So you’re wondering what to do with the stack of dusty VHS tapes in your old storage boxes. Is there a way that you can convert the VHS tapes into a digital format? Or do you have to buy a VHS player to watch the movies and home videos?
As someone with a large VHS collection, I decided it was time I dealt with them once and for all. As it turns out, there are several ways to convert VHS tapes into digital video files that you can store on your computer, an external hard drive, or upload to the cloud.
What you need is VHS to digital converter. These are small devices that bridge a connection between a VCR player and another device (such as a laptop) and record and convert the VHS media into digital files.
There are plenty of them on the market, with a wide range of prices, but you’re probably wondering which VHS to digital converter is the best. I compiled a few that I think are the best below.
Best VHS to Digital Converters:
DIGITNOW! Video capture VHS to digital converter is a pretty handy tool. The way it works is you run an RCA cable from it to the VCR player, turn on the player, and then hit the record button on the converter.
What you need to know about this VHS to digital converter is it saves the converted files to a micro SD card, so you need to insert one into the slot.
The SD card acts as the internal storage, and once one is added, you can copy the files directly from the device through a USB cable. It’s very convenient and easy to use.
The DIGITNOW! VHS to digital converter does not require software, it’s all plug and play which is great. You simply use the preview screen and navigation buttons to select the section you want to record and convert.
From the same manufacturer, this device is cheaper than the previous one, but the software is required. What is nice about this converter is it’s probably one of the easiest to use, aside from installing the software, everything is very straightforward.
The way this VHS to digital converter works is you plug the USB end into your computer and the other end that contains RCA cables into your VCR player. From there, run the software on your computer, hit play on the VCR, and it should detect the signal and start the conversion.
The files are directly saved to your computer through USB. It’s compatible with Windows 7, 10, and Mac, but some people are having problems installing the software on the latest version of Mac and Windows 10.
The software required is ArcSoft ShowBiz, and an installation DVD is included in the box. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you can download this specific software, it’s only available on the DVD.
If you don’t have a DVD player on your computer, you can use other free editing software which can be downloaded online, such as VideoGlide Capture or Empia.
This VHS to digital USB converter is another budget-friendly device that looks the same as the previous model. The main difference is the software. While the ICEC VHS to digital converter does include software (on a DVD), you are not required to use it.
In fact, most Mac users recommend using Quicktime Player to capture the video source and then edit it with any free editing software, such as IMovie.
It’s also compatible with Windows. Figuring out how to capture the video on this one can be a little tricky, but it’s a matter of either using their software or finding one that can read the source.
My VCR Does Not Have RCA Ports:
Most VHS to digital converters use RCA cables to transfer the signals but some VCRs, particularly ones manufactured in the UK, only use a Scart port.
The good news is you can buy Scart to RCA cable adapters and cables for a few pounds, and they usually do the trick. You can also use these cables to connect old devices to a TV.
Scart and RCA use analogue signals, so there’s no need for an active conversion. Now, if you want to use the above products with a VCR that doesn’t have RCA, an adapter like this SCART to female RCA could do the trick.
There are plenty of other cables and adapters too, and all of them are very cheap.
Where to Store the Converted Video Files?
Once you managed to convert your VHS tapes, you might be wondering where to store all these files for the long term.
There are two options; store the files on the cloud, or an external hard drive. If these videos are particularly precious, I would suggest making copies on the cloud, your personal computer, and an external hard drive, to be extra safe.
The easiest cloud storage to use would be Google Drive but there are plenty of other options out there, including Dropbox, One Drive, iCloud, and even Amazon Cloud Drive.
It depends on how many files you need to store and the size. In most cases, these files aren’t particularly large, so you don’t need much space.
How Do You Clean an Old VCR Player?
If you haven’t used your VCR in a long time, the easiest way to clean an old VCR player is to buy a VHS cleaning tape which cleans the video heads and mechanisms. Run the tape for 20 minutes and it should be good to go.
Wondering what VCR tape cleaner to buy? I recommend the HQ CLP-029 VHS cleaning tape. I suggest running the tape before you try to use a VHS to digital converter because you want the recording to be as clear as possible.
Even if the VCR works, it’s a good idea to run the cleaning tape anyways, especially if the player has been collecting dust for years.