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  • How Long Do VHS Tapes Last?


    Just like every other technology, video home system (VHS) recording tapes are being affected by technological change. Just as consumers become used to one form of home technology, a new and better technology comes along. Unfortunately, consumers have already recorded many precious moments on their VHS tapes and are increasingly finding that they do not have the same quality as the new technologies being offered today. In some cases, the tapes themselves are beginning to deteriorate. Generally, this deterioration takes place because of incorrect storage, but overall, it usually happens because the recording wears away the tape.

    Going Digital

    Like many other technologies, VHS tapes are becoming a victim of the digital conversion process. VHS tapes are analog recordings and, as such, will not last if the recording was from a video camera. Commercial movies will last quite a bit longer, but if they are home recordings, they will likely have a storage life of the order of one or two decades, depending on storage conditions.

    What Can Be Done?

    In many respects the VCR tape is going the way of the cassette tape. There are plenty of uses for the basic function of the VCR tape, like recording TV shows, but the focus has shifted to digital recording devices. The tapes themselves may be around for a while longer, but the machines to play them will likely be gone first. Transferring the VHR images to a digital form becomes the only recourse if you wish to save precious events like an important soccer game or a birthday party.

    How Long VHS Tapes Last

    Will Technological Innovation Ever End?

    It is unlikely that it will ever become unnecessary to transfer recordings from one technology to another. Technology just does not stay still. Right now, you need to transfer your VHS tape data to a digital form of a certain format. Five to ten years down the road you will likely be doing the same thing all over again. In a way, it is sort of like death, taxes, and data transfer! Fortunately, as the technology has progressed, engineers have taken notice of this reality and made the process of transferring data about as easy as it can get. In case you happen to be a total technophobe, which is unlikely if you are reading this, there are businesses that will be happy to do the transferring for you.

    Transferring VHS data

    There are a few options that you can use to transfer those precious moments to a digital format. Generally, it is very easy to do. If you happen to have a dual VHS/DVD machine, simply pop in the VHS tape and a DVD disk and push some buttons. Models may vary just a bit, but generally it is just a matter of play and record in each medium. If you have a digital DVD camera, it is even easier. Ensure that your tapes and disk are in their machines and connect a cable, which you may have to buy, to the Aux hole at the back of the VHS machine and the camera. Press the Play button on the VHS and record on the DVD camera.

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    6 comments
    1. sdjvsijnvs

      23 June, 2014 at 2:16 am

      I have a tape 25 years old that has just been taken out of its wrapping! just yesterday i got it at the second hand store its mint condition i think this is definitely a keeper i want to see how long it can survive a few others over 20+ years are still going great too. even some of mine from early 80’s late 70’s still going well.. only thing that kills it is magnets closeby and magnetic fields and moisture temprature changes etc.. otherwise tapes last more than a lifetime.

      Reply
    2. Ray Moore

      1 February, 2013 at 1:24 am

      I have a number of VHS tapes from around 1994 which i have copied directly to DVD, but i have also archived them onto MiniDV as backup. MiniDV seems to hold its quality, especially as i have tapes from 2003 that still look good in 2013 (ten years later!).
      I would rather ask if i can have the original camera tapes which were Hi8 i think, as my nan always kept tapes in leather-style cases and hardly ever played them. Maybe the original tape has better quality than the VHS copies, many of which are now bleeding colour, sound problems and general wear and tear.

      Reply
      • Daniel Memetic

        14 February, 2013 at 3:24 am

        A bit late answer, but for reference, yes it’s possible to convert from Hi8 to DVD, and there are multiple ways of doing this. One is to connect your Hi8 camcorder output to your DVD burner input and play it back while recording on the DVD burner. If you have or can get a hold of a Digital 8 camcorder you could put Hi8 tapes in it and connect it to a computer via firewire. The camcorder can convert the Hi8 to a digital format that can then be burned to DVD.

        Other options include buying a specialized device for converting between Hi8 and MPEG2 for DVD, or paying for a Hi8 to DVD conversion service.

        Reply
    3. al

      27 January, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      The thing about tapes is always use a quality tape and store them properly the same thing can be said about disc’s, but getting back to what I was saying, video tapes will last for years if not forever, I have tapes I recorded in 1990 that are now 22 years old and all of which were played to death back in the day when I recorded them, funnily enough I’m going though a VCR revival at the moment and I’m a amazed at how all my tapes have lasted considering there age, they still play as good as the day I recorded them, so this whole thing of tapes not lasting even if you don’t play the is complete bollox, the thing I love about tapes is it’s a treasure trove of old memories of the crap I used to record as a kid and the lovely thing is it’s in sold state, a tape can fend for it’s self with out a case and still last years, can the same be said about a dvd disc and will people still hold on the old discs like we did with video tapes, I know I don’t and I have a dvd writer, a 4 hour tape will never wipe unless you record over the entire tape, dvd’s have to be formatted before you can put things on them, a multi session disc is never guaranteed to work in all DVD players where as a tape will work in any vcr

      Reply
    4. Daniel Memenode

      17 August, 2010 at 2:22 pm

      Why do you need them in FLV? That format is mostly meant for flash streaming. If you need streaming it can still be done with mpeg4 so you could just leave them as mpeg4.

      Reply
    5. PatrickPerdichuk

      17 August, 2010 at 5:27 am

      I have a large number of VHS tapes that I wish to convert to digital but I do not wish to place them on DVDs. I just want to store them in a remote drive in FLV format. There are far too many tapes to load in mpeg4 (as this seems to be the only format that I can find)and then convert them to FLV. Is there a means available to convert them straight from VHS to Flv?

      Reply
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