YouTubers upload hundreds of hours of videos every minute. But what if I want to download it? In some circles, this is considered a huge taboo, but you have your reasons, right? That’s how it’s done.
There are billions of hours of videos on YouTube. Literally. And that’s hardly the most amazing statistic from the site, which has been the benchmark for uploading and watching videos on the web since 2005. However, sometimes you want or need to have one of these videos on your computer or phone. But when it comes to downloading YouTube videos, there is a second question that needs to be answered: is it legal?
As far as copyright goes, if you download a video for your offline personal use, it’s probably fine. It’s rather black and white when you look at Google’s Terms of Service for YouTube(Opens in a new window), which states: “You are not authorized to… access, reproduce any part of the service or content, download, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, modify, or otherwise exploit, except (a) as expressly authorized by the Service; or (b) with the prior written permission of YouTube and, if applicable, the respective copyright holder.”
Table of Contents
How to download videos from YouTube
In order to watch YouTube videos offline through unofficial channels, Google and the video creators have to pay money. There’s a reason YouTube publishes ads: people do it for a living.
Stealing videos from YouTube is of course an absolute taboo. Sharing a video is easy on YouTube and most other video sites, from embedding to emailing to sharing on social media. Most of the time, there is simply no need to download a video.
But you have your reasons. If you need to download a YouTube video (absolutely necessary, just for yourself, and not for broadcast, and not to be a total jerk), here’s how.
NOTE: This article will be updated frequently as the tools used change regularly. Some of these changes aren’t always pleasant, because the software that includes so many “extras” gets flagged as malware by antivirus programs. The same goes for support websites: even changing a website’s ad network can lead to problems with malware.
To prevent this from becoming a list of programs and websites that can download YouTube videos, we made some rules for inclusion. The services must:
- It works with the three main video sites: YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo.
- Download entire playlists or channels in one batch (on YouTube), at least with a paid version.
- Output to MP3 for audio (or offer complementary software that can).
- Have an interface that isn’t annoying.
- Your personal data will not be collected beyond your e-mail address.
- No malware included. If there’s even a whiff of it in the air, even a CUD, it’s out.
The programs, services, and websites in this article are all spam/virus/issue free as of the writing of this article but are warned. Great. Especially if you’re not actually deflating.
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YouTube premium downloads
Subscribers to YouTube Premium, the paid version of YouTube that allows for ad-free TV, can now download videos. How. There is one caveat when it comes to quality: all the videos you download are limited to a maximum quality of 1080p or less. No 4K.
The biggest problem is that this feature doesn’t actually download a video to save on your computer forever. It’s more akin to the download feature of the Netflix and Hulu mobile apps, which provides a streaming video for later viewing via local storage and only displays it through the app’s interface. This is not a method that you can use, for example, to watch a video using other software such as VLC Media Player.
Access the download by going to the YouTube hamburger menu and selecting “Download” (opens in a new window) to view the list of content you have purchased. The page states: “Downloads will remain available as long as your device has an active internet connection at least once every 30 days”. This is probably not exactly what you’re looking for in a download; read on to learn which tools do this.
Third-party software gives you the best control over online video downloads. Usually, you paste the URL of the YouTube video you want into the program and download the highest-quality version it can find. 1080p high definition (HD) video is typically an MP4 file. For higher quality, 4K or 8K, the file format is usually MKV.
In the past, YouTube videos were Flash-based; H. the download was an FLV file, but these tend to be more difficult to play. MP4 (short for MPEG-4 Part 14(Opens in a new window) multimedia format) plays everywhere.
Note that the MKV file, also called Matroska, is a container: the file can contain videos with any number of codecs. The foolproof way to play them all is to use VLC Media Player for Windows, which will play them all. (Read more about that below.) As for downloaders, here are the best options.
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VLC media player
For free; Windows, macOS, Linux
We mention VLC Media Player(Opens in a new window) above because it’s a fantastic tool for Windows, Mac, and Linux users that play virtually any media ever created. Also, YouTube videos can be downloaded, albeit in a cumbersome way. (If you have problems, try a full reinstall of VLC and clear the cache to get it working).
Copy a URL from a YouTube video, then open VLC. From the Media menu, choose Open Network Stream (Ctrl+N) and paste the URL. Click Play. While playing the video, go to Tools > Codec Info. Below is a field labeled “Source”: Copy the URL you find in this field.
Go back to your browser and paste the URL (it’s a temporary web address that will eventually expire) into the address bar and start playing the video. If you are viewing the video in Chrome or Edge browsers, click the three dots menu in the lower right corner to select the download option and save the video locally. In other browsers, e.g. B. Firefox, right-click on the video and select save the video.
It seems that even if the original YouTube stream was available in 1440p or 2160p (i.e. 4K), VLC only saves your file in 1080p and not higher. Also, videos will not be converted to other formats. To get these options you need the desktop software below.
Download the 4K video
Free or $10 for one-year usage; $15 for a three-computer lifetime license; Windows, macOS, Ubuntu Linux, Android
Multilingual 4K Video Downloader(Opens in a new window) (4KVD) is frequently updated and has clear download links on the program’s website; there is no advertising trap here. The software does what it says on the tin with a simple interface. It records videos in up to 8K quality and downloads them in many formats. Just copy a YouTube URL and click the Paste Link button to get started.
4KVD even captures subtitles, entire playlists, and all videos in a subscribed channel. The supported sites are limited to the big names like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and a few others, but that covers most of what you need. A large promotional banner will pop up to keep the free version alive, which is also limited to 30 downloads per day.
I had to switch from MP4 to MKV format to download my 4K test video. 4KVD received a file of 3 minutes and 229.7 MB for a movie trailer in about 1 minute and 20 seconds. I did the same when downloading an Ultra High Definition (8K) playlist (opens in a new window).
If you enable Smart Mode and its presets, 4KVD can download in your preferred format with one click. If you want to download more than 30 videos per day or subscribe to YouTube channels to instantly download the latest video, the paid version is required. Playback of the resulting MKV files via the VLC media player was flawless.
The program itself has the option to extract the audio in MP3 format, so you don’t even need the 4K YouTube to MP3(Opens in a new window) software. But if you like it, it’s the same price as 4KVD.
$25.95 for 1 year/3 PCs; $39.95 lifetime for 1 PC; $57.95 family for 3-5 PCs; Windows, macOS
Digiarty’s powerful VideoProc comes in an editor edition and this converter(Opens in a new window) also offers editing and effects and of course, handles many downloads and supports 4K from over 1,000 websites including TikTok. With hardware acceleration(Opens in a new window) it promises some speed. Fortunately, discounts are often granted; in fact, the price for the one-year license has dropped significantly and is currently(Opens in a new window) only $25.95.
To use it, let the software detect your hardware to see what it helps (if anything) with speedup. Click the Downloader button, click Add Video to enter all the URLs you want to group, and click Download Now. Or take an entire YouTube playlist or live stream.
It captured our 697MB 4K test video (opens in a new window) in WEBM format in about 2 minutes and 15 seconds, which isn’t bad. VideoProc Converter’s trial version, which limits conversions to 5 minutes, doesn’t seem to limit downloads.
Like some others, FlixGrab(Opens in a new window) offers several programs, many of which overlap in their functionality. For example, there is FlixGrabMS in Microsoft Store(Opens in a new window) for Windows 10 and 11 computers, but it doesn’t allow me to capture videos from YouTube. Direct download of the FlixGrab program from flixgrabapp.com worked with YouTube and many other sites. There’s also a free YouTube downloader (opens in a new window) specifically for YouTube, but it uses the same easy-to-use interface.
The biggest change since our last update is that the one-update subscription prices have disappeared. The site now has a page for donations that says “Right now our apps are completely free”. But if you can donate a small amount via PayPal or credit card, the developers will be grateful.
5KPlayer Free (opens in a new window) is much more than a downloader, it has an amazing built-in downloader. The promise of no viruses, ads or plugins is a good start. Unfortunately, it’s one of the few tested programs that requires you to register your name and email address: you must do so to get full download functionality on over 300 websites (opens in a new window). However, you can still record 4K videos from YouTube without registering.
While downloading, the program tries to hide some things. Paste the URL of a YouTube video and the analytics engine will launch, showing just a few download options. Click the gear icon, then click the See All button and scroll to see more, e.g. B. a 4K 3840 x 2160 file in WebM format. Downloading the 227 MB WebM test took an unbearable 6.5 minutes. It was possible to collect playlists, but it is necessary to adjust the download settings for each video individually. The confusing interface made it difficult to go back to the other videos in the playlist.
5K Player also offers DLNA server playback, so recorded videos can be played back on any DLNA-supporting device. It also supports AirPlay for fast playback on Apple devices. Select a video from the library for quick conversion to MP4, MP3, or even ACC (iOS’ preferred audio format). However, the player didn’t like playing the oversized 4K file and had issues with buffering (VLC had no issues with the same file).
All in all, there’s a lot to like about the 5K Player, from price to functionality, especially when viewed as an add-on to a downloader. But the poor interface, slow download speeds, and playback issues might make you look elsewhere.
Support websites (beware of any 🚩)
Want to avoid installing software? Sites that support video downloading should do the work for you. They all do the same thing: you give them a YouTube URL (or another video site if supported), they parse it, give you the option to choose the download size you want, and provide a link to that download. They work on any platform, sometimes even on mobile devices. You don’t need to install anything on your PC. Depending on the size and quality of the video you want, this can take a lot longer, but you can’t beat the convenience.
The problem is that you can’t always trust them. There are hundreds of such websites: it seems that everyone with a minimum of programming knowledge has created such a website. Such websites can easily go from useful to suspicious, especially when they become popular and the owner sells themselves to make money from your visits.
Since this article was first published, all of the support websites that we recommend have been removed because e.g. B. inserted sexually explicit ads, stopped working, switched to a download-only utility, and one voluntarily ceased operations to avoid a lawsuit.
For this reason, we currently do not recommend any support sites. Try one if you find it, but if your browser, antivirus, or gut instinct gives you a warning, avoid it and move on.
A browser extension can save you a step. However, you will encounter some problems while downloading videos from YouTube, especially if you are using Chrome as your main browser.
The Chrome Web Store (opens in a new window), where you can find Chrome browser extensions, is controlled by YouTube’s owner: Alphabet/Google. Even an extension that claims to be for this purpose doesn’t allow direct downloads from YouTube due to restrictions in the Chrome Store.
In general, you cannot download RTMP videos (protected videos) or stream videos with Chrome extensions. Of course, you can also use them on other websites with videos. Just not YouTube.
Would you like to bypass it? Get an extension that isn’t from the Google Web Store. Some programs and support sites offer an extension component and explain how to install it (opens in a new window) without resorting to the usual Chrome Web Store help. Here are a few of them.
Download videos from YouTube
For free; Brave, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge, Safari, Vivaldi
YouTube Video Downloader by Addoncrop(Opens in a new window) is available on multiple browsers but with excellent side-loading abilities(Opens in a new window) with user scripts or third-party extensions like Foxified(Opens in a new window)( which allows Chrome/Edge to use Firefox extensions). A button is placed under each video you play on YouTube, or even an embedded YouTube video, making it easy to find. The supported video quality is up to 8K. You can also convert the audio of the video to an MP3 file. You can also use it to take video screenshots.
Support for video downloads
For free; Firefox, Chrome, Edge
Video DownloadHelper(Opens in a new window) supports a large number of websites, even adult sites. You will know that a video is available for download because the extension icon will animate when you are on the webpage. The Video DownloadHelper for Chrome no longer works with YouTube, so it may receive placement in the Chrome Web Store. Fix the problem by using the Video DownloadHelper extension for Firefox or Edge.
Apps for downloading videos for mobile devices
Downloading YouTube with an Android app from the Google Play Store is a challenge, as Google itself controls the site (although it never seems to check for malware) and also offers the aforementioned paid YouTube Premium service to enable Support offline viewing.
However, on Android, it is possible to install apps without going through Google. For example, InsTube – Free Video and Music Downloader (opens in a new window) for Android can only be found on the InsTube website. Download the APK (Android application package) file to put it on an Android device. Locate it in your device’s downloads and click to install (Opens in a new window). (You may need to go into security settings and turn on “Unknown sources”).
With iPhones and iPads, one would think there would be no such limitations, as Apple and Google aren’t exactly best friends (or maybe they are(Opens in a new window). However, for the iOS apps I’ve tried, not only do they not download from YouTube, but they generally don’t stay around for long. The description of one of these apps states: “Downloading from YouTube is prohibited due to the terms of service. Apple makes sure that the app makers comply with the rules, including those of Google.
Once you find an iOS app that can download YouTube videos, chances are it will be “fixed” or banned. The only real option is to jailbreak your iPhone and use sideloaded apps that will download what you want.
There are other solutions too. One of them is the YouTube Premium subscription. With it, you can download videos to your iPhone or iPad and watch them later, just like Netflix and Hulu. However, this does not give you the option to edit a clip.
Another option is to use a free iOS file management app like Documents by Readdle (opens in a new window). Use the Safari browser to view a YouTube video and use the Share option to find Copy Link. Then return to Documents and use the app’s built-in browser to navigate to a website that supports downloading videos (you know, the kind we don’t recommend).
Paste the link into the form (hold your finger over it until the Paste menu appears). The website will show you the download links and you can save the file to Documents. Hold and drag the file up until you return to the main screen, then drag it to the Photos folder. The first time you need to authorize documents to access photos. You can then access the video in the Photos app like any other video recorded on your phone or tablet.
Another alternative: Go back to the desktop and try AnyTrans(Opens in a new window) ($39.99 for a single computer for 1 year, Windows or macOS; $ 59.99-lifetime plan), a desktop file manager for iOS devices that has a built-in downloader that supports 900 websites including YouTube and Facebook. It transfers videos to iPhone via a USB cable. Even if you don’t pay for AnyTrans, the download option remains and it’s free forever.
Do you want a really unique way to download a video? YT Scribe(Opens in a new window) allows you to take the transcript with you to read. The text is automatically transcribed, punctuated, and divided into paragraphs. Of course, the better the subtitles, the better the “article”. And above all: it is completely free.