How To Convert Old Tapes Into Digital Files With No Expensive Hardware Needed!

Posted on June 14, 2009


Audio tapes. Chances are that if you were alive in the 70’s and 80’s then you have tons of these lying around. But now it’s the digital age and you don’t want to carry around a bulky walkman to listen to your favorite tunes. You want to digitize your tapes but you don’t have enough cash to buy a big fancy converter machine. What are you going to do? Well, just follow these steps and you’ll have all your tapes converted in no time… for under $30!

What you will need:

  1. Any tape player with a headphone jack.
  2. A male-male 3.5mm stereo speaker extension cable ($5 at your local tech store)
  3. Audacity (A free yet powerful audio editing program. Download it here)
  4. Some spare time

What to do:

First of all, you want to pop the tape that you want to digitize into the tape player. Then get a male-male 3.5mm stereo speaker extension cable and plug one end into the headphone jack of the tape player, and the other end into the microphone jack of your computer. Don’t know what a male-male 3.5mm stereo speaker extension is? See the picture below.


Now that you have everything plugged in, just fire up Audacity and select the proper input device from the dropdown box. It’s usually “Microphone”, but you might need to experiment a bit to find out which one it is.

audacity dropdown screenshot

Now, press “record” in Audacity and “Play” on your tape player. Now you should see lot’s of blue lines appearing in Audacity, showing the volume levels of the input sound. If you see that, then it’s working! If not, you might need to tweak your input device selection in the dropdown menu I mentioned earlier.

Now, when the song is done, just press “Stop” in Audacity and save the file! Done!

Posted in: Cool Apps, How To, Tips