How Do I Transfer Camcorder Tapes to Computer?

Updated February 21, 2017

Camcorder tapes can quickly fill a storage space if there's an enthusiastic videographer around the house. Transferring tapes onto a computer makes it possible to edit videos, store footage in a digital format on the hard drive and export to a long-lasting DVD if desired. The camcorder connects to a digital conversion box with standard audio-video cables, and the box attaches to the computer with a USB (universal serial bus) cable. Video recording software must be installed on the PC or laptop to capture the videotape for storage.

Plug the AV cables into the camcorder's output jacks, usually located along the edge or back of the camera. Composite cables will have yellow, white and red plugs for video and left and right audio, respectively. If the camera has a FireWire jack (also known as iLink or IEEE 1394), connect the FireWire cable to the port on the camcorder and directly to the FireWire port on a computer, then skip to section 2.

Connect the yellow, white and red plugs on the other end of the cables to the digital conversion box, matching the colours on the plugs to the three jacks.

Attach the USB cable to the port on the conversion box and plug the other end into any USB port on the computer.

Open the video recording software on the computer by double-clicking the program name. Recording software that works with analogue camcorders typically comes with the conversion box. Camcorders that use digital tape will need digital recording software. Many software programs are available. Examples include CamStudio, Dawk Ark for Mac, Debut, HyperCam, Video Get and Windows Movie Maker.

Turn on the camcorder and the computer, then load a tape in the camcorder, rewinding if necessary.

Toggle the switch on the camcorder to playback from the camera recording mode. The switch is usually located with other controls on the camcorder, either along the side or the top edge.

Press "Play" on the camcorder and click the "Record" button on the computer's video software.

Click "Stop" on the software when finished, and then select "File" and choose "Save As" to select the MPEG format, which is a suitable digital format for editing and burning to a media disc such as DVD. Type a name for the recording and click "Save" to store it on the computer's hard drive.


Unplug the camcorder from the electricity and shut down the computer while connecting the equipment.

Things You'll Need

  • AV cables
  • Digital conversion box (available at electronics stores)
  • USB cable
  • Computer with video recording software
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About the Author

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.