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How to convert VHS to DVD, Blu Ray, or digital files

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How to convert VHS to DVD/Blu Ray using a separate VHS player and DVD/Blu ray recorder

Converting VHS to DVD or Blu Ray using a separate VHS player and DVD/Blu Ray recorder is similar to using a combo player in simplicity and lack of features; you won’t be able to edit much or convert copyrighted material, but it still gets the job done in no-frills fashion sans a computer or other device.

Step 1: Purchase a VHS player and a DVD/Blu Ray recorder if you don’t own both already.

VHS players are still a dime a dozen even if you haven’t managed to hold onto one from the device’s heyday, but DVD recorders are a little harder to come by. You will be essentially linking the two devices together using an S-Video cable, capturing the live VHS footage directly onto a DVD housed in the recorder. Like combo players, DVD recorders may be becoming obsolete quicker than we would have hoped, but it still might be worth it to pick one up given how easy it makes the conversion process. We recommend the Toshiba DR430 ($120), because frankly, nothing beats it in price or features.

Toshiba DVD RecorderStep 2: Choose a VHS tape. 

Obviously you’re going to need to select the VHS tape you would like to convert before proceeding. Choose a video and fast forward or rewind to the beginning of the selection you wish to record to DVD. Preferably choose videos that lack noise and severe video degradation whenever possible to ensure the highest quality recordings.

Step 3: Clean the VHS tape and test the VCR.

Although not necessary, it’s a good idea to clean your video cassette tape and test your tape deck to ensure it’s not going to ruin your VHS. How effective the different cleaning methods are remains a point of contention, but consider opening the cassette encasing and carefully removing any visible dust or dirt using a soft cloth or cotton swab. You might also consider cleaning your VCR’s heads either by using a VHS head cleaner or doing it manually.

Step 4: Connect the VCR to the DVD/Blu Ray recorder.

Connecting the VCR to the DVD recorder is the trickiest part of the whole process, but’s not tough by any means. Simply plug your RCA outputs from you VCR into the RCA inputs on your DVD recorder. On Blu Ray recorders, you may need to use an RCA to HDMI converter. The outputs and inputs should be fairly universal — the yellow connector corresponds to video while the red and white connectors respond to stereo — but some older VCRs are only equipped with mono. It won’t make a substantial difference though since VHS audio quality is now subpar as is.

Step 5: Insert the VHS tape and a blank disc. 

Make sure the blank disc you insert is compatible with your DVD/Blu Ray recorder. Some devices can only handle particular formats, such as DVD+R or DVD+RW, so it’s best to check your recorder’s specifications before attempting to convert the tape.

Step 6: Convert

Now it’s time to convert your VHS to DVD. The process will varying depending your machine, so check the included instruction manual or navigate to the manufacturer’s website for more information on how to initiate the dubbing process. Typically, you will hit some sort of “record” button on the DVD recorder after beginning VHS playback on the VCR.

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