

Your DVD drive on your computer may be the issue, but here is a .PDF of the Toshiba Owner's Guide:

http://static.bhphotovideo.com/lit_files/60319.pdf

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: AskBH@BandH.com

Hi. This may sound odd, but I'm looking to transfer movies on my computer to v.h.s. tapes. I have my own reasons for doing so, but can it be done? If so, how?

Hi -

Commercially distributed films on VHS are copy protected and cannot be copied or transferred to your computer.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: AskBH@BandH.com

Hi Scottutsler

It looks like Mark S misunderstood your question. His answer is correct but does not apply to your question. To answer you, yes it is possible to copy a movie to VHS. I'm sure there are several solutions but the one I think would work best is as follows. First copy the movie to a DVD. You should be able to do this with your existing PC. No extra equipment is necessary. Then play the DVD on your TV and record it with a VCR.   

Hi, I've successfully copied VHS onto DVD +R on a Daewoo video to DVD combo (manual advised to use +R). The DVD plays back on the combo recorder but both PC & iMac say the disc is blank. Do I need to opt for a different method of conversion/ transfer to be able to play/ store these memories on the computer? Thanks, Ali.

Hi Alison -

It is required to "FINALIZE" the DVD+R disc in order to play it back on other devices.  please check your recorder's manual for this prosedure.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: AskBH@BandH.com

Hi Kate...

I'm in the process of shopping for a dvd/vhs recorder to convert my vhs tapes to dvd. Can you tell me the brand of the unit that you used. I'm wondering if it's the same as the one pictured in your article. Thanks!!

Hello Kate,

I went the same route and more often than not it is less expensive to just have a service transfer your VHS tapes for you. I used ScanDigital and the quality was great!

I found a place in San Diego www.videotoodvd inexpensive, great quality and without the hassle.

Can you cross vhs to dvd'S for the Walt Disney vas? 

Hi Sheila -

Unfortunately DISNEY or any other copy-written/copy-protected VHS tape media cannot be copied or converted to a DVD disc.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: AskBH@BandH.com

I have a VHS tape which was legally purchased approximately fifteen years ago from a video rental store and is my own paid for personal property and still in the original box but does not have the information on the box regarding copyrite.  I no longer have a VHS recorder and as such do not know if it falls under the head of legal copyrite requirements .  Would appreciate your advising me as to how this VHS tape can be legally converted to a disc and if possible to do what would would be the charge. Many thanks.

Hi Stanley -

Commercially distributed films on VHS are copy-protected and cannot be copied or transferred to disc or to your computer whether or not you have purchased them legally.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: AskBH@BandH.com

I bought the roxio convertor and I've tried the same movie 3 times.  The dvd does not hold the whole movie.  Maybe I need to try anothe movie, but it was an average sized movie.  I also did not think that the roxio was very user friendly, but maybe i just need to get used to it.  

Diane,

I use Roxio Easy VHS to DVD 3 Plus exclusively. I have had the same problem on occasion. There is an easy solution. After copying the VHS tape, save it to your PC. There is a software called Freemake Video Coverter. It is free and can be downloaded from www.freemake.com. It is very easy to use. I am most impressed with its editing capabilities. It has other capabilities too numerous to mention here.

First of all if you have something on vhs tape and still have vcr DONT COPY TO DVD... Why? Because all CD's , DVD's and Blue ray's are not permanent... after couple of months they will be useless and you can throw them to thrash. I did that mistake and copy my home videos to DVD's after a year they all was "blank"... or data was broken... since then every record i made im copy to vhs and im sure my tape will be saved lifetime.

Sounds like a bad experience, but DVDs and CDs should have a much better life than that, I have disks going back a decade with no problems.   Just recently I realized the home-burned copies of audio CDs I keep in my car (heat of summer, cold of winter) still play just fine.   Besides disks, I keep a copy on my computer hard drive, so that gets refreshed every 4-5 years when I upgrade to a new PC. 

I would be more worried about the magnetic image on a eraseable VHS tape degrading over time than a write-once DVD/CD.

If you do VHS conversions to DVD, please let me know how much?  Meantime also let me know things like, do you give the disk or we have to bring it? etc.  Thanks very much.

Hi Adela -

We offer video transfer services at B&H.  These services are only rendered in-person at our NYC SuperStore.

Film processing and related services are available in our NYC store, as well as instant digital printing and video transfers for walk in customers.   You may call us for pricing at:

B&H Film Processing Counter:  212-239-7500 > option 2 > extension 1542           

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: AskBH@BandH.com

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