The purpose of a VHS tape rewinder is to rewind video tapes. These machines were popular in video rental stores and were used for the rewinding of VHS videotapes that were not rewound by customers after viewing. This equipment is not a record or playback device but simply a machine to perform the rewinding of the tape. Some believe that these machines are essential in the preservation of videotape. However, this is not necessarily the case.
One of the key elements in the proper storage of videotapes and other types of magnetic tapes, either in cassette or reel form, is proper winding. If a tape is wound properly prior to going into long term storage, then the tape will not deform, wrinkle, buckle, or suffer other types of similar physical damage. If this type of damage occurs to tapes, then the tapes will be very difficult to play properly or may not play at all without restoration and may also damage the playback equipment. Therefore, it is essential to wind tapes properly prior to placing them in storage.
Many assume that a VHS tape rewinder is required to wind tape properly. However, in most cases this is not true. The best wind for a tape occurs when the play mode of the VCR is used. The play mode provides the best winding tension for storage and also produces a smooth tape pack without shifting and without strands of tape popping out of the tape pack. So it is best to play a tape completely to the end and leave it this way prior to placing the tape in storage.
A VHS tape rewinder usually winds tapes at high speeds and like the fast forward or rewind modes in a VCR, produces a poor quality tape wind at the wrong tension for storage. Videotape rewinders are generally cheap devices and likely will do more harm than good to tapes and therefore for the most part should be avoided. Some higher end models may be acceptable for rewinding tapes. These models have a speed similar to the play mode in a VCR and thus will produce better winds. In some type of equipment this speed is referred to as “library wind” speed.
Finally, if tapes are wound properly prior to going into storage, it is not necessary to rewind tapes every few years. In most situations, doing this will once again do more harm than good to the tapes.