How to Transfer VHS to DVR

by David Lipscomb

The venerable videocassette recorder remains a staple of many audio/visual systems. However, the process of fast forwarding and rewinding to find the program on the tape among other recordings may prove tedious and outdated. Transferring an old TV show or home movie from VHS to a digital video recorder allows you to consolidate various recordings, making them easier to categorize and view.

Examine the rear of the VCR and DVR. Locate the "Audio/Video Out" jacks on the VCR, and the corresponding "A/V In" jacks on the DVR.

Plug the yellow composite video cable's plug into the matching jacks on the VCR and DVR. Repeat for the red and white audio cables.

Set your DVR to record from the "Line In" input, using the unit's remote or front panel controls. Typically the front panel display with show "L1" or "L2" upon connecting the right input. Be sure the display matches the actual input used on the back panel.

Insert the VHS tape containing the material you wish to transfer to the DVR. Use the VCR's remote or front panel controls to find your starting point.

Press "Play" on the VCR. Adjust the "Tracking" controls on the VCR by using the buttons on the remote or front panel. Continue until the image is stable and devoid of white tracking lines or other jittery artifacts. This ensures that the VCR's heads are properly aligned with the tape surface.

Rewind the tape back to the program's starting point.

Press "Play" on the VCR, and "Rec" on the DVR. Press "Stop" on both devices when the program is complete.


  • Keep in mind that recording from VHS to DVR occurs in real time.
  • If the VHS has been out of use for some time, run a cassette-based VCR head cleaner through the unit to remove accumulated contamination on the heads.
  • Many DVD recorders offer a built-in television tuner, program guide and hard drive. You can use the integrated DVR features to record shows onto the hard drive, then archive those shows to DVD if you wish.


  • Do not record a copy-protected VHS tape to the DVR. Doing so violates copyright laws. In addition, the result is monaural sound and low-quality video.

Items you will need

  • Composite audio/video cable
  • VCR remote control (optional)
  • DVR remote control (optional)

About the Author

David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images