This article describes the various methods that can be used transfer videos from a Mini DV tape to your computer. Most of the components described below can be bought for an affordable price on Ebay, Amazon or any local electronics convenience store.
You will need PC, laptop or a Mac equipped with a built-in Firewire or ilink input (IEEE1394 port). The content of your camcorder can be transferred using a video editing software such as Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Mac), in fact any of the commercial video editing software that can auto detect the camcorder can fill this role. If your PC is not equipped with a Firewire input, you can easily upgrade it using a PCI to IEEE 1394 card:
Laptops equipped with the Express Card slot (PCMCIA) can easily be upgraded using a Firewire IEEE1394 Express Card:
Using a USB video capture adapter
If you don't have any free PCI slots available on your PC or that your laptop doesn't have the Express Card slot, then you need to buy a USB video capture adapter. This piece of hardware allows you to convert analog audio/video to a digital format. On one side you have a classic S-video connector which ensure compatibility with most camcorder or VHS and the other side there's a USB Male Type A Connector, that plugs in directly into your PC:
The file is captured in the MPEG2 format which is easy to burn on CD/DVD, compatible with most video players and video editing softwares.
Capture content from a video recorder (VCR)
To capture the content from a video recorder, you need at most three components, namely SCART cable and adapter, that connects to your VCR:
A USB Video Capture Adapter that connects to your PC via USB. This device is usually shipped along with the necessary software or driver:
The white and red connectors carries the left and right audio respectively. The yellow socket is for composite video. The black socket is for S-video (better quality).
If your VCR doesn't have a SCART port then a Video/Audio Input to Scart converter will be required:
Using the Pinnacle Dazzle Video Capture Card
Ultimately you can use a Dazzle Video Capture Card to connect your video recorder or camera to your PC. This solution is sure expensive, but it may be worth as the capture card comes with a powerful video editing software and allows you to capture videos while ensuring a minimal loss in quality: