Consumer Reports: How to digitize your old pictures and video

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Plenty of people chronicle their lives in pictures and videos. But changing times have also led to changing formats. Film? Forget it. VHS tapes? Who even owns a VCR anymore?!

If you've got a stockpile of meaningful memories that are, literally, unwatchable, Consumer Reports can help. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney offers advice on what we need to know about digitizing our lives.

Family memories are priceless. Until you go to convert them to digital, then you will see how pricey they can actually be. "The technology keeps evolving and it's left a lot of people with home videos they can't even watch," said Elias Arias of Consumer Reports.

Experts at Consumer Reports have some guidance on getting your old media out of the attic and onto your computer -- including how to do it yourself.

If you've got VHS tapes, first you'll need a VCR. Remember what that is? Sites like eBay and Craigslist may have low-priced options.

You also need to pick-up something called an analog video capture device. Look for one which comes with software.

It has audio and video inputs on one end, that you connect to the VCR -- and a USB on the other end, which plugs into your computer. It allows you to capture what's on your old tapes and digitally transfer it to your computer. "The biggest investment is probably time. It's an analog process, and an hour of video is going to take an hour to transfer," said Arias.

More work than you bargained for? You can also pay a service.

Several chains transfer old photographs, videos in many formats, and even film -- including Costco, Walgreens and Walmart Photo. Plenty more have cropped up online.

Besides the expense, the only other potential drawback is that you'll be sending irreplaceable memories through a shipping service. So make sure your package is trackable.

Now imagine that somewhere down the line, even today's digital format may also become obsolete.

So Consumer Reports suggests saving your files in well-labeled, easy-to-find places on your computer. And backing them up to an external hard drive and to the Cloud.

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Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Written and produced by Justin Mendoza
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