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 precious home videos or Super Bowl commercial mixtapes managed to survive thus 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 obviously no restrictions on copying 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.
Retail VHS-to-DVD conversion services
Rest assured, for those who’d rather forego the technical hands-on process, many 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 tape drop-off and DVD pickup, but there’s no extra work on your end.
Available transfer formats include everything 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, DV, DVCAM, DVC, Betamax; Foreign (PAL)||$25 per tape, max. 2 hours (DVD)|
|Southtree||VHS, VHS-C, 8mm, Hi8, MiniDV, Betamax, MicroMV, S-VHS, Digital 8, MiniDV, 8mm film, super 8, 16mm film||$15 per tape, plus $20 for DVD set, or $30 for thumb drive|
|Target||VHS, S-VHS, Beta, VHS-C, Hi8, Digital 8, 8mm, MiniDV, 8mm film, Super 8, 16mm film||Starting at $26 for one tape up to two hours, or $26 for the first 100ft. of film|
|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, or $26 for the first 50ft. of film|
|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, or $19 for the first 100ft. of film|