[This extract is taken from the September 2010 issue of PC Authority magazine.]
Hardware you may already have
One way to transfer VHS video to the computer is by using a digital camcorder as an intermediary. However, this is only possible with camcorders offering analogue input, which are becoming increasingly rare.
If you do happen to own a digital camcorder with analogue input, you can simply feed the video and audio signal to it from your analogue source, attach the camcorder to your PC via FireWire and fire up a capture utility (which we'll cover later).
Another option you may already have at your disposal is a VIVO (video in, video out) graphics card. If your card came with cabling for analogue video input, you'll be able to use it to bring video into your PC. The pitfall is that a VIVO card may not support capturing the full 720 x 576 resolution of DVD Video. We wouldn't recommend swapping your graphics purely to obtain the feature.
But if you do have a VIVO card already, it's worth testing it out to see if it can achieve the quality level you want and captures reliably. Alternatively, your PC may have a TV tuner pre-installed, and some of these (particularly the analogue ones) have video inputs alongside the connections for an aerial.
If none of these options are available, you'll need to get hold of specific hardware for the purpose. There are rafts of internal and external capture devices on the market, ranging in price from under $100 to over $2000. One of the cheaper options currently available is KWorld's DVD Maker USB 2 (you can find for around $30). It's an external device, which is handy if you don't fancy grubbing around inside your PC for a free expansion slot. However, the cabling simply routes audio to your sound card, so your PC will have to have a line-in connection, which precludes many laptops.
At a similar kind of price point you could opt for Pinnacle's Dazzle DVD Recorder (around $70). The Pinnacle doesn't require a sound card, as audio is routed through the USB connection as well.
Alternatively, if you fancy watching TV on your PC as well, a hybrid tuner can provide digital TV reception and analogue input, but make sure that the model you purchase (such as the DVICO Fusion HDTV) provides that functionality, as many models are simply tuners. However, both of these solutions will use your sound card for the audio side of things, and this could lead to timing issues on longer captures, as the clocks on the sound card and video-capture card can drift out of sync.
...Read the rest of this article in the September 2010 issue of PC Authority magazine.