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Home /Science / How Many Times Can You Reuse a VHS Tape?

How Many Times Can You Reuse a VHS Tape?

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By Dillon Wallace

Every 80s and 90s kid knows the pain of recording their favorite show on VHS, only to have it re-recorded over by their siblings in an endless tug of war for home theater tape dominance.

There’s nothing like getting ready to watch your recorded copy of The Goonies only to find out that it’s been replaced by Sabrina the Teenage Witch when you pop the VHS in the VCR...
 The delicate dance of recording your favorite shows onto a VHS tape and then re-recording over them because you were fresh out of blank tapes was a rite of passage – a careful balancing act. But just how many recording and reusable sessions could you really get out of a VHS tape back in the day? There had to be a limit of recordings, right? Right? Bueller?

 

Turns out, like most things in life, it’s more complex than just a set number. Here’s why.

 

In perfect theory…

The magnetic tape that makes up your VHS tape technically shouldn’t wear out in its ability to flip its magnetic charge. In other words, there is no set number of times you can record over the magnetic tape, so in a perfect world, the answer is infinity. But of course, we don’t live in a perfect world now do we?

 

In the real world...

There are complex differences in the tape’s and machine’s ability to fully erase the previous imprint to make room for the new recording – different tape and VCR brands ranging in quality, cost and performance. There’s also the issue of which VHS tape you’re looking to record over. A 120 minute VHS consists of thinner tape than it’s 60 or 90 minute counterparts because of its longer recording time. Because of that thinner tape, it’s going to be more prone to causing you issues down the line if you’re constantly recording and then re-recording over it.

 

There’s also the distinct difference between how many times you can overwrite your VHS tape versus how many times you can overwrite your VHS tape AND maintain decent audio and visual playback. As you can imagine, the latter is going to diminish much quicker than the former based on a variety of factors.

 

The law of averages

While it’s not an exact science to pinpoint the max number of times you can overwrite your VHS tape while maintaining audio and visual quality, there are some averages you can expect depending on how well your VCR has been maintained and the quality of tape (brand name) being used.

 

For most, you can expect to get anywhere from 6-10 reusable recordings on your VHS tape before you’ll begin to see a noticeable dip in audio and visual components. Which, if you really think about it, is a pretty decent amount of overwrites to pack into one cheap piece of magnetic tape wrapped in molded plastic.

 

Digitize before it’s too late

If you’ve got a collection of VHS tapes that are pushing that 8 re-record median, then you should think about digitizing them before all is lost. On top of the overwriting process that can degrade quality, other factors such as time, storage conditions and more can affect the overall playback and degradation of your old VHS tapes. So don’t lose out on those memorable moments, digitize today!

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