Technology Explained

How to Convert Your VHS Tapes to Digital Files

Dan Price Updated 25-01-2019

Have you ever wondered what to do with old VHS tapes? Most families still have a few lying around in the back of a cupboard.


Luckily, it’s possible to digitize those old VHS tapes so you can enjoy the content for years to come. Keep reading to find out how to Convert VHS to DVD.

The Software You’ll Need to Digitize Your VHS Tapes

Every solution requires one very specific device to convert VHS to digital: a video cassette recorder (VCR). The technology is decades old, but it’s the only readily accessible way for you to read the content of your cassettes.

You can still buy a VCR on Amazon. Depending on the model you choose, a VCR could set you back anything from $45 to $200. Even $45 seems steep for a technology that debuted in the mid-1960s, but if you’re adamant you want to recover your footage, you’ll just have to swallow the cost.

The Panasonic PV-V4021 is a solid mid-range option:

Panasonic PV-V4021 4-Head VCR (1999 Model) Panasonic PV-V4021 4-Head VCR (1999 Model) Buy Now On Amazon $147.95


You’ll also need a way to connect your VCR to your computer. For this, you need to pick up an analog converter. The converters typically have a USB plug on one end and video/RCA cables on the other. Pricier models sometimes include a SCART adapter as well.

Again, check out Amazon to see what’s available. You can pick up some models for as little as $12.

Getting Ready to Digitize Your VHS Tapes

Now it’s time to digitize your VHS tapes.

You need to connect the VCR to your computer using the analog converter. Plug the USB end of the converter into your laptop, and connect the other end to your VCR.


Make sure you color-coordinate the three ports: red and white are audio, the yellow is for video. Use either the RCA cables or the SCART adapter, not both.

Most analog converters come with their own software. Typically, it’s very basic and does nothing more than record the VCR’s output.

If you’re happy with that, all you need to do is follow the software’s onscreen instructions and let it do its thing. Remember, you’ll have to play the entire video for the software to record the footage.

If you want a more feature-rich experience that will allow you to edit, tweak, and format the captured video, and thus make it look much better than the original footage, keep reading. You need VHS to DVD converter software.


The Best VHS to DVD Converters

Check out these third-party apps that can transfer VHS to DVD. What the software does is capture the VHS tape and save it as a digital file.

1. Golden Videos VHS to DVD Converter

Golden Videos VHS to DVD Converter main screen

Golden Videos VHS to DVD Converter is a standalone app that can either save the VHS tape as a file on your computer or write the VHS tape straight to DVD. If you want to save the file on your computer, you can either use the AVI or MPEG format.

Its standout feature is the Video Restoration Wizard. It’s designed to add vibrancy and color to videos that are worn out, faded, and generally dated. The wizard guides you through the entire process—you don’t need any specialized knowledge.


The app also has useful extras such as the ability to share your video straight to YouTube Everything You Need To Know About Uploading Videos To YouTube Currently, there are three ways to upload videos to YouTube. Here's an in-depth look at how to use your computer, phone, or games console. Read More or upload it to the cloud.

Download: Golden Videos VHS to DVD Converter ($24.99)

2. VirtualDub

If you would prefer a free option, try VirtualDub. The open source app is available on SourceForge. It doesn’t have the same editing power as a specialist app like Adobe Premiere, but it works quickly and is light on system resources.

Its biggest selling point is the set of third-party filters. There are hundreds to choose from, all of which can work to enhance your video output 10 Simple Tips to Make Home Videos Look Professional Whether you're recording something to publish online or to capture memories to keep, these tips will help you make better videos. Read More .

A note of caution; this app lacks the documentation and support of paid solutions. You need to be prepared for a steep learning curve, especially if you’ve never transferred VHS to DVD in the past.

Download: VirtualDub (Free)

3. AVS Video Editor

AVS Video Editor edit screen

AVS Video Editor is the most expensive of the three options, but it’s also the easiest way to digitize VHS. The full app will set you back $39 for a year or $59 for a lifetime license.

The app supports several TV standards, including NTSC, PAL, and SECAM, and can save the output as either XviD (MPEG4) or DVD (MPEG2).

AVS Video Editor is also a great general-purpose video editor The Best Free Video Editors for Windows Free video editors have become viable alternatives to paid software. Here are the best free video editors available for Windows. Read More . You can edit AVI HD, WMV HD, TOD, AVCHD, MOD, and MTS/M2TS files, add more than 300 video effects and transitions, and insert your own menus, audio, text comments, and subtitles.

Download: AVS Video Editor ($39/yr or $59 one-time)

The Lazy (and Cheap) Approach

Does all this sound like too much effort and cost? After all, if you only want to convert a couple of home videos, spending more than $100 on the necessary technology is probably a bit excessive.

Some companies do all the work for you. Costco, Walmart, and Walgreens all provide the service in their larger stores. Just give them the tape and come back a few hours later to pick up a DVD copy. The service normally costs about $25 per tape.

Your local PC supply shop might also be able to help. Make sure you call in advance so you don’t waste your time.

Obviously, using a shop is a more hands-off approach. You won’t be able to control format or quality. And do you really want even more DVDs? With the growth of services like Netflix, it’s easy to argue the end of DVDs is also near.

Do You Still Have VHS Tapes?

To summarize, if you want to digitize your old VHS tapes, you have two avenues available to you:

  1. Buy a VCR and analog converter, and import the footage onto your own computer.
  2. Use professional services in a shop or media outlet.

Finally, you might also want to check out our article about ripping your old DVDs to your hard drive 5 Simple Steps to Rip an Entire DVD to Your Hard Drive Have you backed up your DVD collection? Let us show you how to rip your DVDs to your hard drive for free with HandBrake. Read More . Rest assured, it’s easier than converting VHS to DVD.

Image Credit: NcikName/Depositphotos

Related topics: File Conversion, Nostalgia, Restore Data, Video Editor.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Peter King
    February 11, 2019 at 2:01 am

    DuplicateFilesDeleter" this is a program that will found and delete a huge amaount of duplicate files from your computer. just give it a try.

  2. Herb
    February 8, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Another free software editing package is OBS Studio (

  3. Alex
    January 26, 2019 at 12:43 am

    I took my tapes to a company on Napa St. in San Diego. They did a great job for less then $20 a tape. I thought the DVDs looked better then the VHS. I was told my player upscaled them tp 1080i could this be possible? Anyway I could not get them to play, this place baked them and they were amazing. Search bake a tape.

  4. db
    January 25, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    $45 for a VCR?! I guarantee there are at least three for $15 at every thrift store I visit today.

  5. dragonmouth
    January 25, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    "With the growth of services like Netflix, it’s easy to argue the end of DVDs is also near."
    I doubt very much if Netflix would have videos of my kids growing up or of any of the major (or minor) major events in the life of my family.

    Thank you for the article. I'll start converting my VCR tapes to DVD ASAP. :-)

    • Anonymous
      January 31, 2019 at 3:12 pm