How to Convert Commercial VHS Tapes to DVD on a Computer

by Fred Decker
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For movie lovers with a significant investment in VHS films, the switch to DVD has been a mixed blessing. Many movies haven't been re-released on DVD, and videotapes lose much of their quality over time. Fortunately, the "fair-use" provisions in U.S. copyright law permit the creation of backup copies of your old tapes and conversion to DVD. With the addition of a few accessories, your computer provides you with everything you need to transfer most movies.

Step 1

Connect your VCR's audio and video outputs or S-Video output to the corresponding inputs on your computer's video card, if present. If your computer doesn't have a video card with capture capability, you can install a separate video-capture card or purchase an external video-capture device that plugs into your computer's USB ports.

Step 2

Run Windows Live Movie Maker -- note that Windows 7 does not include Movie Maker with the operating system; you'll have to download it from the Windows Live website (see Resources). From the "Import" menu, choose the "Video Acquire Wizard." This will locate your VCR and prompt you through selecting your import options. Choose DV-AVI as your file type.

Step 3

Advance the tape to the start of your movie and begin recording. Movie Maker will save the file on your computer in digital AVI format.

Step 4

Open Windows DVD Maker. Click "Choose Photos and Videos," then "Add pictures and video to the DVD." Click "Add Items," then browse for the file containing your movie and select it. Click the "DVD title" box, and add an appropriate title for your movie.

Insert a blank DVD into the DVD drive on your computer. If you have more than one DVD-ROM drive, you'll need to select which one you're using. Click "Burn," and wait while the program creates your DVD. When DVD Maker displays a message saying "Your DVD is ready," close the page and remove your new DVD.


  • Although transferring your legally-owned VHS movies to DVD format is covered under the "fair use" clause, circumventing copy protection is illegal in all circumstances. If you have VHS movies that are protected by Macrovision or a similar digital rights management system, you won't be able to legally copy them.


  • These instructions assume you're using Windows 7 and Windows Live Movie Maker. The process is similar when using iMovie on the Macintosh or Pitivi on Ubuntu or other versions of Linux.
  • Specialized movie-transfer programs are available for most computers, providing additional features to easily restore lost video and audio quality. If you have a substantial number of VHS movies to transfer, purchasing one of these programs might be a good option.


Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

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