How to Copy VHS Tapes to a Hard Drive

Converting VHS allows you to edit old home movies and even splice them.
... Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Converting VHS movies from back in the day would be an impractical infringement on copyright. However, if you have a closet full of home videos on VHS, then creating a digital copy ensures that your precious memories carry on. Converting a VHS tape to digital video requires several pieces of hardware and will take an hour or two per video.

1 Hardware Required to Convert VHS

To create a digital version of your VHS videos you will need a working VCR, a video capture card in your computer and all the cables required to connect the two. Plenty of Windows-compatible capture cards and USB video capture devices are available online; make sure you've purchased one that supports your VCR's connection types. If your VCR supports an S-Video connection, use that as the video quality is better than that of the composite connection that most VCRs use. If you have a digital camcorder that you can connect to the VCR, you may be able to use that in place of card; you connect the VCR to the camcorder as "video in," then connect the camcorder to your computer via USB. This feature may not be available on all camcorders.

2 Software Required to Convert VHS

Windows Movie Maker includes an option to import videos; if you intend to edit your videos or want a simple tool for then burning those videos to DVD, it may be the simplest option. If you purchased a video capture device, install the software that came with it. This software usually includes simple tools for capturing video. For instance, CNET writer Donald Bell used Elgato's video capture software to convert VHS video.

3 Hard Drive Space

Videos take up a lot of hard drive space, so make sure that you have enough to meet the needs of your current VHS library. A standard quality movie file can range anywhere from 700MB to 2GB, depending on the video resolution, for the video encoding used and the length of the video. If you don't have enough space on your computer, you may want to invest in an external hard drive or replace your current hard drive with a bigger one.

4 Video Quality

When you digitize your VHS movies, you essentially record them to a file on your computer. Each VHS tape will take the entire length of the tape to record. The video quality on old VHS tapes also lacks by modern standards; you may find it lacking when viewed on an HD monitor or television. If the VHS tape includes any artifacts or errors, those will be visible in the digital video as well.

Ashley Poland has been writing since 2009. She has worked with local online businesses, supplying print and web content, and pursues an active interest in the computer, technology and gaming industries. In addition to content writing, Poland is also a fiction writer. She studied creative writing at Kansas State University.