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Transferring VHS to Computer

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 by | Filed Under: Multimedia, TV Tech
 
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Jack from Florida writes:

I need to convert a six hour VHS tape to my laptop with Win 7. I downloaded six video converter programs that only deal with videos that are already on the computer. I need free software that will capture the video on my VHS tape and move it into my computer.  Do you know of a freebie to capture video from my VHS player?

Hi, Jack.

The quick answer to this is “no, I personally don’t know of a freebie that will do what you want”.  The primary reason for that, however, is that most freebies are trial versions of a full program, and will typically only encode about twenty minutes of video before they require you to pay for the full version.  I downloaded a freebie video converter once that converted 2 minutes of the video, and then wouldn’t allow me to even watch that.  Apparently, I was just supposed to take their word for the fact that it converted correctly.  A lot of other “freebies” that are full versions of a program are usually riddled with spyware, adware and trojans.  Good, functional, free programs are nice when you trip across them (Audacity, Gom Player, Video Download Helper, etc.) but they are extremely rare.  You could check Cnet (http://www.cnet.com/) or some other reputable download site, but I think that most of what you’re going to find there for free are trial versions.

So, now that I’ve addressed the question that you asked, let’s see if I can address the one that you didn’t ask, which is “What do I need to do to get a VHS tape’s contents onto my computer as a video file?”

The first thing that you have to do, since I’ve personally never seen a computer with a built-in VHS drive is to figure out how to hook a VHS player up to your computer.  If your computer has yellow/red/white A/V inputs, then it’s no problem.  It’s a direct connection.  If it doesn’t – and most don’t – then one way that you can go about it is to get an A/V to USB cable.

The one pictured here is from Mygica and will set you back $25 at Tigerdirect.com (http://www.tigerdirect.com/), and the beauty of it is that it saves your video directly as MPEG video, so if that’s good for you then you don’t need a converter.  Ion also makes a VHS player that you hook directly to your computer for about $100, although you can get one refurbished for about half that price.

The next step, once you’ve transferred the video is to convert it into a file format that you like.  There are some good free video converters out there, such as the aforementioned Video Download Helper ( https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/video-downloadhelper/).  As far as I know, this is only available as an add-on for Firefox, but it is well worth the basic price of free.  The one downside to the free version is that it has their logo in the upper left of the video.  If you don’t want that, you can get the registered version for $28.50.  How obtrusive the logo is depends on the resolution of your video.  Big, high-quality video = small logo.  Small, low-quality video = big logo.

Hope that this helps!

~Randal Schaffer

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4 Responses to “Transferring VHS to Computer”

  1. Russ Smith says:

    An interesting article. You sold a device to do exactly what you wrote about, i.e. transferring VHS to your computer and then to DVD. It was It was EasyCap and I bought one. The problem is/was that a home VHS tape transfers as a (approximate) size of about 16Gigs, too big for a DVD. Also, your EasyCap comes with no instructions on how to edit the 16Gig transfer,to eliminate some of the data to achive DVD size files. I have seen that other items I have purchased do not come with adequate instructions for the non-computer guru. A definite dis-incentive for future purchases.

  2. Randy Bowers says:

    I agree with Russ about adequate instructions for non-computer guru. The problem I had with EasyCap was it would not recognize the VHS player to transfer a VHS tape to the computer. I’m reasonably well informed on this kind of transfer and I have a laptop that is less than a year old so it should not be a problem. I thought at first maybe it was the VHS player so I went out and bought another one to get this done and it doesn’t recognize this VHS player either. I’ve been all over the net trying to figure out the problem but so far no luck. Very Unhappy in Roscommon.

  3. Dancer says:

    In past I have used several free-b video programs, but as here, tose ays are long gone. However, some many moons back after trial and error from one program and another ( not free ) I settled on ROXIO media program. I have a couple VHS machines, BETA machines ( betas I alwlays thought of thr tape machines was the better of all )and Ihave an older sterio cassette deck Realistic ( adio Shack earlyname ) I built a basic manual switch ( Gadget Box) RCA, and MINI jacks. That gadget box has one lead rom each means, AUDIO ad VIDEO into the computer. I used a mini chlds lunch box from a doscount store for the box ( under a dollar) lamd boxes same ize about $20.00 + dollars. The RCA, mini females and male connecrors cm from radi Shack, The “Y” and cables needed came from th same discount store. pennies on the dollar as opposed to radio Shack or like. Drilld holes as and where needed I have about $12.00 in the box. The perifial machines plug into the box, and using one at a time the computer sees only the one in use All that was needed was some planning, fitting, desighn nd wireing skills and solder and fifteen watt pencil soldering iron. Comperable box simular to what I created was about seventy five dollars.
    Bring on the convsions.
    D

  4. Peggy says:

    I am going to get the wire I need to transfer my cassette tapes to computer and then on to CD ‘s and follow your video that made it look easy! Now I am wondering how to convert my VCR tapes to DVD’s but I prob would need a DVD burner and all I have is a cd burner on my computer unless you just by DVD disks and can record from computer to DVD disk? Not sure I have the right computer for that?
    So I read the above instructions to get the tape onto the computer then how do you get it onto a DVD disk?

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