Four Ways That VHS Tapes Degrade Over Time

For all its merits, there are many things we won’t miss about VHS. One of those is that VHS tapes are not permanent — they degrade over time. This is one factor leading people to move from VHS to DVD. In fact, some estimates say you might experience significant picture degradation within 10-25 years. Here’s how it happens.

vhs tape

Loss of Charge

All types of VHS tapes use magnetic charge to store the video and audio data on the tape. The problem is, magnetic charges weaken over time. How this will affect your picture quality depends on the chemistry used by each brand of tape. However, in general, you’ll see a loss of detail and duller colours. This can be really important if you have precious memories on your tapes. DVDs do not degrade in this way and last much longer.


Because VHS tapes use magnetisation to store information, they are vulnerable when placed near a magnet. You might remember the advice not to keep tapes near speakers, or maybe you remember the scene in Fight Club where the guys go to Blockbuster with hand-held electromagnets, destroying all the stock. Many people decide on a VHS to DVD transfer because DVDs are not affected by magnets at all.


The tape in a VHS video has several layers. The “Binder” layer is where the data is stored, and it’s the part that touches the “heads” on the VCR. In even moderately humid environments, the binder can absorb moisture, making it sticky. This can damage the tape or even destroy it completely, as well as potentially damaging the VCR heads.

Generation Loss

For all its merits, VHS was not a very accurate copying method. Have you ever taken something you recorded on one tape, and copied it across to another tape? If so, you would have experienced “generation loss.” The more times a piece of video is copied, the lower the quality becomes. DVDs, on the other hand, copy data faithfully.

Do you have any old memories, nostalgic recordings, or classic movies on VHS? Don’t risk losing your videos — transfer them to DVD, a more stable and longer-lasting storage medium. It’s easy to convert video to DVD – at Video2DVD Transfers, we’re experts in the process and we do all the hard work for you – it’s easy!

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