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How To Archive Your Sounds, Videos and Photos

If you've got a collection of audio cassettes, Videotapes, singles, albums and photos, think about archiving these into a digital format before they fall to bits.

On this page, FrequencyCast helps explain the options. We also cover this in Show 21 of our online radio show.


Why archive your sounds and images?

Audio and videotapes degrade over time - especially if they're damp, exposed to heat, or kept close to something with a magnet inside (such as a speaker). Vinyl singles and albums can warp if not stored correctly, and they don't like the heat.

If you have precious memories, consider keeping them safe, and getting a digital copy.

Listen to Show 21, our show covering Archiving:

Play Show button Download show now button Subscribe to FrequencyCast in iTunes


Archive your audio

Want to digitise your audio cassettes, 7" and 12" vinyl? Or perhaps burn your CDs onto a hard disc? Here are some ideas:

Audio cassettes

Stuck with stacks of cassettes in a box taking up space? Never listen to them, but daren't throw away those precious audio memories? Well, give those old C60 and C90 audio cassettes a new lease of life by copying them into a digital format.

The best bet is to copy those cassette recordings onto your PC in a digital format. Most commonly, the MP3 format is used - this offers a good balance of disk-space versus audio quality. We covered MP3 in Show 11 of our podcast.

To record to cassette, there are a couple of options:

  • Phono & jack Record from your tapedeck: If you have a working cassette player with an audio output, you should be able to connect this to your PC and record from the cassette player onto the PC. To do this, you'll need to connect an appropriate lead from the cassette's Line Level output, to a Line In socket on your PC's soundcard.
    If you need a twin-phono to stereo Line In jack, you can get one from AdvancedMP3players or Maplin (Part: L32BA).

    Once connected, you'll need to install some software onto your computer to allow you to record from your soundcard's audio Line In. We recommend the free Audacity package, which you can use to record and edit audio on your PC.

    If your PC doesn't have a soundcard with an audio "Line in", you can get a suitable soundcard from Maplin , PC World or (either a PCI card for inside your PC's case, or a USB soundcard) - or you can look at the USB cassette drive we mention below.

  • USB or PC cassette drive: If that's too much hassle, try a dedicated PC cassette player. See the box below

Cassette to MP3: Got a stack of audio cassettes? Here's an easy way to get them converted to a digital format. Use this to copy your cassettes to a PC format, and once converted, you can transfer your audio to your MP3 player, and listen again to all those old memories, before your cassettes deteriorate with age.

Get the USB twin cassette deck version from Firebox, Argos and Maplin, which comes with all the stuff you need, and plugs into a spare USB port on your PC

ION USB Cassette

Also, take a look at the ION USB Express tape archiver - a walkman-sized drive that can connect to a PC via USB, is small, and can be found for under £50 at Firebox and Maplin.

ION Express USB Tape Archiver



Vinyl Singles and Albums

Looking to transfer your old vinyl collection to MP3 format? Get yourself a USB turntable. We discussed the ION USB turntable back in show 5. This comes with Audacity software for high-speed recording and Bias Soundsoap 2 to remove that snap, crackle and pop.

USB Turntable Vinyl to MP3: The ION USB turntable is belt-driven, has adjustable gain, plays 33, 45 and even 78s (with a special stylus), and comes with software to let you dub off your music to MP3, WAV or WMV formats, ideal for your iPod or MP3 player. The software supplied can be used to remove those lovely vinyl pops and crackles.

The USB turntable from ION also has line-level RCA outputs, so can be connected into a hi-fi's CD or AUX in feeds, if required.
Available from Maplin, Firebox and I want one of those.

CD to PC

You should be able to burn your PCs onto your PC using Windows Media Player, or Easy CD-DA.

Editing your audio

Once you have your audio recorded, you can use the free Audacity package to tidy up your audio.

Editing with Audacity

Editing with Audacity


Archive your video

Stacks of old video cassettes kicking around the place? Copy them to DVD for safekeeping, or keep a copy on your PC. We discussed archiving video in Show 21 of our podcast. Have a listen to find out more. Below are some notes to help you out:

VHS Video to DVD

The easiest way of archiving your video cassette collection to a digital format, is to get yourself a stand-alone DVD Recorder. We discussed DVD Recorders in Show 20, and have a page dedicated to them - DVD Recorders.

Get yourself a DVD recorder and connect it to your telly and video recorder to copy off cassettes onto blank DVDs. See our DVD page for info on what to look for when buying a DVD recorder.

Sony RX-D360
Sony RDRGXD360 DVD Recorder from Currys

SCARTArchiving your video cassettes onto a DVD recorder is pretty straightforward - connect your VHS video recorder output to the input of your DVD recorder using a SCART lead.

Then, insert a blank DVD (which you may need to format first). Then, use the DVD recorder remote to select the Line Input that you've connected the video recorder to, and start copying.

Note that a standard blank DVD will hold two hours of video, whilst video cassettes typically hold three or four hours worth. Most DVD recorders support recording at different quality levels, so you should be able to get one entire VHS cassette onto a single DVD, if you're prepared to sacrifice some quality.


Video to PC

Show 21 of our podcast discusses how to record video from an external source onto a PC.

The process is basically the same as the way you watch TV on a PC - you use a PC TV receiver. We discussed how to watch and record TV onto PC in Show 18, and we also cover this on our TV on PC page.

Essentially, you need to get yourself a TV receiver for your PC or Mac, then connect your video recorder to this TV receiver. You can connect using the co-ax aerial feed straight into the input of TV card (you need an analogue or hybrid receiver, not a digital one), then use software supplied with the PC TV receiver to record to PC. If you're after top quality, get a TV receiver with an S-video or composite input for better quality (connect from your DVD's SCART output).


Dazzle Video CreatorYou might also want to take a look at the Dazzle Video Creator. This connects to your video recorder using composite (the yellow, red and white sockets), or S-Video. It then connects to your PC or laptop via USB and converts video into MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 or DivX movie files.

This is a handy way of archiving off your video, camcorder or DVD recording digitally. If you go for the Dazzle Platinum solution, you get Pinnacle Instant DVD Recorder software for quick recording to DVD, as well as Studio QuickStart, to let you restore and trim your videos, and add transitions, effects or background music before archiving to DVD or sending them to mobile devices, such as Apple iPod or Sony PSP.

Dazzle Video Creator available from Maplin, (cheapest at time of writing) or PC World.

VHS Video Cassette USB VHS player for your PC: It was only a matter of time. Someone's released a VHS video player that connects via USB.

Archive off your collection of video tapes into a digital format without lots of mucking about with cables and converters.

The USB Video Cassette Player captures video at resolutions up to 720 x 576 , for playback on PCs, iPods, PSPs, DVD and other media players. It works with Windows XP and Windows Vista, and has a SCART socket, so can be used as a standard video player for your TV

The USB Video Cassette Player is available from Firebox and Maplin.



Editing your video

If ripping DVD to PC, we recommend FairUse

For editing video on your PC, you can use Windows Movie Maker (supplied with Windows XP and Vista), or for better results, use Adobe Premier to edit video. You can get Adobe Premier from , PC World ,, or direct from the Adobe UK online store .


Archive your photos

Get yourself a scanner. These connect to your PC using USB and let you scan in your photos. You can get scanners from , Currys , Argos or

Go for the JPG format, at a high resolution (keep the quality high and the compression low)

Consider uploading your photos to Flickr or Facebook to share them.

If you have a large photo collection, edit and tag your images for easy retrieval with Adobe Photoshop Elements - you can add notes to photos and there's a powerful search that enables searches such as "Find all pictures of Pete and Carl together last Christmas".

Adobe Photoshop elements
Adobe Photoshop Elements

You can get Adobe Photoshop Elements from , PC World , or direct from the Adobe UK online store


Keep your archives safe

Get yourself an external hard disk - just in case your PC's built-in drive packs up.

Maxtor USB drive

We recommend the Maxtor range. At the time of recording Show 21, you could get a 500Gig Maxtor USB drive for £85. External USB hard drives are available from ,, Maplin , Currys and Argos


Backup online

For extra safety, back up your important files regularly, online - keep your files safe from fire, flood and accidental deletion.

Listen to Show 47, where we discuss backing up your data safely, and a range of tips and tools. A transcript is available.


Listen to Show 21, our radio show covering Archiving Media:

Play Show button Download show now button Subscribe to FrequencyCast in iTunes


Got a question on archiving your recordings and photos that we can answer in our next podcast?
Call 020 8133 4567 or send us a message


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