Memories have a lifespan — at least when it comes to those captured on the dying medium known as Video Home System, aka VHS. The format was never intended to last forever and degrades over time. However, if your VCR somehow managed to spare your precious home videos or Super Bowl recaps this far, you may want to salvage the footage before time takes its toll. Converting well-worn videos will never be flawless — the slightest hiccup can interrupt the transfer signal — but it can be done on a modest budget with a few basic tools.
Below, we’ll show you how to save your moments digitally on multiple formats, including DVD, Blu-ray, or digital file. If you’re just too busy, we’ve also got a list of the various VHS conversion services, including pricing, to help you preserve that 20-year-old footage of you face-planting on your first bike. If not for you, do it for posterity’s sake.
Disclaimer: It’s technically illegal to produce copies of commercial films and copyrighted content, but there are no restrictions on mass producing home videos. Plus, you can usually pick up a used copy of Top Gun, the Breakfast Club or all eight riveting seasons of Full House online for next to nothing anyway.
VHS-to-DVD conversion services
Rest assured, for those who’d rather forego the technical hands-on process, all the big-name retail corporations offer VHS-to-DVD, and in some cases VHS-to-digital conversion services through their photo departments. Most of them use a very similar service — in some cases the exact service — and typically require a three-week waiting period between the time you drop off your tapes and the time you can pick them up with the new DVD, but there’s no extra work on your end.
Available transfer formats are standard, from VHS to Betamax, and most services will allow you to transfer up to two tapes to a single DVD before charging you extra. Alternatively, there are a couple great websites that offer the same service for a more affordable price if you feel comfortable shipping the VHS tapes yourself.
|Costco||VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, Hi-8, 8mm videotape, 8mm film, Super 8, 16mm film, Digital 8, MiniDV, Betamax; foreign (PAL) tapes to NTSC DVD||Starts at $20 for two tapes up to two hours|
|iMemories.com||VHS, VHS-C, Betamax, 8mm tape, Hi8, 8mm film, Super 8, 16mm film, MiniDV,||$13 per tape, or per 50ft. film|
|Walmart||VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, Hi-8, 8mm, Digital 8, MiniDV, Betamax; Foreign (PAL)||$25 per DVD|
|Southtree||VHS, VHS-C, 8mm, Hi8, MiniDV, Betamax, MicroMV, S-VHS, Digital 8, MiniDV, 8mm film, super 8, 16mm film||$13 per DVD; $20 per DVD + digital file; $16 for tape + digital file|
|Target||VHS, S-VHS, Beta, VHS-C, Hi8, Digital 8, 8mm, MiniDV, 8mm film, Super 8, 16mm film||Starting at $15 for VHS; $9 for film reels|
|CVS||VHS, VHS-C, MiniDV, 8mm, Hi8, Digital 8, Betamax, S-VHS, 8mm film, Super 8, 16mm film; foreign PAL to NTSC||Starting at $26 for two tapes up to two hours|
|Sam’s Club||VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, Hi-8, 8mm videotape,
Digital 8. MiniDV, Betamax, 8mm film, Super 8, 16mm film
|Starting at $19 for two tapes up to two hours|