How to Transfer Analog Video to Hard Drives

by Jeff Grundy

If you’re a video buff that enjoys shooting home movies, you may have stacks of DVDs or VHS tapes with clips of cherished memories. Even if you're not into shooting you own movies, you may have a recording of a special event such as a wedding. Analog movies stored on disc or tape generally last a long time if you maintain and care for the media properly. Nevertheless, a scratched disc or damaged VHS tape could spell the end of a treasured video at any time. To protect precious older videos, transfer them to your computer hard drive and create digital copies you can share or store on other devices for safekeeping.

Install USB Video Capture Device

Turn off the power to your computer. Connect the data cable that shipped with the video capture box to the “USB In" or "System USB" on the device, then plug the opposite end into an unused USB port on the computer. If the USB capture box ships with an AC power adapter, connect it to the device and plug it into an electrical socket.

Power on the USB video capture first if needed, then turn on the computer. Use your Windows username and password to log in if prompted. After the desktop loads, wait a few seconds for the operating system to detect and configure the USB video capture device.

Insert the installation disc for the capture into the CD/DVD drive when Windows prompts you to do so, then click the "OK" button. Follow the on-screen prompts to install the drive for the capture device, then restart the computer when prompted. Leave the USB capture device in the optical drive of the computer.

Open the CD/DVD disc tray and close it again without removing the disc for the USB capture device. After a few seconds, a setup wizard for the USB capture device utility application appears on the screen. Click "Install," "Setup," "Setup Video Capture Software" or another similarly named command button in the setup wizard window. Follow the prompts to install the video capture application for the USB device, then restart the PC if prompted.

Connect VCR or DVD to PC and Capture Video

Plug the power cord for the DVD player or VCR into an electrical outlet. Connect one end of an RCA A/V cable set to matching-colored "Video Out" and "Audio Out" ports on the DVD player or VCR. Connect the opposite end of the A/V cable set to the "Audio In" and "Video In" ports on the USB capture box.

Power on the DVD player or VCR and insert media with video you want to transfer to the computer hard drive. Press "Play" on the player device and queue the media to start about five seconds before the beginning of the video clip you want to capture and record on the computer hard drive. After you queue the media, press the "Pause" button on DVD player or VCR.

Go back to the computer and launch the capture application you installed from the setup disc for the USB capture device. After you open the capture utility, a preview screen appears in the main program window. Wait for the preview screen to turn from black to blue or green. This indicates that the application detected the USB capture device successfully and is ready to import video. If the screen does not change color to blue or green or if the program displays a "No Capture Device Found" message, click "Options," "Preferences" or "Tools" on the menu bar, then "Capture Device." Select the installed capture device as the default or click "Scan" or "Search" if no devices appear in the list. Click "OK" or "Save" after you configure the default capture device for the application.

Click "Capture," "Record Video," "Start Capturing Video" or another similar button in capture program window, then press the “Play” button on the DVD player or VCR to begin streaming video the preview window of the capture program. As the video plays in the preview window, the application captures, records and saves the clip to a temporary folder on your hard drive.

Click "Stop" or "End Capture" in the capture program window to stop capturing and streaming video from the DVD player or VCR, then wait a few seconds for the preview window to turn blue or green again. After a few more seconds, a pop-up window should confirm the video captured successfully and prompt you to save the clip as permanent file on your computer. Follow the prompts to enter a filename for the clip and select a folder, then click "Save" to save the file to your computer.

Tips

  • Virtually all USB capture devices ship with a utility that you can use to capture the video from a DVD player or VCR. Some applications that ship with capture devices are better than others, though, and you might find included program too basic or lacking editing or conversion features. If you need advanced capture software with more editing features or the ability to convert captured video into various formats, you might want to check out commercial capture programs such as AVS Video Recorder or Blaze Media Pro (links in Resources.) Additionally, Debut Video Capture Software is a freeware alternative that includes many of the features of commercial capture programs (link in Resources.) Bundled, commercial or freeware capture programs all essentially work in the same way. Start the application, click “Start” or “Capture,” then press “Play” on the DVD player or VCR. When you to stop capturing video from the player, click “Stop,” select a video file format and save the clip to your hard drive. You can then watch the video with Windows Media Player or burn it to disc for safekeeping.
  • If you don’t yet have a USB capture device, Radio Shack carries several high-quality models including the highly-rated Diamond VC500 One-Touch Video Capture USB 2.0 Device (link in Resources). TopTen Reviews gave it their highest rating and a perfect 10/10 score in all testing categories.
  • For optimal results when transferring your analog videos to the computer, clean the player or media before starting. If you're using a VCR, clean the heads in the machine with a tape-head cleaning cassette. If you're transferring analog video stored on a disc, clean the disc with a lint-free cloth and some denatured alcohol.
  • If you have Windows 7 Home Premium or Ultimate Edition, you can create DVDs from analog video imported from VHS tapes by using the included Windows DVD Maker application. To launch Windows DVD Maker, click the Start button, "All Programs" and then "Windows DVD Maker."

Warning

  • Use your video capture to device to import only home movies or other videos you create or those to which you have ownership rights. Do not use the device capture and copy copyrighted movies or other media, as this is illegal and considered piracy in many jurisdictions.

Items you will need

  • VHS tape or DVD disc with analog video
  • VCR or DVD player
  • VCR head cleaning cassette (optional but recommended)
  • Lint-free cloth and denatured alcohol (optional but recommend)
  • USB Video capture device and USB cable
  • RCA A/V cable set

About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images