How to Hook Up a VCR to a Digital TV
By Robert Vaux
Updated February 10, 2017
VCRs can be hooked up to a digital TV the same way they can be hooked up to an ordinary TV. The only downside is that they can't send a signal with the same level of clarity that a modern DVR or DVD player can. Most VCRs were made before the advent of digital broadcasting, and the cables they use simply can't carry the large amount of information entailed in a high-definition broadcast. The good news is that you can still get a solid signal out of your VCR: We watched those signals for decades, after all, and didn't seem to complain much then.
Find the RCA cable jacks in the back of your VCR. There should be at least two sets: one labeled "In" or "In From Antenna" and one labeled "Out" or "Out to TV." RCA cables consist of three separate wires. The yellow one conveys the video image, the red one conveys the right-hand audio signal and the white one conveys the left-hand audio signal . The jacks in the VCR are small and round and will be color coded to correspond to the three RCA cables.
Locate a similar set of cable jacks in the back of your digital TV. They may be labeled "In" or "In From Antenna," but they look just like the ones in the VCR: one yellow, one white and one red. High-end TVs may have multiple sets of RCA cable jacks. That's fine. Just be sure you note which set you intend to use, so you can tune the TV to them when you're done.
Connect the "Out" jacks in the VCR to the "In" jacks in the digital TV with a set of RCA cables. Match each cable up to its corresponding color and make sure the connections are secure.
Connect the antenna or cable box to the "In" or "In From Antenna" jack on the VCR. With a cable box, you should be able to do this with another set of RCA jacks. If you don't have cable, use the coaxial cable jack on the VCR--it has a white plastic center with a pinhole in the middle--and plug the antenna directly into it. (Some older cable boxes may require the use of coaxial cable as well.)
Turn on the digital TV and find the "Input" or "Set-Up" button on the remote. Press it and set the TV to receive signals from the set of jacks connected to the VCR. You should now be able to watch and record shows on the VCR normally.
Items you will need
RCA A/V cables
Coaxial cable or antenna
Cable box (optional)
If you have a cable or satellite box, you may also wish to connect the TV directly to it, either using one of the other RCA cable jacks found on the back of the TV or a higher-end jack such as an HDMI jack. The cable or satellite box should have an additional set of jacks that allow you to do this. It gives you the full benefit of the cable signal--picking up shows in high definition and the like--which may be lost if you run the signal through a VCR. To tune the TV to it, simply push the "Input" or "Set-Up" button on your TV remote and switch it from the cable jacks connected to your VCR to the jacks connected to your cable box. Your VCR should still be able to record regardless.
Always turn your VCR and digital TV off when connecting the cables. You run the risk of damaging them otherwise.