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How to digitise your old VHS tapes

It has been a long time since VHS was the format of choice for preserving treasured memories but perhaps you still have videos stored away of weddings, school shows, birthdays or holidays; the list is endless.

These memories captured on VHS have a lifespan, as the format degrades over time, so you may want to salvage the footage before time takes its toll.

Now, there are plenty of businesses that offer this service but if you’d rather have more control over the process, you can do it yourself. Converting well-worn videos will never be flawless but it can be done on a modest budget with a few basic tools.

What you’ll need

The first thing you’ll need to do is get your old VHS player out of storage. If you got rid of it, you will likely pick one up cheap online or in a second hand store, or you can always borrow one from a friend.

Next, you’ll need an analog converter for your Mac or PC. There are loads of options, at different price ranges online or at most electronic stores. For the purposes of this, we worked with the Diamond VC500.

If you have a lot of footage to digitise, consider transferring it to an external hard drive so as not to max out the built-in storage on your computer.

Setting everything up

Start by plugging everything in: the USB side of the analog converter goes into the computer, and the three plugs go into the VHS player. Just make sure to connect them to the output option and match the colors. You may need an adapter that comes with the converter.

Install the necessary software that came with the converter. In our case, that’s the drive and the editing program.

Now dust off that old VHS tape and put it in the player.

Pause the video on the player and adjust the capture settings and destination folder on your computer using the program you just installed. The best file formats to store video in are: .MPG, .MOV or .MP4.

Once you’ve made these adjustments, queue up the VHS tape to the part you want to transfer.

Time to digitise!

If you can see the video playing on your computer, press the record option on the screen and roll the tape on the VHS player. Let it play for as long you want the clip to be. Remember, anything you do within the player (fast-forward, pause, rewind) will be captured on the digital version of your clip.

When you finish recording, label your clip and send it to the folder you have selected.

Storage options

Once saved, you can chose to keep the file on your computer, or move it to a USB or external hard drive to collect dust somewhere else. Or you can upload it to a cloud-based storage service

Editing and sharing

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even combine all your footage into a home movie using a basic editing program like iMovie (for Mac), MovieMaker (for Windows) or the software that came with your converter.

Ready to go public with your past memories? Upload your creation to YouTube or Vimeo, then share the link with your friends and family.


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