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Digitizing Your Old Vinyl, Photos

One product proves to some degree a hit; the other, a miss

Still, the turntable itself is inexpensive and works reasonably well: What we need is some alternative software. If you're not intimidated by relatively complex programs, you can download Audacity, a popular and free recording application that's loaded with features (including filters to clean up audio imperfections). You'll find downloads for both Windows and Mac versions here, and an extensive tutorial on using Audacity to transfer vinyl to MP3 here.

For less technically inclined users, there are step-by-step software programs to lead you through both the recording and the cleanup process. Golden Records ($49.95, downloadable here) and Spin It Again ($34.95, downloadable here) automate the noise elimination process nicely, and they both offer a free trial so you can figure out if either one suits your needs.

With the other ION Audio product we tested, the Pics 2 PC picture, slide and film scanner, it's harder to work around the flaws. For $129.99, you get a compact device that can scan prints up to 5x7 inches, along with 35mm negatives and slides. You insert your original into the appropriate plastic frame, feed it into a slot, move two switches and scan your image using the provided software. Unfortunately, the construction of the Pics 2 PC device feels cheap and imprecise, and the illumination is uneven. You need pinpoint accuracy to turn a small piece of film into a full-size image, even if it's only for viewing on your computer, and it's just not there.

You're better off with a flatbed scanner sold for around $100 from Canon, HP or Epson. A flatbed scanner works much like a copy machine — you place your original on a glass plate, close the top and scan the image. Flatbeds can scan not only larger prints (up to 8x10 and sometimes even larger) but also documents into your computer for e-mailing or storage. And several include slide- and film-scanning options that work surprisingly well, particularly if your goal is resurrecting old family photos and displaying them on Facebook for friends and family.

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