How to Transfer Cassette Tape to Computer

Audio cassettes opened up a world of portability unimaginable in the days when LPs ruled the roost. Now, however, cassette tapes have fallen by the wayside (or, in many cases, have been thrown to the wayside from moving vehicles), and, unlike LPs, they don’t look like making a comeback anytime soon. This poses a problem for those of us who would like to preserve important conversations or good songs that are currently stored on cassettes, not only because audio cassettes eventually deteriorate or get “eaten” by your tape player, but also because cassette players are becoming increasingly rare. Fortunately, you can easily transfer audio from cassettes to your computer, where it can be stored in formats such as WAV and MP3 or can be burned to CDs. In fact, $6 could get you everything you need.

  1. Get your supplies together. You have several options. See the “Supplies You'll Need” section below for a list of these.
  2. Rewind or fast-forward your cassette to the desired spot.
  3. Connect the red and white RCA plugs to the appropriate, color-coded output jacks (line-out) on your cassette player or stereo receiver. Or connect one end of a double-ended 3.5mm stereo cable into the headphone output of your tape player.
  4. Cable Converter
    Cable Converter
    Connect the other end of your chosen cable to the “line-in" of your computer sound card. The 3.5mm Stereo plug is just like the plug of an earphone that you use in your Walkman or iPod. Adaptors are also available which allow you to use your computer’s USB port. For more details on the options see the “Things You’ll Need” section.
  5. Turn on your computer and cassette player.
  6. MS Sound Recorder
    MS Sound Recorder
    Open the sound-recording software you want to use. You can use just about any sound recording software. Microsoft Sound Recorder, which is standard in Microsoft Windows, will work for brief snippets, but it can be quite tedious to adjust the amount of time it will record (the default is only 60 seconds; you have to prepare your file beforehand by hitting the Record button each time it reaches the end, until you get a file large enough to hold the audio you'll be recording; then hit Rewind before recording), and it may not serve you well if you need to do extensive editing. If you do want to use Sound Recorder follow these instructions: click “Start” - “Programs” - scroll to and click on “Accessories” – scroll to and click on “Entertainment” – select “Sound Recorder”. You could also use a free sound recording like Audacity ( If you use this sound recording software, you can touch up the audio (raise volume, clear some static areas) and even export to mp3.
  7. Click the record button in your sound recording software. (In Sound Recorder and many other programs, this is the button with the red dot.) Start recording before you hit “play” on your cassette player so you make sure you don’t miss anything at the beginning.
  8. Press “play” on your cassette deck. The computer will record the audio coming from your cassette player.
  9. Click the “stop” button (typically a black square) when you are finished. If you want to record for a long time (a whole cassette, for example), you don’t have to sit around and wait for the recording to finish. Your recorder will continue recording after the tape stops, and you can just cut the silent portion when you edit the recording. You do, however, want to make sure your recorder will record for long enough to capture all the audio you want. If it doesn’t, simply record each track one at a time.
  10. Save the audio file by clicking “File” – “Save”. A new window will open and you can give the file a name and choose a location on your hard drive to save to.
  11. Edit your recording. You may not need to do any editing, but if you want to cut out silences, erase some tracks, or change the volume, for example, most sound-recording programs will allow you to do so. When editing, it is a good idea to keep the original file as a backup and change the names of edited files when you save them in case you find you made a mistake. When you’re sure you like the edited file, you can delete the original to save memory space on your computer.
  12. Burn audio to CD if desired.

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