The important thing is to do this sooner rather than later. Then you can organize them effectively. And you have options.
1. Connect to a computer
If you still have a working VCR or camcorder, you can connect it to your computer using a “middleman” gadget. They’re often called a video capture card or analog video-capture device, and you plug them into the back of your playback machine.
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RCA cables — yes, the company you grew up with invented these connectors — are included: yellow for video, and red and white for left and right audio. The other end of this gadget has a USB connector you plug into your PC or Mac. Some also have an HDMI cable that plugs into modern TVs.
These products can cost as little as $16, though more premium offerings with extra conversion features may be closer to $70. If these products don’t come with software to record the video on your computer, you’ll need to download an application on your own.
Before you pay, try a free version to see if it does the trick, such as Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), Studio, VirtualDub or VideoLAN Client (VLC), Alternatively, Microsoft Video Editor is part of Windows 10 and Windows 11, and iMovie is already on your Macintosh computer or available as a free download.
2. Record directly onto memory cards
If you don’t own a computer or prefer to bypass the computer directly, there are gizmos that plug into the back of your H8, MiniDV camcorder, VCR or Betamax machine. That way you can record directly onto a flash storage device, such as an SD memory card or a USB stick.
Products such the Hi8 VHS VCR to Digital Converter 3.0 ($116.99) or the ClearClick Video to Digital Converter 2.0 ($159.95) include a small display so you can view what you’re digitizing. You’ll need to pick up SD memory cards or USB drives on your own, but they’re relatively affordable.
Once your home movies are stored on flash drives, you can insert them into a computer to view and copy them onto an external hard drive. Many TVs have a USB port, so you may be able to watch them on a big screen.
3. Use a DVD recorder
While not as popular as a few years ago, “ripping” your old tapes onto recordable DVDs is still a viable option. As long as you have a DVD or Blu-ray player, a computer with a DVD drive, or a video game console such as one in the PlayStation or Xbox family, you can watch DVDs packed with your memories.
Along with a DVD recorder or a DVD recorder drive on your computer, you’ll need to pick up some blank DVDs. Because DVD recorders can be tougher to find these days, you might consider buying a used one on Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Nextdoor. Remember to review the seller’s rating or reputation before you buy.