How to Transfer VHS Videos onto your Computer

by JoHarrington

How would you like your ancient VHS home videos to be played, saved and copied on your computer? Priceless memories have just been reclaimed here in this way.

I've just watched my Nan walking down the street. Nothing too earth-shattering about that you might think, but she's been dead since 1991. This moment was captured a few years previously by an uncle with a camcorder.

The same uncle owned a Super 8 home camera in the 1960s. He walked around a family party filming before my parents were even engaged. He caught my Grandad dancing.

We watched that too, sitting at a computer screen, as the footage fed through from an old VHS player. Then I digitized the lot for posterity. Some memories are just too precious to lose to defunct formatting.

Watch Memorable Moments from your VHS on your PC

Once your home videos are on your computer, they can be shared online or burned onto a DVD. Then you'll get to relive those memories over and over again.

Image: Margie Williams and Elsie HickmanThe footage may not seem much to anyone else, but for my family it's a priceless glimpse into the past.

It represents the beginning of a whole tape full of old home videos. The lady in the green coat is my grandmother and she's no longer with us.

That's the value of family films that are 20-50 years old. That's why you'll want to keep them for future generations too. These are memories and little pockets of history.

The trouble is that anything before the 21st century is likely to be stashed on old VHS videos. I know because I've got drawers full of the things. Most are movies or things recorded off the television. But some are genuinely irreplaceable, like the segment shown above.

There are hundreds of companies willing to take copious sums of money off you to transfer VHS onto disk or your PC. You don't need them. In fact, you'd be amazed at how easy it is to copy analog into a digital format yourself.

I know, because I've just done it.

Step One: Plug a VHS Player into the Wall

First you will need to find a video cassette player. 

These are still around, but they are quite expensive these days. At least they are when you consider that they are old-fashioned, out of date and difficult to buy new cassettes for!

On the bright side, the majority of us owned one of these sometime during the 1980s-1990s. Somebody in your family probably still has one.

There are apparently three in my house alone, though I had to climb up into the loft to retrieve one.

You don't need any of the cables (the power lead was attached in those days anyway), nor do you need to hook it up to the television.

Just hunt down a VCR player and plug it into the wall, somewhere in the vicinity of your PC.

Buy a VCR Player | VHS Player on Amazon

You will need this to play your old VHS tapes on!
Toshiba SD-V296 Tunerless DVD VCR Combo

With a DVD/VCR combo player, you get the connectivity without the clutter.

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Magnavox DV225MG9 DVD Player & 4 Head Hi-Fi Stereo VCR with Line-in Recording

It is a DVD player and VCR recorder and it records from line in . Great for playing movies, progressive scan...

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Toshiba DVR620 DVD/VHS Recorder, Black

Both VCR and DVD recording and playback options. One Touch Recording makes recording your favorite show simple.

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Step Two: Acquire a VHS-Digital Adapter

This can be very cheap, and as easy as shoving one end into a USB port and connecting the other to a cable. No geek credentials necessary.

The EasyCAP USB 2.0 Adapter (pictured left) is probably the cheapest and most hassle-free VHS-to-computer hardware available.

At the time of writing, it costs just $7.29 and, by all accounts, it does the job. It's certainly one of the most popular devices out there. All of the 'how to' tutorials on YouTube that I watched used this.

I didn't. Frankly that's because I didn't shop around first. I had about five minutes in a store to grab a present and get out. On behalf of my brother and myself, I bought the KWorld Video Editing DVD Maker 2 and we jointly gifted it to our parents.

I can personally vouch that the KWorld does the job. It also comes with the programs necessary to capture, edit and otherwise play around with your digitized films.

Either way, these adapters are acting in the same way. They sit between your analog output (VHS tapes) and your digital receiver (computer) and allow the two to talk to one another.

Just match up the colors on the leads to those housed on your VCR. Slot them together, then push the other end into a USB port on your PC.

However, some VCR players don't have those lovely colored ports. Mine merely had a scart socket. In which case, you'll need an extra step.

Kworld USB 2.0 Video Editing DVD Maker KW-DVD MAKER 2

Capture Video Source from VHS, V8, Hi8, etc.. Edit your footage and burn video files on to DVD/VCD/SVCD.

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Elgato Video Capture Device 10020840

Transfer video from a VCR, DVR, set-top box, camcorder or any other analog video source to your Mac as an iTunes-ready file.

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ION Video 2 PC Analog To Digital USB Video Converter for PC

Upgrade your old movies so you can take them anywhere. The VIDEO 2 PC captures, converts and...

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How to Transfer VHS to Computer with EasyCAP

This works in precisely the same way with my KWorld adapter, and probably every other capture card too!

Step 2.5: Connecting your Capture Card to your VCR Player

Why is nothing ever simple...?

A quick look at your VHS player will tell you how it hooks up to the world. If you're really lucky, then it'll have a single, high quality plug, which fits nicely onto your adapter leads, or else a row of colored male sockets.

But who is ever that lucky?

The majority of us will have to beg, borrow, buy or otherwise acquire the appropriate connection cable. This is going to fully depend upon your own VCR, so I can't direct you completely here. (Though if you're totally stuck, leave a comment with the name of your VHS player and I'll let you know what you need to connect it up.)

The likelihood is that it'll be one of the two below.

Scart to 3 RCA Cable

3 RCA Male to 3 RCA Male

Like I said, my VCR player only had a scart lead socket. I bought the second of these two cables. The scart went into the back of the VCR. The male RCA cables linked up with the female sockets on the adapter. I was all set to go!

The double ended RCA male socket would work in the same way.  Just match all of the colors up and that's it for the hardware side of things.

Step 3: Software for Watching Analog Videos on your Computer

This is where it gets really fun! You are seconds away from seeing the equivalent of your own granny walking down the street!

All the adapters that I've seen come complete with the drivers and other programs needed to use them. If not then you'll have to purchase that separately.

Install everything, then you're ready to party. Simply press 'play' on your VCR and the footage on those old VHS videos will be right there on your computer monitor.

Each video editing software is different, but typically you'll have a 'record' button to press. That will capture the images coming from your analog source (the VHS player), then prompt you to save it afterwards.

Many also come with a sliding scale of features - depending upon the quality - which allow you to edit the footage; cut it; add music; add commentary; put in a gif of a squacking duck, if you so fancy; whatever in fact you want to do with it.

From there you can merely leave it saved to your PC, copy it onto a DVD, post it to YouTube, upload it onto a cloud, or otherwise embed it into any digital media format.

And those faded old memories, almost lost to changing times and dusty VHS, will live again in the cyber age.

(Incidentally, the baby is now a foot taller than me. Two decades on, he's suffering the indignity of recovered home movies of his first birthday being shown to his girlfriend and the entire of Wizzley.)

Updated: 12/30/2013, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 01/20/2014

Excellent! That's what I like to read. We're still working through all of ours too. Lots of great memories there.

fitzcharming on 01/19/2014

Thank you for this Jo. I was thinking of having this done sometime soon and now I can do it myself. I have a VHS player because we still have a bunch of old kids movies that my grandsons watch. You probably saved me a boatload of money.

JoHarrington on 12/30/2013

That is a lot of memories to unpack and relive. Wow! I'm really pleased that I wrote this guide now!

cmoneyspinner on 12/30/2013

Wait 'til I tell my husband there is a way to do this! We have 26 years worth of video tapes!! :)

JoHarrington on 12/30/2013

That's the thing with the old VHS. We had three in the house. The first didn't work, but the second did, so we were off and flying. Hopefully someone in your family has one that works up in the loft.

Mira on 12/30/2013

Cheap and easy. The only difficult part is finding players that work. I think I have an old one but it needs to be repaired or something. Or it might work. I don't know. It's the second player we've owned. The first one got busted after some repairs. Those were the days.

JoHarrington on 12/29/2013

I'm sorry to hear that you were stung there. I initially looked at sending our tapes away, then bulked at the price. That's when I looked into how much it would be to do it myself. Turned out to be rather cheap!

Mira on 12/29/2013

I transferred one tape to DVDs in 2012 or 2011. I took it to a place in town, because I didn't give the whole process much thought. It ended up being rather expensive. So this article will save many people money, especially if they have lots of tapes they want to transfer to DVDs.

JoHarrington on 12/29/2013

It really is, on all counts! My auntie read this last night and had tears in her eyes, because that's her mother in the first gif. I've promised her a copy of the full home video, which I'll burn onto a DVD for her.

AbbyFitz on 12/28/2013

This is a great gadget. I don't have many VHS tapes. Being able to basically save your memories is priceless.

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