Many of us have collections of vinyl tucked away in the loft - records we never listen to because we've packed away our old turntable and replaced it with a CD player or iPod. Here, we'll show you how to use your PC to bring them back to life.

Many modern PCs have sound cards that are capable of recording music from an external music system. All you need is a suitable cable to connect your record player to the audio input on your PC and some free software with which to make the recording.

But things aren't always so straightforward. The recordings may be damaged, with records scratched and tapes producing an annoying hissing sound. Paying for specialised recording software can be worthwhile in such cases, as they will help you clean up the tracks.

Once you've converted your old records and tapes into a digital format, you can burn them to CD or add them to your Windows Media Player or iTunes library.

There's a major market for gadgetry devoted to reclaiming your old music collection. ION is probably the best-known manufacturer of such products. As well as the basic USB turntable shown above right, it offers versions that have built-in iPod docks and that can record directly to an SD Card.

But the concept of recording from an external device isn't limited to plugging in your old record player or a modern-day USB-compatible one. The sound card and headphone jack on your PC can be used to record external sound sources of many types.

There are digital instruments designed for this specific purpose, emulators such as the Yamaha Tenori-on and the Korg Kaossilator, and plug-ins for an iPod should you want to make and record digital music on the go.

So while you may not have a yen for reviving old music, there's plenty of potential for using your PC to create some that's new.

Digitise vinyl records

Step 1. Download the 30-day trial of Magix Audio Cleaning Lab from If you buy the full version, you'll also get a copy of Magix's Music Editor for performing more detailed editing. But we'll concentrate on the Audio Cleaning Lab here. Install and launch the software.

Digitise vinyl Step 1

Step 2. The interface is fairly straightforward. The top half displays a timeline for the audio file you're working with; the bottom half offers tools for cleaning up your recordings. Here, you can choose to import an existing audio file, record music from vinyl or tape or copy files from an audio CD.

Digitise vinyl Step 2