The Gadget Q&A
Broken VCR? Time to transfer those tapes
Depending on your needs, there are a couple of options for making DVDs our of your old VHS tapes
A shopper in this 1977 file photo tries out a videotape recorder at the Zenith showroom at 200 N. Michigan Ave. If your VCR is this old, it may be time to make a change -- and transfer your VHS tapes to DVD, too. (Tribune file photo)
Q: I have two VCRs that fell apart and I would like to have the tape placed on a DVD. Who or where do I go? Thank you for your reply.
A: Sorry to hear about your troubles, Sol. Most of the questions we get at the Gadget Q&A are about how to digitize analog media, so keep them coming. We love helping you guys out.
If you're in the same boat as Sol, you have two options:
Mail your tapes to a service that will convert them to DVD. This option will cost you about $10 to $20 per tape, plus you'll have to buy packaging materials and pay for shipping, which will add $3 to $5 per tape.
To find such a service, type "VHS to DVD" in a search engine and you'll find an outfit such as Southtree in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Southtree (866-645-3358) will convert to DVD for $8.95 a tape, or you can pay $19.95 a tape and get two DVDs: one for your TV and a master copy of your tape that you can copy to your hard drive, using your computer's DVD drive. That way you'll have a long-lasting version of your tape in good-as-new-quality.
I've not used Southtree, so I can't vouch for them, but call them or any other service you plan to use so they can answer any questions you have about the final price, recommended packaging materials and anything else you can think of.
Buy a DVD-VCR combo that will let you do the conversion yourself. These units are getting harder to find and will run up to $180, plus the negligible cost of DVDs.
The Toshiba DVR620, available online at amazon.com, walmart.com and other stores, can do the trick. You'll find it for $145 to $180 using an Internet search engine. The DVR620 is not a one-button-to-record model, but it's not onerous.
Which should you choose? If you have five or fewer tapes, mailing them off to a conversion service will give you more bang for the buck. Any more than that, and you'd be better off springing for a DVD-VCR combo. After you've converted all your tapes, you can consider selling the combo unit on eBay to recoup some of your costs, so save all the packaging materials and manuals to get the highest possible bids.
Have a question about your computer, cellphone, camera or any gadget? Let us know! Email Eric Gwinn at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you could be featured in an upcoming Gadget Q&A column.