How to Archive Camcorder Videos

Steps to save your digital videos for a lifetime

What to Know

  • Easiest: Connect a camcorder to a computer via a USB cable and use the software that came with the camcorder to perform the transfer. 
  • Other options including burning a DVD, saving to an external hard drive, or using cloud storage. 

This article explains how to archive videos taken with camcorders and digital cameras.

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Transfer Videos to a Hard Drive

No matter what kind of memory your camcorder records to, it's a good idea to transfer that video to your computer hard drive. Typically, the easiest way to transfer video from a camcorder to a computer is to connect them via a USB cable and use the software that came with your camcorder to perform the transfer. Putting your video onto your computer will allow you to perform any edits and enable you to transfer the video to another storage format.

Create Backup Copies of Your Videos

Your computer should not be the final resting place for your video files; you should create backups and store them elsewhere. There are a few good options.

Burn a DVD

DVDs are inexpensive and widely available. Many camcorder manufacturers sell standalone DVD burners, which connect directly to camcorders and save footage to a disk without using a computer. However, you don't need to purchase a standalone burner if you already have a DVD burner on your computer. The software that shipped with your camcorder should include a function for disk burning via PC.

After burning your disk, place it in a jewel case that's clearly labeled; do not write on the disk itself. Store it in a cool, dry place such as a fireproof safe.

Save to an External Hard Drive

External hard drives are more expensive than blank DVDs, but they can store hundreds of hours of video footage. To transfer data to an external hard drive, connect it to your computer via USB, then drag-and-drop the files from your PC to the drive.

Buy the highest capacity hard drive you can afford. It is far better to have too much storage than too little. No matter how large a drive you buy, you'll eventually fill it, especially if you own an HD camcorder.

Use Cloud Storage

Many cloud storage services allow you to upload files to a remote server for safekeeping. Most of these services charge a fee for storing large amounts of data, and you might be concerned about sharing your personal videos with a third party. Nonetheless, keeping videos in the cloud will preserve them even if your house burns down.

Keep Track of Formats

Fewer computers are being sold with DVD drives, so it's only a matter of time before the format goes extinct. Keep up with camcorder memory formats as they evolve and migrate your videos as your formats become obsolete. This will likely entail bringing those videos back onto your computer and exporting them onto the storage media of the future.

Keep Track of Codecs

Camcorder video codecs are constantly evolving. Think of codec formats as the language of digital video. When you view your video on a computer or TV, a translator works on those devices to translate these codecs into the video you see. If a device doesn't support the appropriate codec, then it cannot playback the video. As with storage formats, modern digital video formats like AVCHD, H.264, and MPEG-2 will one day be obsolete, so consider the codecs supported by any new software or device you plan to purchase.

The video codec is indicated by the file extension following the name of a video (.mov, .avi, .mpg, etc.).

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