Copying VHS to DVD - What You Need To Know

What You Need To Copy VHS to DVD

VHS Tape Cassette
Photo of a VHS Video Tape Cassette. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to

The State of VHS

The VHS VCR has been with us since the mid-1970's, but, in 2016, after a 41-year run, manufacturing of new units ceased. Since the introduction of other devices and formats, such as DVRs, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and even more recently, internet streaming, what was once a mainstay of home entertainment is no longer practical.

Although there are still many VHS VCRs still in use, finding a replacement for aging units will become increasingly difficult as the remaining stock disappears.

As result, many consumers are preserving the content recorded on their VHS tapes by transferring them to DVD.

How Do You Copy VHS to DVD?

The Answer - There are three ways a consumer can copy VHS tapes to DVD:

Option One - VCR To DVD Recorder

To do this, you connect the composite (yellow) video output, and the analog stereo (red/white) output of your VCR to the corresponding inputs on a DVD recorder.

You may find that a specific DVD recorder may have one or more of these inputs, which may be labeled in a variety ways, most commonly AV-In 1, AV-In 2, or Video 1 In, or Video 2 In. Just choose one of the sets and you are set to go.

To "transfer" or make your copy from VHS to DVD, use the DVD recorders input selection option to choose the right input. Next, place the tape you want to copy into your VCR and place a recordable DVD into your DVD recorder. Start the DVD recording first, then press play on your VHS VCR to start the tape playback.

The reason you want to start the DVD recorder first is to make sure you don't miss the first few seconds of the video that is being played back on your VCR.

For more details on everything you need to know about DVD recorders and DVD recording, refer to my complete DVD Recorder FAQs

Option Two - Use A DVD Recorder/VHS VCR Combination Unit

This method does the same thing as what is described in option 1, but in this case, for the consumer, it is a lot easier as both the VCR and DVD recorder are in a single unit.

This means that no extra connection cables are required.

Also, most of these units have a cross-dubbing function, which means after you insert your playback tape and recordable DVD, you just select which way you want to dub (VHS to DVD or DVD to VHS) and press the designated Dub button.

However, even if your DVD recorder/VHS VCR combo unit doesn't have a one-step cross-dubbing function, all you want have to do is press record on the DVD side and play on the VCR side to get things going.

Now for the bad news, although using a DVD recorder or DVD recorder/VHS VCR combo are actually two very practical ways to transfer your VHS Tapes to DVD, in the past few years, if you think finding a new VCR is difficult to find, DVD recorders and DVD recorder/VHS VCR combos are also becoming very rare. To find out why this is the case, refer to my article: Why DVD Recorders Are Getting Harder To Find

However, if you still want use DVD Recorder or DVD recorder/VHS VCR combo to transfer your VHS tapes to DVD, there are some units that may still be available.

Here are some of my current suggestions for DVD recorders.

Here are some of my current suggestions for DVD recorder/VCR Combinations.

Option Three - Connect A VCR to a PC Via a Video Capture Device

Here is a solution that is becoming more popular, and is very practical (with some caveats).

This third way of transferring your VHS tapes to DVD involves connecting your VCR to a PC via a analog-to-digital video capture device, recording your VHS video to the PC's hard drive, and then writing the recorded video to DVD using the PC's DVD writer.

Such devices come with a box that has the required analog video/audio inputs for your to connect your VCR, and a USB output for connection to your PC.

In addition to facilitating the transfer of your VHS tape video to your PC's hard drive, some of these devices also come with software that assists in making the video transfer possible from your VCR to your PC and, some provide varying degrees of video editing features that allow you do "enhance" your video with titles, chapters, etc...

However, there are some pitfalls using this method. The main things to take into consideration is how much RAM you have on your PC, and the speed of both your processor and your hard drive.

The reason these factors are important is that when converting analog video to digital video, the resultant file sizes are large, which not only takes up a lot of hard drive space, but if your PC isn't fast enough, your transfer might stall, or you might find that you have randomly lost some video frames during the transfer process, resulting in skips when played back from the hard drive or from the DVD that the hard drive transfers the video too.

For more details refer to the article: Digitizing Your Family Movies ( Genealogy)

However, taking in both the advantages and disadvantages of the analog-to-digital conversion method, here are some examples of products that can allow you transfer your VHS tape content to DVD via your PC:

Consider The Professional Route

Although you have the three "do-it-yourself" options discussed above for copying your VHS tapes to DVD, there is one additional method to consider, especially for important videos, such wedding or other tapes of family historical importance.

You can make arrangements with a video duplicator in your area (can be found online or in the phone book) and have them transferred to DVD professionally (can be expensive - depending on how many tapes are involved). The best way to approach this is to have the service make a DVD copy of one or two of your tapes, if the DVD is playable on your DVD or Blu-ray Disc player (you might try it on several to make sure), then it might worth having the service make copies of all the tapes you wish to preserve.

If you have them transferred to DVD by a service - have them do one -- and then test it to make sure it plays on your DVD player- if all goes well, you can then decided whether to proceed to have your remaining tapes transferred in the same fashion.

Important Note

You can only copy non-commercial VHS tapes that you have recorded yourself to DVD. You can't make copies of most commercially made VHS movies due to copy-protection. For more details on this aspect of copying VHS to DVD, check out my article: DVD Recording and Video Copy Protection. This also applies to professional tape copy/duplication services.

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