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Repairing VHS Tapes – Transplanting « Behind the Scenes

Repairing VHS Tapes – Transplanting

April 29th, 2009

Today I received a faulty VHS tape from a client. Ultimately it was to be digitized, but before that was even an option, I had to get the tape to play. After testing on a variety of players, it seemed clear that this was a problem with the physical cassette, not the data on the tape.

A routine transplant was in order.

Here’s how…


  • Original VHS cassette (patient)
  • New VHS cassette (donor)
  • Screwdriver (scalpel)

I use new VHS cassettes to insure that they are in good working order, but you could use any old tape for the donor so long as you know it will play and you are willing to sacrifice it in order to save your patient tape.

Now it’s time to scrub in.


Begin by removing the screws on the underside of both cassettes. There are five screws for each.


Flip the cassettes so they are right-side-up and remove the tops.


Remove the reels from the donor cassette.

Note that these three cylindrical posts (2 silver, one white) must be in place on the bottom half before continuing (sometimes they get stuck on the top half when it is removed, so look there if you can’t find them on the bottom half). Their locations are marked on the above image.


Place the left hand reel from the patient cassette in the left hand spot of the now empty donor cassette.

Thread the tape between the white and silver cylinders.

On the right hand side, thread the tape around the silver cylinder and between the silver tab and it’s peg counterpart. This last part can be a bit tricky, just pull the tab aside, slip in the tape, and release.

Place the right hand reel from the patient cassette in the right hand spot of the donor cassette.

Get rid of any slack in the tape by tightening the reels.


Place the top back on to the bottom half of the cassette. To do so, lift up the flap at the front and be sure the various pegs are aligned as you place it down. It helps to put the back in first then ease the front down.

Flip it over and replace the screws. The operation is complete, and (hopefully) a success. Pop the cassette in a player and give it a test run.

The reel from the donor and the shell from the patient tape can be discarded.


For a more entertaining (though perhaps less informative) video tutorial, check this out

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