If you have an old movie collection on VHS tape, it might be just a matter of time before you find the media is no longer playable. Whether it is from too much exposure to dust and heat, degradation from magnetic fields in speakers or large televisions or from being eaten by misaligned tape heads on a VCR, VHS cassette tapes have a limited usable life. If you value your old movies and want them to look as good in five or ten years as they do now, convert them to digital format and burn them to DVD. DVD is a much more reliable media that rarely degrades and can last nearly a lifetime if not physically damaged.
Set Up USB Video Capture Device
Power off the computer. Connect the small end of the USB cable to the “USB In" or "System USB" port on the video capture device, then connect the large, flat end of the cable to the computer. If the USB capture device has a AC adapter, connect it and plug it into an electrical outlet.
Power on the computer and the USB capture box. Log in to Windows with an administrator username and password and wait for Windows to detect and configure the connected USB video capture device. When Windows prompts you to do so, insert the installation disc for the USB capture box into the optical drive of the PC. Click "OK" and follow any remaining prompts to install the USB capture box device driver in Windows, and then reboot the computer if prompted.
Reinsert the USB-capture box installation disc if you removed it from the CD/DVD drive after installing the Windows driver for the device. Wait a few seconds for the Setup Wizard window to display on the screen, then click “Setup Video Capture Software,” “Install Video Capture Software” or another similarly named button or link in the Setup Wizard window. Follow the prompts to install the video capture software on the computer and restart Windows if prompted. Alternatively, download and install a free video capture program if you don't want to use the software bundled with the capture box. Programs such as SMRecorder, Free Video Capture Factory and Debut Video Capture Software work with most capture devices and are free to use (links in Resources.)
Connect VCR to PC and Capture Video
Plug the VCR power cord into an electrical outlet. Connect the RCA connectors from the A/V cable set to matching-colored ports on the VCR labeled "Video Out" and "Audio Out." Connect the other end of the cable set to the matching colored RCA ports on the USB video capture device labeled "Audio In" and "Video In."
Power on the VCR and insert a VHS tape. Press the "Play" button on the VCR and queue the tape to a start point just a few seconds before the opening scene of the movie or clip you want capture and record on the computer. After you queue the tape to the correct starting point, press the "Pause" button on the face of the VCR.
Start the video capture software you installed from the installation disc. After the capture utility opens and the main program window appears on the screen, wait a few seconds for the application to detect and configure the installed USB capture device automatically. If the program does not detect the device automatically or prompts you to configure a capture device manually, click the "Tool," "Preferences" or "Options" menu bar options and then "Capture Devices." Select the installed USB capture device from the list of detected hardware or click "Scan" or "Search" to have the utility detect and configure the USB capture box. Click "OK" or "Save" to save the configuration settings.
Click the "Capture," “Start," "Start Capturing Video" or other similar button on the capture program's toolbar. Wait a few seconds as the program initializes the USB capture box and displays a blue or green background in the Preview or Capture Preview window. After the blue or green background appears in the preview window, press the VCR “Play” button to begin playing the video in the preview window of the capture program. As the video plays, the program captures, records and saves the video stream to a temporary folder on your computer.
Click the “Stop," "Stop Capture" or “End Capture” button or link on the toolbar to stop capturing and recording from the VHS tape. Wait a few seconds for the preview window to display a blue or green again background again to indicate the program is no longer capturing and recording video from the VCR. After a few more seconds, a pop-up message appears and confirms the video capture was successful.
Convert Video and Burn to DVD
Click “File” then “Save As” or “Export" on the video capture program menu bar. Click the drop-down box labeled “Export As” or “Save As Type” and select the “MPEG2” file format. Type a filename for the captured video in the "File Name" or "Name" field, then click the “Browse” button. Browse to and open the folder on the hard drive where you want to save the captured video file.
Click "OK" or "Save" to save the captured video and then close the video capture application.
Open the optical drive, place a blank writable disc into the tray and close it. Wait for the Windows AutoPlay window to appear, then choose the “Burn files to disc using Windows Explorer” option. After the Disc Title window appears, select the “With a CD/DVD player” option, type a descriptive name for the new video disc and then click the “Next” button. After a second or two, Windows Explorer opens and displays the "Files Ready to Be Written to the Disc" folder. Minimize the Windows Explorer window to the taskbar or drag it to the right side of the screen so that is out of the way.
Right-click “Start,” then select "Open Windows Explorer" to open a second Windows Explorer window on the screen. Click "Local Disk (C:)" in the left navigation pane of the second Windows Explorer window. Browse to the folder where you saved the video captured from the VCR. Highlight the video file name and then press "Ctrl-C" to copy the MPEG2 video to the Windows Clipboard.
Click the first Windows Explorer window displaying the "Files Ready to Be Written to the Disc" folder. Click inside the "Files Ready to Be Written to the Disc," then press "Ctrl-V" to paste the MPEG2 video file from the Windows clipboard. The video file appears in the "Files Ready to Be Written to the Disc" folder.
Click the “Burn to Disc” button just below the address bar in the Windows Explorer window. The Burn to Disc dialog window appears.
Choose the “Close the wizard after the files have been burned” option in the Burn to Disc window and click “Next.” Windows burns the captured video file to the blank disc. After Windows finishes burning the video file, the disc ejects automatically. Remove the new disc and play it in any standard DVD player or computer with a DVD-ROM drive.
- If you have Windows 7 Home Premium or Ultimate Edition, you can use the included Windows DVD Maker application to create menus and chapters for videos you capture from VHS tapes, and then burn the clips to disc. To start Windows DVD Maker, click "Start," "All Programs" and then "Windows DVD Maker." After Windows DVD Maker launches, click "Choose Photos and Videos" and then follow the remaining prompts to create a menu, chapters and burn the captured videos.
Items you will need
- VCR head cleaning cassette (optional but recommended)
- USB video capture device and USB cable
- RCA A/V cable set
- Computer with a DVD burner drive
- Blank DVD disc
- SimpleVideoEditing.com: What Is the Shelf Life of a Video Tape?
- Council on Library and Information Resources: How Long Can You Store CDs and DVDs and Use Them Again?
- Diamond Multimedia: VC500 Video Capture Device
- EZCap.tv: Ezcap116 USB 2.0 Video Capture Installation Guide
- AVS4You.com: How to Convert VHS Tapes to DVD Format?
- Microsoft Windows: Burn a CD or DVD in Windows Explorer
- Microsoft Windows: Disc-Burning Tips for Windows 7
- 7Tutorials: How to Burn DVD's with Windows DVD Maker
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images