How to keep your old videos, music, and photos safe forever – Popular Science

VHS tapes

We’re guessing you keep many of your old home movies and favorite childhood films on VHS tapes. To digitize this format, you need a device to play the videos, an adapter to output them, and a computer to capture them.

If you don’t have a VHS player sitting around, borrow one from a friend or source a second-hand machine from a site like eBay. On the back of the player, locate the S-Video or composite video output. These ports may have labels, or you can check those links to find pictures of what they look like.

A number of inexpensive adapters can plug into these outlets and connect them to your computer’s USB port. The Elgato Video Capture ($74 on Amazon) and the V.TOP USB 2.0 Video Audio Capture Card ($30 on Amazon) will both get the job done.

Many such adapters come with their own capture software for recording the USB input to your computer’s hard drive. If they don’t, you can also use free tools like Avidemux for Windows, or QuickTime for macOS. If you’d prefer a computer-free process, you can buy an alternative all-in-one device, such as the ClearClick Video To Digital Converter ($120 on Amazon), which digitizes tapes directly to a memory card.

If you’re a stickler for quality, you can really go to town with dedicated video capture cards that fit inside your desktop computer (like the $124 Hauppauge Colossus 2), or external capture boxes (like the $100 AVerMedia AVerCapture HD). But these pricey tools are really designed for higher-quality video sources such as games consoles—they’re overkill for old VHS tapes. That said, they will make your digitized video look the very best it can.

For analog video formats that are older than VHS, follow the same principles: Find a machine capable of playing the movies, preferably with an S-Video or composite output, and then some way of converting the output into USB format for your computer. And if you simply can’t find the necessary hardware, you can usually find a professional service to do the job for you.

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