Q: I have many VHS and 8 mm camcorder tapes I want to convert to DVDs as holiday gifts. I would also like to edit them at some point. But for now I...

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Q: I have many VHS and 8 mm camcorder tapes I want to convert to DVDs as holiday gifts. I would also like to edit them at some point. But for now I just want to save them onto a DVD. How do I do this? I have a PC that runs on Vista.

Do you suggest doing this yourself versus using an outside service? I have been reading about the Sony DVDirect MC5 (VRDMC5) DVD Recorder and the ADS Tech DVD Xpress DX2 Video Converter. Any thoughts on these?

Laura Brosten

A: Seems like you’re aware of the two main options: buying a conversion device or sending your film to a service provider for conversion.

As you apparently already know, there are a number of products that allow you to convert analog videotapes to digital format so that they can be burned to DVDs. (I don’t make recommendations on specific products or service providers unless I’ve done a recent review of the product.)

And I’ve never had a bad experience with using service providers for conversions.

As for your more general question about doing conversions yourself rather than using an outside service, you should consider two thing: how many tapes you have to convert and how much you like to learn new equipment and software.

The Sony device you mention lists for about $200. Most services charge about $20 to convert a VHS tape to DVD. So, if you’ve got more than 10 tapes, you may want to think about the economics of buying the equipment.

If you’re a technophobe, of course, it may take quite a few more tapes to talk you into the deal.

Q: I’d like to downsize several images from different files in XP and e-mail them in one e-mail using Outlook. Do you know how I can do this?

So far I’ve found myself limited to downsizing either a single image or highlighting several images that happen to be filed next to one another in a single file.

Wendy Gelbart

A: You can select multiple files in a directory by holding down the Control key while you click on them. Then right-click on one of the files and select Send To. When you send it to a mail recipient, you’ll be offered the chance to send a smaller version of all the files.

Q: Even though I don’t use Outlook Express 6 for my e-mail editor (I have used the Outlook Newsreader), within the past month the following message keeps popping up: “To free up disk space, Outlook Express can compact messages. This may take up to a few minutes.”

If I try to cancel compacting, the message just pops up again and again. If I do compact the folders, the message will pop up in another 20 minutes or so.

I’ve looked at all available settings and cannot find an option to disable automatic compacting.

Forrest Nelson

A: That’s just Microsoft trying to take care of you. The idea is if you allow the program to go ahead and compact the messages — — saving space on your hard drive — it won’t bother you again for another 100 closings of the program.

Unfortunately, a number of programs have been reported to inadvertently change this number count, causing the message to trigger.

Some users have tried uninstalling Outlook Express and there is no effect on the message popping up.

Here’s one trick you could try if you feel comfortable editing the Windows registry. Go to the Windows directory and find the Regedit program. After loading it, search for “Compact Check Count.” When it finds the key, change the number value listed to zero.

I can’t vouch for this solution, but at least one user has reported that it solved the problem.

Another solution, of course, is to upgrade your version of Windows. Part of what is happening, I think, is that while application providers test their programs for compatibility with older versions of Windows, they don’t test them as thoroughly as they do for current versions of Windows.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.