[Off-Topic] How to restore old magnetic tapes?


Hi to all,

Sorry for the off-topic, but I cannot find an old thread talking about restoring old magnetic tapes. I have several cassete tapes, and some of them with more tham 30 years! They are "decomposing" the magnetic material off the substrate, and several are showing mildew.

Any help will be great!

Best regards,


(12345 to delete)


Hi Nelson,

Not sure if there's anyway to "restore" them. Just last year we discovered all the 3" reel-to-reel tapes that we had sent and received to my brother in Vietnam - late 60's. They had been submerged in water when my sister's basement had flooded. They were showing some rust effect and were sticking together somewhat. I soaked the stuck together ones in distilled water and carefully separated them and dried them with lint free cloth.

I then took a gamble and decided to see if they would play at least one time - fed them to the computer and was surprised at the quality that was obtained. almost all of them were playable to some degree. Then cut CD's for the family.

You may want to just try playing them one time and digitizing whatever you get.

In addition to my brother's tapes, I've also spent last couple of years digitizing the several thousand tapes my Mom recorded. They date from early 50's through the 80's - all sizes - from 7" to 5" to 3" to 2" reel-to-reel to cassettes (hundred's and hundreds of cassettes!). Still working on the project. The 3" reel to reel are the most interesting, since they were recorded mostly on rim-driven recorders which take a lot of adustment to the speed to make them sound right.

Please email at bjunkNOT@vpes.com. (remove the NOT) if you wish to discuss further offline from the list.

Good luck with your project.

12345 to delete


Hi, Bill

I actually found againd some articles on how to restore the old tapes.

Here are some links:





I need only to play them once to copy their content, there is no need to *preserve* them.

I'll try to 'bake' them and clean the mildew with some neutral cleaner.

Thanks for the tips!

Best regards,



Very hard topic, people spend their life on preserving old records, including on magnetic tapes. When they are very damaged, they are usually after treatment played one last time and digitised. How to keep the digitised version is an other problem.
This can affect quite recent recordings. I have heard rumors that the master tape for REM Out of Time was "played one last time recently".



Once you've stored the results of the final read-out, you may still be in trouble! Here is part of a scary e-mail I received a few weeks ago:

>All the info we have on unusual CDR failures and what you can do about them, appears in the new article live now at

The gist of the article is that various commercial do-it-yourself labelling systems for CDs can wreck your valuable data!



That's a very interesting article. Thanks for posting it. It's similiar to an article I read many years ago. It was stated that over 75% of backup systems (mainly tape systems) would not restore what the user thought they would. Most users would set up a backup program and then never verify that it actually would restore their systems. No restore tests would ever be done. In many cases, since the backup ran overnight, it would abort, not write anything to the tape, and since the users were not checking the log files, they would assume that all was well. The end result was a series of totally blank backup tapes.

When I used to manage the computers at work, I would always perform a "crash" test after a few weeks of use. I would make the system do a hard crash and then try to perform a full restore to verify that the backup system was working. Then I could feel confortable that I could at least get the system restored and would also know all the little quirks that would be required.

12345 to delete

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