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How do I Rip VHS Tapes to my Computer?

By Jessica Reed
Updated May 16, 2024
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With VHS tapes becoming a trend of the past and DVDs taking over as the medium of choice, a handy DVD/VHS recorder can take old VHS tapes and convert them to DVDs or rip them straight to a home computer. This gives the owner a copy of her most cherished memories that will long outlast the original video tape. Other, more complex methods exist to rip VHS tapes as well. A VCR with a firewire connection or a computer video card that accepts the output from the VCR allows the owner to record directly to her computer, and burning a DVD copy is optional. Regardless of which method she chooses, the owner will need to let the tapes run from start to finish to properly rip VHS tapes, so it's important for her to plan plenty of uninterrupted time to let each tape play.

To rip VHS tapes to digital format using a DVD/VHS recorder, the owner first places her VHS tape into the DVD/VHS recorder. Next, she inserts a blank DVD and turns the recorder on. She presses record and then presses play to start the VHS tape. As the tape plays, the DVD records it. Once it's finished, she can remove the DVD and rip the movie onto her computer for safe keeping.

If the owner wishes to rip VHS tapes without using a DVD/VHS recorder, she needs to connect her VCR to the appropriate ports on her computer's video card. One port is for audio and the other for video. Improperly connecting the two or missing one will result in a recording missing either the picture or the sound. Not all computers allow this connection, and a quick check in the computer owner's manual should reveal whether the VCR can connect to the computer directly.

VCRs or camcorders with firewire connections, or newer camcorders with a USB connection, can connect straight to the computer as well. Instead of connecting to the video card, the owner connects using the firewire or USB connection. Once a connection is established, the owner starts her chosen video capture software program. She presses record in the software program and presses play on the VCR. Just as the DVD/VHS recorder recorded the movie to a blank DVD, the video capture software will record the movie straight to the computer's hard drive.

Once the movie has played all the way through, the rip is complete and the owner can stop recording. If she wants to create a backup DVD copy of the movie as well as the copy on her computer, she can insert a blank DVD and burn the movie to it. Ripping a movie simply means putting it onto the computer while burning it creates a copy from the computer onto another medium, such as a blank DVD. If the owner used a DVD/VHS recorder and wants a copy on her computer as well as on the DVD copy she made, she needs to rip the file from the DVD to the computer and save it.

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Discussion Comments

By Logicfest — On May 11, 2014

@Soulfox -- good information, and it is worth mentioning that those converters are generally inexpensive and come bundled with the software you'll need to capture video and save it to a common, digital format. Instructions are usually included, too.

Of course, it might be that you already have the software you'll need for the process. If you don't or if you are not sure, make certain to buy a converter that has software and instructions on how to use it.

And don't worry about the quality of your video card when ripping software. If you have a computer that was made in the 21st century and one that will run the software you'll need for the process, your video card will be more than good enough. We're not exactly talking about cutting edge technology here.

By Soulfox — On May 10, 2014

Thanks to the USB standard, ripping VHS tapes directly to a computer is a snap. There are boxes that are merely converters -- they plug into a computers USB port on one side and accept RCA plugs from a VCR on the other. Just hook it up, fire up your video capture software, hit play on the VCR and the process pretty well takes care of itself. See. Easy?

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