How do I convert VHS to DVDs or digital files using my laptop?
December 4, 2007 3:22 PM   Subscribe

How do I convert VHS to DVDs or digital files using my laptop?

I have a Dell Inspiron 9200 laptop with a DVD burner built in. My goal over the next few weeks was to take our library of family VHS videos and convert them to DVDs. After searching online (including this askme thread), I settled on the the ADS Tech DVD Xpress DX2. It seemed like just what I was looking for: I could either copy the tapes directly to a recordable DVD or grab the video off the VHS and edit them as I wish on my computer. I ordered the item, installed the programs that come with the device...and my usb port gave a power surge failure and my computer would not recognize it.

That failure led me back online and I briefly considered the WinTV-PVR-150 before I realized that this device is made for PCs. I now worry that I will be unable to convert these tapes using a laptop.

Is there any way I can do this using a laptop? Will the usb power surge failure only occur with devices that do not have an independent power supply (the DVD Xpress did not have its own power supply)? Do any such devices exist? I would rather not spend $20/tape sending these away to a professional. I'm hoping any solution costs ~$100, but I'm willing to listen to any feasible option using a laptop (I have no access to a pc short of purchasing one).

Thanks in advance for any help, friend(s)!
posted by dorisfromregopark to Technology (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Something is wrong here, I'm unaware of a "USB Power Surge" but this DVD Xpress DX2 device should work fine.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:26 PM on December 4, 2007

oh if you bought it call them for support.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:27 PM on December 4, 2007

Response by poster: The Power Surge on Hub Port error message states A USB device has exceeded the power limits of its hub port. For assisatance in solving this problem, click this message. Needless to say, clicking on the message does not solve the problem.

Other usb devices (ipod, for instance) work on my laptop, so I believe this error message is genuine and the DVD Xpress device draws more power than the hub can provide.
posted by dorisfromregopark at 3:39 PM on December 4, 2007

By "power surge failure" do you mean the device isn't getting enough power through the laptop's USB bus? If so, I expect all you need is a powered USB hub (the kind that plugs into a wall outlet as well as the laptop).
posted by ook at 3:46 PM on December 4, 2007

I've been trying occasionally for years to do this particular task, and the quality of the recorded files have always been utter crap. You may be best off getting a VCR with DVD recording function, and ripping the DVD to a movie file. (This is the next thing on my list to attempt, I'm just waiting to get a suitably cheap and good device.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:58 PM on December 4, 2007

Try plugging it right into the laptop?
posted by bitdamaged at 4:19 PM on December 4, 2007

I have a Dell Inspiron 9200 laptop...

...before I realized that this device is made for PCs.

You have a PC. The fact that it is a laptop is irrelevant to the USB architecture. The incompatibility you stumbled upon should not have occured, however it did and probably nothing short of a firmware update from Dell could solve the issue. The WinTV PVR should work fine, but the suggestion of using a powered USB hub is a good one and worth a try if you have already unplugged all other USB devices and attempted to use every port on the laptop.
posted by dendrite at 5:12 PM on December 4, 2007

either plug it in to the laptop itself (you didn't specify if you were using a hub or not) or get a powered USB hub (~$25) and just have that deal plugged into it. having a powered USB hub around isn't a bad thing to have around anyway. here's one.

you were on the right track with the PVR-150 - that's a PCI card that, as you noted, won't work in your laptop, but Hauppauge makes several other USB-based devices that would probably work for you. i'd recommend cranking up the settings on whatever program you use that does the capture - VHS tends to lose quality the more you use it, and if the compression settings are set wrong you'll end up with a horrible end product.
posted by mrg at 5:48 PM on December 4, 2007

If you have access to a digital camcorder, it's fairly easy. Most digital camcorders have RCA input or at least 1/8 inch, the cables can be found anywhere. To run the digital camcorder into your laptop you will need firewire, but those cards are also pretty cheap. I used iMovie + iDVD to transfer to DVD but I don't know what PC based editing software you'd use, probably whatever the camcorder came packaged with.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:05 PM on December 4, 2007

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