Watching YouTube videos offline can be incredibly convenient when you don’t have an internet connection. With the right tools and know-how, downloading YouTube videos for offline viewing is easy. This comprehensive tutorial will teach you multiple methods for saving YouTube videos to watch later without an internet connection.
Why Download YouTube Videos?
There are many reasons you may want to download YouTube videos rather than stream them directly on the site:
- Watch videos on the go: If you are traveling or commuting without WiFi or mobile data, downloading videos beforehand ensures you have entertainment offline.
- Avoid buffering: Downloaded videos never buffer or degrade in quality. This results in a smooth, uninterrupted viewing experience.
- Collect favorites: Build a permanent library of videos you want to watch again and again. Never worry about videos being removed or becoming unavailable.
- Save data: Streaming HD video consumes significant data. Downloading over WiFi prevents excessive mobile data usage.
- Improved privacy: Downloaded videos don’t share your viewing history and habits with YouTube.
- Better playback control: Play, pause, rewind or skip downloaded videos without relying on Internet connectivity.
Is Downloading YouTube Videos Legal?
Downloading videos from YouTube for personal offline use is perfectly legal in most countries. However, you should avoid re-uploading downloaded YouTube videos without permission. As long as you only use the downloaded videos for your own private viewing, you aren’t infringing on any copyright laws.
YouTube Video Download Options
There are several ways to download YouTube videos, each with their own pros and cons:
How they work: Browser extensions integrate into Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Edge to add a “Download” button to YouTube. Click it to download videos in MP4 format.
- Simple one-click downloading in your browser.
- Support for all major browsers.
- Often free.
- May cease working if YouTube updates its code.
- Limited quality options.
- Some contain ads or malware (carefully vet extensions before installing).
Top options: Video DownloadHelper (Chrome), YouTube Video Downloader (Firefox)
Online YouTube Downloaders
How they work: Copy and paste a YouTube video URL into an online tool to generate a download link.
- Easy to use, no software installation needed.
- Access from any device.
- Must upload the entire video before downloading, slower than browser extensions.
- Advertisements on page.
- Video format and quality limitations.
Top options: OnlineVideoConverter, SaveFrom, YTMP3
Desktop Software Downloaders
How they work: Download and install a program on your Windows PC or Mac to save YouTube videos in just a few clicks.
- Robust feature set: choose video format and quality, download subtitles, playlists and channels, batch downloading.
- Avoid online ads and privacy issues.
- Often supports additional video sites beyond just YouTube.
- Requires downloading and installing separate software.
Top options: 4K Video Downloader (Windows, Mac, Linux), Freemake Video Downloader (Windows), YouTube Downloader HD (Mac)
Smartphone and Tablet Apps
How they work: Apps like vGet, Snaptube and Video Downloader enable downloading videos directly on your iPhone, Android or iPad.
- Download videos for offline viewing on the go.
- Streamlined mobile interface.
- Background downloading capability.
- Lack some features of desktop software.
- May contain more ads and privacy issues.
- Require phone storage space.
Top options: vGet (Android, iOS), Snaptube (Android), Video Downloader professional (Android), Documents by Readdle (iOS)
How it works: YouTube’s paid premium subscription includes the ability to download videos for offline viewing on mobile devices.
- Official YouTube feature, trusted and legal.
- Download any video, ad-free.
- Integrates seamlessly into YouTube mobile app.
- $11.99 monthly subscription cost.
- Limited to mobile device usage, no desktop saving.
- Requires YouTube app, videos expire after 30 days.
Command Line Tools
How they work: Advanced users can use command line tools like youtube-dl to batch download videos. Requires coding knowledge.
- Customizable download options via code.
- Scripting and automation capabilities.
- Steep learning curve, designed for developers.
- Requires coding knowledge.
- youtube-dl (Python)
- youtube-dl GUI (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Which is Best for Downloading YouTube Videos?
The best YouTube video downloader depends on your specific needs:
- For quickly saving a few videos to watch offline, browser extensions provide the easiest option directly in your browser. Video DownloadHelper for Chrome or YouTube Video Downloader for Firefox are good choices.
- If you want to compile a library of videos over time without ads, desktop programs like 4K Video Downloader give you more quality options.
- For mobile, Snaptube or Documents by Readdle nicely enable saving videos on Android and iOS devices respectively.
- Power users wanting advanced scripting should explore command line tools like youtube-dl.
No matter which tool you choose, the process for downloading videos is basically the same across all these options. Follow along below as we walk through the step-by-step process.
How to Download YouTube Videos – Step-by-Step Tutorial
While the specifics vary slightly for each tool, downloading YouTube videos generally follows this process:
Step 1. Install Tool
If using a browser extension, desktop program, or mobile app, the first step is to install and open the tool. Make sure to download software only from trusted official sources to avoid malware.
If using an online downloader, you can skip the installation step and simply open the site in your browser.
Step 2. Copy YouTube Video URL
Browse YouTube and find the video you want to download. Copy its URL from the address bar in your browser. The URL uniquely identifies the source video.
Step 3. Paste URL in Downloader
In your chosen tool, paste the copied YouTube video URL into the designated field. This tells the tool exactly which video you want to download.
Step 4. Select Format
Desktop and mobile apps will provide format options for download quality. Choose the resolution, typically ranging from 480p to high definition 1080p or even 4K. Select a file type like MP4 for best compatibility.
Online and browser tools often just output a single format. YouTube Premium lets you choose between high and low quality.
Step 5. Download Video
Click the “Download” button to start the download process. The video file will be saved on your device storage or SD card. Larger and higher quality videos will take longer.
Step 6. Watch Video Offline
Once finished, you will be able to access and watch the downloaded YouTube video directly from your device storage without an internet connection!
Most tools offer additional features beyond these basics like:
- Downloading entire playlists or channels
- Adding subtitles and metadata
- Converting to audio MP3
- Scheduling and batch downloads
- Private stored libraries
Take advantage of these to customize your downloading experience. Next we’ll cover some best practices for smooth downloading and offline viewing.
Tips for Downloading YouTube Videos
Follow these tips when saving YouTube videos to ensure the best experience:
- Check file type compatibility: When choosing video download format, opt for universally supported files like MP4 instead of WebM or MKV which may not work on all devices.
- Know download rules: YouTube’s Terms of Service allow downloading videos for personal use but prohibit re-distributing or re-uploading them.
- Stay up to date: Check downloader extensions and apps for updates so they work as YouTube makes changes. Recently downloaded videos may become unplayable if the site adjusts its code.
- Download over WiFi: Use a WiFi connection for downloading to avoid eating through limited mobile data. High quality videos consume significant data.
- Consider video length: Long videos, playlists and batches of downloads will take time. Avoid interrupting the process or the file may become corrupted.
- Check download location: Downloaded videos end up in your device’s Downloads folder by default. But you can change this in the tool’s settings.
- Play in airplane mode: Once downloaded, enter airplane mode on your device and confirm you can still watch the videos offline without buffering.
- Back up your downloads: Copy your downloaded videos to a backup drive in case your device is lost, stolen or damaged.
By following best practices, you’ll get the most out of downloading YouTube videos to watch offline anywhere anytime.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Downloading YouTube Videos
Still have questions about the best practices for downloading and watching YouTube videos offline? Here are answers to the most common questions:
Is it illegal to download YouTube videos?
In most countries, it is legal to download YouTube videos for your own personal use. However, you should avoid re-uploading or distributing downloaded videos without permission as this violates YouTube’s Terms of Service. As long as you only watch the downloaded videos yourself offline, it is perfectly legal.
Will YouTube find out I downloaded a video?
Simply downloading a video does not share any information with YouTube. As long as you watch the downloaded copy offline, YouTube has no way to know you have saved the video. Your account and viewing history remain private.
What is the best video format for downloads?
MP4 is generally recommended as the best format for downloaded YouTube videos. This format offers great visual quality while also maintaining broad device compatibility across smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs. Avoid lesser known formats like WebM and MKV unless you know your device supports them.
How do I play a downloaded video on my iPhone/iPad?
The easiest way to watch downloaded YouTube videos on an iPhone or iPad is to use the Documents by Readdle app for iOS. It includes built-in support for playing many video formats. Alternatively, you can transfer downloaded MP4 videos into your Photos app using the Files app on iOS to watch them offline.
Why can’t I watch my downloaded video?
If a downloaded YouTube video won’t play properly, the most common reasons are a corrupted incomplete download or an unsupported video format. Try deleting and re-downloading the video. And confirm the selected file type is playable on your specific device before downloading.
How do I download an entire YouTube playlist?
Many downloader tools like 4K Video Downloader and youtube-dl enable downloading full YouTube playlists with a single click or command. Simply paste the playlist URL rather than an individual video URL. The entire playlist will be downloaded sequentially for offline viewing.
Downloading and saving YouTube videos for offline viewing provides many benefits for entertainment, convenience and privacy. While the official method requires a paid YouTube Premium subscription, third party browser extensions, software and mobile apps offer free alternatives.
Carefully choose a trustworthy tool that suits your needs. Follow the standard download process: install, copy URL, paste, select format and download. With best practices like managing file types and storage, you’ll be able to reliably build an offline video library.
Now you have all the knowledge to start downloading your favorite YouTube videos to watch without an internet connection! Enjoy the freedom and flexibility of offline playback.