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How Long Do Video Tapes Last?

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

If you have boxes of VHS, Video8, Mini DV or other format tapes, what is the life cycle for these? In the first series of this blog, we'll look at the expected life of the VHS tape format.

VHS Tape Life Span

In general, VHS tapes last from 10-25 years although that varies on how they were cared for and what quality tape was used. Tapes rarely played and stored in a climate-controlled environment can last quite a while longer than tapes played hundreds of times, kept in hot and humid locations, and exposed to air contaminants and dust.

The quality of VHS tapes also plays into the life span. Tapes manufactured in the 1970's and 1980's were thicker and of better quality compared to the thinner and cheaper tapes made in the 1990's. Also, the grade of tape tends to improve the lifespan. Tape grades ranged from Standard, HQ, Super HQ, Professional and Broadcast. If you purchased the least expensive brand you could find at Walmart back in 1985, the amount of oxide shedding on your tape will likely be higher than on a more expensive Super HQ brand.

Heat Related Issues

Tapes stored in a humid environment can suffer from sticky-shed syndrome where the binder, or glue, that holds the magnetic particles to the polyester base of the tape begins to deteriorate. Magnetic remanence decay refers to the weakening of the tape’s magnetization over time. This weakens the affected tape’s readability and can lead to a reduction in sound clarity and volume as well as picture color quality. And mold can grow inside the VHS tape due to humidity which can cause the tape wheels to lock up resulting in the inability to play the tape in a machine.

In our next blog, we'll look at some of the age-related issues that affect Video8 and Hi8 tape formats.


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