VHS tape lot

Not too long ago, the best way to capture moments in video was to use a VHS tape recorder – at the time, it was relatively convenient and affordable, which is why millions of households in the U.S. still have footage in this format.

However, while it served its purpose at the time, technological advances have made VHS tapes obsolete – they are bulky, degrade quite quickly, and don’t produce the best quality of video.

In fact, VHS tapes can deteriorate by as much as 20% in just ten years, so if you want to preserve the family moments on camera, your best bet is to use a VHS to digital service or try to digitize the tapes yourself.

But how does the digitization process work? And can you really do it yourself?

Let’s answer all of the important questions below.

Convert Using Your Computer

If you have tapes that you want to convert, a working VHS player, and a computer, you’re in luck, as that might just be enough to turn your tapes into a digital format by yourself.

Although the process does require you to have a few additional items to make it work, it isn’t too technically challenging and can be done even by someone who doesn’t have prior experience.

For instance, you will need a USB converter that can take the analog video coming from the VHS player and turn it into a digital format that your computer can interpret and record.

The good news is, there are plenty of such converters on the market, so you’ll definitely have a lot to choose from. The bad news, a lot of those options are subpar in their quality, so you will need to do your own research in order to make sure that the results you get are satisfactory.

Some of them can cost as little as a few dollars, but if you want an option that will convert at reasonable quality, be prepared to spend up to $80 or even more.

You will also need a cord that can connect the VHS player to your computer via the USB adapter, although some adapters come with their own cables and wires that you can use.

Video software that you’ll have to install on your computer is also required, as it will have to record the video input so that you’re able to save the digital format.

Keep in mind, some of the USB adapters and converters will have accompanying software that you can use, so if you invest in a better option, you might get everything you need to make the conversion happen.

Once everything is set up, you should test the system out to see if the computer is receiving video input. If not, check each step to see where the problem might be and what you need to fix.

Then, simply set up the parameters in the software tool – name your project, set the quality, press play, and record. After that, you might need to cut the video into smaller parts, as well as name and tag the files so that you know what’s what.

Use a DVD Recorder

If you have a working VHS player and a DVD recorder, it’s actually possible to plug them together and digitize your videos directly.

To make this work, you will also need an A/V cable so that both audio and video can be digitized and recorded.

Alternatively, you may be able to find a VHS/DVD combo player, which is a single device that does all the work for you, and you simply need to press record.

Once everything is connected, insert a blank DVD-R disc into the DVD tray, and press record. If everything was set up correctly, once the tape finishes playing, you should have the entire video recorded onto a DVD that you can store for much longer.

Use Professional VHS Digitization Services

Although the first two options that we explored are feasible, and many people have been successful with them, there are things that you need to consider before trying either one of them.

For one thing, the video quality on VHS tapes is innately poor, which means that any additional quality that you lose during the conversion process could make the video entirely unwatchable.

What’s more, if you have a lot of tapes, going through each one might take you hours if not days, which is not something that many people have time for.

Therefore, many opt to use a convert VHS to digital service, which has a number of benefits compared to trying to do everything on your own.

For one thing, service providers that specialize in digitizing analog film have years of experience and know how to deal with various issues and problems that can arise when digitizing older footage that’s sometimes decades old.

These companies also have cutting-edge equipment that is the top of its class, as they can invest more substantial sums of money since they’re using the equipment all the time.

You, as a casual consumer, probably wouldn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on converters, as well as advanced software solutions, but as you can imagine, even a decent $100 converter would still be lightyears away of the pro-level tools that are used by digitization services providers.

Finally, besides having to figure everything out on your own, researching and buying equipment and software, and monitoring the process during each step to maintain quality, you would also need to name, catalog, and save your digitized versions in a way that would be convenient to view.

Meanwhile, if you hire someone to do it, you’re not only saving a ton of time, but are also getting a finished result that you can quickly sort through, which means that if you want to share a specific video with your family, or post a clip on Facebook, it will be as easy as copying and pasting a single file.


Brandon Harris is the owner of Smooth Photo Scanning Services, one of the leading photo scanning service providers in New Jersey, providing slide scanning services, negative scanning services, conversion of CDs and VHS tapes to DVDs, and more. Prior to that, Brandon owned and operated a small bakery. Other than working to grow and improve his business, he enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and family.