VHS tapes may contain classic television or our most treasured memories captured on film. However, they are a fragile and fussy technology, and solid advice or professional help on how to care for and fix them is increasingly rare. Here are some pointers on how to salvage VHS videos that have been damaged.
The technique used to salvage the tape depends on how it was damaged. One of the most common ways a VHS video can be damaged is by large amounts of tape protruding from the top of the cassette, often because a faulty VCR twisted it outwards during play or because a child yanked it out. To fix this, the tape must be wound back into the cassette by rotating the white wheels on the middle-back of the cassette. However, there are a few things to look out for during this process. First, make sure no grease from the inside of the VCR got onto the exposed tape. A greasy tape will smear all over the machinery inside the VCR when it is played, and this could prevent any video from playing and necessitate professional service on the VCR. Also, make sure the tape is not overly wrinkled and that it does not twist on itself on the way back into the cassette casing. If a piece of tape is too wrinkled or torn, you ll have to cut the damaged area off and splice the rest of the tape back together.
Another peril VHS videos encounter is water damage, often because they were stored near the floor that became damp or in a basement that eventually flooded. While severe water damage may be irreversible, there are some things you can do to try to save your VHS video. First, take apart the cassette. Spread the tape out to let it air-dry. Make sure it is in a safe and dry place, far away from curious pets or places where people might bump into it, step on it, or any number of other things that could easily damage the fragile tape. You might want to gently weigh the ends of the tape with a book or paperweight to prevent the tape from blowing away. Next, get a new cassette and remove the tape from it. This cassette will serve as a temporary new container for your old tape. Make sure the tape is completely dry, then wind it into the empty cassette using the white wheels.
Unfortunately, the job is not over yet; this new cassette tape is too fragile and would never survive mechanical rewinding and fast-forwarding without turning into a crumpled, twisted mess. To truly save the footage, the temporary tape must be copied onto another new tape immediately. Rewind the temporary tape to the beginning by hand, then play and copy it onto the real new tape. Again, do not fast-forward or rewind the temporary tape mechanically at all costs. Only once the tape is copied can you rest assured that the footage is safe again.