This invention is a beginning-of-tape/end-of-tape detection apparatus and method for use in a tape drive system having supply reel, take-up reel, and capstan motion sensors. The invention comprises monitoring means for monitoring each of the angular position signals and processor means for computing beginning-of-tape and end-of-tape utilizing the varying diameters of the supply reel and its tape pack and the take-up reel and its tape pack, and angular velocities of the reels and capstan. This invention provides a plurality of systems and methods for BOT/EOT detection with selectable tolerance levels. These include coarser detection without capstan engagement of tape (for use in high-speed spacing operations), finer detection utilizing capstan engagement, and absolute BOT/EOT detection utilizing the physical ends of the tape. This invention has the advantage of accurately determining beginning and end of tape without requiring special detectors.