YouTube is home to millions of videos covering every topic imaginable. From music videos and movie trailers to educational content and “how-to” tutorials, there’s something for everyone on the video platform. But what if you want to save a YouTube video to watch offline or keep it permanently? Unfortunately, downloading videos from YouTube isn’t as straightforward as clicking a button.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the various methods and tools you can use to download YouTube videos for free. Whether you need to download a single video or save an entire playlist or channel, we’ve got you covered. By the end, you’ll know how to easily download any YouTube video so you can watch it anytime without an internet connection.
Overview of Methods to Download YouTube Videos
There are several ways to save YouTube videos for offline viewing or permanent keeping. Here’s a quick overview of the main methods:
- Online video converters – These are websites that allow you to paste a YouTube URL, convert the video to a downloadable file format like MP4, and save it to your computer. Many offer free downloads up to a certain time or size limit.
- Browser extensions – These add-on tools integrate into your web browser and include a button to download YouTube videos in just a click or two. Some popular options are Video DownloadHelper and 4K Video Downloader.
- Desktop software – Downloading programs like Free YouTube Download and WinX YouTube Downloader make downloading YouTube videos easy. Just copy and paste the URL and configure settings.
- Mobile apps – For downloading videos on your iPhone or Android on-the-go, apps like Videoder, Snaptube, and NewPipe get the job done. Most are free with no sign-up required.
- YouTube Premium – Paying for a YouTube Premium subscription allows downloading videos for offline playback. This works seamlessly on mobile and tablets through the YouTube app.
- Third-party sites – Some sites scrape YouTube and host pirated downloads of videos. We don’t recommend these options due to legal concerns and risks.
Now let’s explore these methods and tools in more detail, including the pros and cons of each option, so you can decide the best way to download YouTube videos based on your specific needs and preferences.
Method #1: Online Video Converters
Online video converters (also called YouTube downloaders, YouTube converters, or YouTube to MP4 sites) offer a quick and straightforward way to download YouTube videos. Here’s how they work:
- Go to the website and copy and paste the URL of the YouTube video you want to download.
- The site extracts the video file from YouTube’s servers and converts it to a downloadable file format like MP4.
- Click the “Download” button and save the file to your computer.
Some of the most popular and reputable online YouTube download sites include:
- Convert2MP3 – Also converts to just audio
- YTMP3.cc – Converts to MP3 audio
The major benefits of online video converters include:
- Free – Most offer free conversion and downloads with no premium upgrades required. Some limit the number per day or restrict longer/HD downloads.
- No software – Being web-based, there’s no download or installation required. Just visit the site and start downloading.
- Fast & easy – It only takes a minute or two to paste the URL and complete the conversion and download.
- No registration – While some sites may require signing up for an account to access additional features, most allow anonymous downloading with no login information needed.
- Mobile friendly – Online converters work smoothly on smartphones and tablets, allowing easy on-the-go downloading.
- Updated frequently – Workarounds are implemented quickly whenever YouTube blocks the sites’ access, ensuring continued operability.
Potential downsides to watch out for with online video converters include:
- Limited formats – While MP4 is commonly offered, there may be fewer options for other formats like WebM, AVI, MOV, and more.
- Quality caps – Many free converters limit downloads to 720p or restrict HD 1080p quality to paid members.
- Daily limits – You may only be able to download a few videos per day before hitting a conversion quota.
- Annoying ads – As free sites, they typically feature lots of display ads and pop-ups. Using an ad blocker helps minimize these.
- Voltage spikes/computer temp surges – Flash based sites can cause voltage and computer temp spikes from all the moving ads.
- Malware risks – Shady sites may attempt to get users to install malware disguised as necessary video software. Stick to reputable options.
- Banned from YouTube – Using certain sites to download videos could result in YouTube terminating your account for violating terms of service.
As long as you choose a known, legitimate video converter, avoid any software or extension downloads the site may try prompting, and steer clear of shady looking options, you can safely use online converters to download YouTube videos in just a few clicks.
Method #2: Browser Extensions
Browser extensions, add-ons, and plug-ins allow downloading YouTube videos directly from the YouTube site with just a click. Here are some top options:
- Works on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge
- Simple click of a button to download video in desired format
- Lets you choose video quality up to 4K
- Downloads entire playlists or channels
- Free version has 500 MB daily download limit
4K Video Downloader
- For Chrome and Firefox
- Downloads videos, playlists, subtitles
- Ultra HD 4K and 8K quality options
- Paid version has no limits
- Can extract audio into MP3
EagleGet YouTube Downloader
- Chrome extension with clean interface
- Downloads in resolutions up to 4K
- Unlimited downloads with free version
- Easy playlist downloading
TubeX YouTube Downloader
- For Chrome and Firefox
- One-click downloading in any format
- Lets you download entire channel
- Clean, simple interface
Here are some of the notable advantages of using a browser extension for downloading YouTube videos:
- Streamlined workflow – Eliminates the need to copy and paste URLs into converters. Just click the button on any YouTube page.
- Better quality – Extensions can often access higher quality videos than online converters, sometimes up to 4K resolution.
- Increased speed – Removing the intermediate step of going through a conversion site accelerates the download process.
- Improved security – By avoiding third-party sites, you minimize risks of malware infection or data leaks. Extensions access YouTube’s servers directly.
- No limits – Many extensions offer unlimited downloads even in their free versions. And paid upgrades are direct one-time purchases rather than recurring subscriptions.
- Playlist support – Most allow bulk downloading entire YouTube playlists or channels with a single click.
- Additional options – Advanced settings like extracting only the audio track and downloading subtitles are available in some extensions.
Potential downsides to keep in mind include:
- Registration required – You need to sign up for a browser extension account, providing access to your browsing data.
- Impact on performance – Too many extensions can slow down web browsing and take up RAM.
- Limitations of free versions – Paid upgrades may be needed to lift caps on downloads and unlock additional features.
- Price – The lifetime license for premium extensions can be more expensive than a short-term subscription to an online service.
- Compatibility issues – Extensions may not work if YouTube changes its code, requiring updates.
- Banned from YouTube – As with converters, directly downloading from YouTube could still result in account termination.
With minimal drawbacks, browser extensions provide an incredibly convenient way to download YouTube videos quickly in high quality. The top-rated options have polished interfaces that make saving videos a breeze.
Method #3: Desktop Software
For those who regularly download multiple YouTube videos and value robust features, desktop software is worth considering. These dedicated programs install locally on your Windows PC or Mac computer and integrate seamlessly with YouTube for downloading videos.
Some leading options include:
4K Video Downloader
- Available for Windows and Mac
- Downloads entire playlists and channels
- Ultra HD 8K, 4K, and 1080p resolutions supported
- Extracts audio tracks to MP3
- $15 lifetime license fee for premium version
Free YouTube Download
- Supports Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android
- Lets you download multiple videos in bulk
- Downloads playlists and subtitles
- Free version has no limits
- $29 for premium version
WinX YouTube Downloader
- For Windows only
- Fast downloading with batch processing
- Downloads in background while you browse
- 4K and 1080p video quality options
- $29.95 for premium license
Xilisoft YouTube Downloader
- For Windows
- Simple drag-and-drop downloading
- 4K and 1080p HD downloads
- Online video cache helps resume interrupted downloads
- $39.95 for Pro version
Here are some of the notable upsides of downloading YouTube videos using desktop software:
- Powerful functionality – Robust options for controlling file formats, quality, subtitles, playlists and more.
- Efficiency – Download and convert multiple videos in batches instead of one-at-a-time.
- Speed – Faster than online converters; some enable background downloading while browsing.
- Reliability – Avoid dependency on a web service’s uptime and reduce interruptions.
- No limits – Most have unlimited downloads and speeds, or high caps, even in free versions.
- Ad-free experience – As local programs, no annoying web ads to deal with.
Potential disadvantages include:
- Initial setup – Must download, install, and learn new application rather than use instantly like web or browser tools.
- Storage space – Programs take up drive space and require occasional updates.
- Cost – While initially free, advanced functionality may require a one-time license fee.
- Security risks – More vectors for potential malware infection from downloaded executable files.
- OS limitations – Software may be Windows or Mac only, unlike the ubiquitous web-based tools.
- ** Overkill for light use** – For only occasional downloading, software could be excessive compared to simpler methods.
For heavy YouTube users who regularly save multiple videos for offline playback and archiving, desktop software is an unparalleled choice. But it may be overkill for more casual one-off downloading needs.
Method #4: Mobile Apps
Thanks to YouTube apps that bypass standard restrictions, it’s easy to download YouTube videos directly on your iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet. Here are excellent free options:
- Android app with support for iOS
- Searches and downloads videos from many sites
- Queues up multiple downloads
- Background downloading capability
- No watermarks or ads
- For Android
- Fast downloading unlimited videos
- Offers varied video quality options
- Downloads and converts playlists
- Also great for Instagram, Facebook, TikTok
- Open source Android app
- Downloads videos and only audio
- Background play and popup mode
- No Google account required
- Completely free with no ads
- Downloader for iPhones/iPads
- Saves videos to camera roll
- One tap download button
- Available quality options up to 4K
- $4.99 pro version available
Advantages of downloading YouTube videos through mobile apps include:
- Accessibility – Get videos anywhere when on-the-go without reliance on desktop tools.
- Speed – Apps utilize fastest available download protocols and leverage multi-threading.
- Multi-tasking – Most enable background downloading so you can switch apps during download.
- Convenience – For quick, ad-hoc needs, mobile solutions avoid any Web signups or software installs.
- Offline playback – Downloaded videos can be accessed on planes, subways, or anywhere without signal.
- Free options – Top app choices have free versions, unlike the subscription model of YouTube Premium.
Potential mobile downloading limitations:
- Device storage – Videos consume storage space quickly; high-quality videos are large files. Requires cleaning out old videos.
- Data caps – Downloading over cellular could hit monthly data limits depending on video quality and quantity.
- Battery drain – Video downloading and conversion sucks battery life; keep phone charged.
- OS restraints – Restricted to Android vs. iOS ecosystem depending on app.
- Account risks – Bypassing YouTube restrictions could lead to account termination if detected.
- Legal uncertainty – Mobile app downloading tools operate in gray areas of law and technology.
For portable on-demand access to videos without requiring WiFi or cellular service, specialized mobile apps provide an excellent solution for downloading from YouTube. Just be cognizant of the data and device storage implications.
Method #5: YouTube Premium
YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) is Google’s official subscription service for ad-free viewing, background/offline playback, and YouTube Music access. Here are the advantages to downloading videos through Premium:
- Official method – Google approved approach avoids any risk of account banning.
- Seamless experience – Downloads integrated natively with the YouTube app itself.
- Optimized for mobile – Best downloading solution for smartphones and tablets.
- High quality – Downloads available up to 1080p HD or device’s maximum resolution.
- Background & offline – Downloaded videos can play with screen off and no internet connection.
- Other perks – Ad-free access to all YouTube videos. Uninterrupted music from YouTube Music.
Potential downsides to weigh:
- Cost – $11.99 per month makes it one of the more expensive options for downloading YouTube videos specifically.
- Limited uploads – Certain videos and paid content can’t be downloaded, depending on creator restrictions.
- Mobile focus – While available on desktop, the download experience is optimized for mobile and tablet.
- No 4K or 8K – Caps out at 1080p HD, lower than converters and software can offer.
- DRM restrictions – Downloads expire after 30 days and content availability is subject to licensing rights.
If you already subscribe to YouTube Premium or regularly watch ad-free YouTube across devices, the download ability provides a nice addition. But relying on it solely for downloading videos is an expensive proposition compared to the many free alternatives.
Top Tips for Downloading YouTube Videos
Beyond choosing the best method for your needs, keep these tips in mind to ensure successful YouTube video downloads:
- Whenever possible, save the highest resolution and file quality offered. This preserves video fidelity for future watching. YouTube 1080p HD downloads are a good minimum baseline.
- Downloading just the audio track from videos is a great way to save podcasts, music performances, or other audio-focused content from YouTube for offline listening.
- For playlists or channels, use software or extensions that can batch download multiple videos sequentially rather than one-at-a-time.
- Before downloading an entire playlist, sort the videos by most popular if you plan to watch only some of the videos. Or sort by date for a chronological order download.
- Familiarize yourself with YouTube’s Terms of Service related to downloads. While the rules are vague, be careful not to download videos from prohibited sources.
- Certain YouTube videos are restricted from downloading. If you run into “Download unavailable” errors, it’s likely the content creator or platform has disabled it.
- When browsing shady sites, always exercise caution before clicking any links or allowing downloads of untrusted programs that could contain malware.
By using the techniques in this guide and staying vigilant, you can safely download any YouTube video to watch offline and protectively archive content important to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions about the best practices for downloading YouTube videos? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
Is downloading YouTube videos legal?
There is no definitive law that makes downloading YouTube videos outright illegal in most countries, including the U.S. YouTube’s Terms of Service prohibit it, but the policies are not enforced through any laws. As long as you are downloading videos for personal fair use and not mass distributing pirated content, in most cases it is legally permitted according to legal precedent. However, laws are evolving in this area. Certain types of videos, like pirated movies or shows, would still be illegal to download even for personal use.
Does downloading YouTube videos violate the Terms of Service?
Yes, YouTube’s Terms of Service explicitly prohibit downloading or ripping videos from the platform. So downloading does technically violate the TOS. However, plenty of everyday YouTube users download videos regularly without repercussions using the software, apps, and extensions covered in this guide. Just be careful not to discuss or promote the downloading in YouTube comments to avoid bringing attention and potential account penalties from YouTube.
What risks are there in downloading YouTube videos?
The main risks include the following:
- Account termination – While rare, YouTube can delete your Google account or ban you from the platform for violating Terms of Service. This is most likely if you are downloading many videos and obviously abusing the system.
- Malware infections – Shady online converters, browser extensions, or PC software could be infected with viruses or malware. Only use reputable downloading tools as covered in this guide.
- Legal action – Incredibly unlikely, but
theoretically YouTube’s parent company Google could pursue legal action against systematic and egregious abusers downloading copyrighted content illegally and re-distributing it.
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- Poor quality – Downloaded videos could end up with degraded visual quality, missing audio, or other issues if the wrong formats or buggy tools are used.
- Data loss – Downloaded videos could be lost if not stored properly and backed up. Having only a YouTube URL link leaves you dependent on the video staying available on the platform.
What are the best video formats to download from YouTube?
For the highest quality downloads:
- MP4 – This widely compatible format provides a great balance of high-quality combined with reasonably small file sizes. MP4s can hold HD resolution and the advanced H.264 video codec. They can include audio or be video-only.
- WebM – An open source alternative to MP4, WebM files are smaller in size with comparable quality. The VP9 video codec allows for 1440p and 4K resolutions. WebM contains audio in the Vorbis format.
- MKV – This format supports the highest quality videos including 4K and 8K Ultra HD. MKV is an advanced container format that can hold limitless codecs, subtitles, metadata and more in one file. But it has less compatibility across devices.
For audio-only files, MP3 and M4A formats are top choices due to their balance of quality and compact size. They can be readily played across any device. For most users, MP4 offers the best intersection of quality, file size, and device support when downloading from YouTube.
How can I download an entire YouTube channel?
The easiest way is using a desktop software downloader like 4K Video Downloader or Free YouTube Download. Both have options to insert a channel URL and download all available videos from that creator. Browser extensions like Video DownloadHelper also enable one-click channel downloading. For mobile, Snaptube and Videoder are great choices that integrate channel download features. Keep in mind downloading all content from a creator may be opening you up to greater risk of account restriction by YouTube.
What are the fastest ways to download YouTube videos?
The quickest YouTube download methods include:
- Browser extensions – Eliminate going through external sites for fast, one-click downloads direct from YouTube.
- Desktop software – Utilize locally running apps for ultra fast parallel batch downloading, maximizing your available bandwidth.
- Online converters – Reliable converters can download in seconds by extracting just the video file from YouTube. But quality may be capped.
- Mobile apps – Designed for on-demand saving, mobile downloader apps deliver blazing fast speed using phone processors. But cellular data or WiFi strength may throttle maximum speeds.
- YouTube Premium – Integrated natively with YouTube’s apps, downloads begin instantly. But again, quality is limited to 1080p HD at best.
In general, any dedicated downloading tool will be significantly faster than manually copying and pasting URLs back and forth to online converters. Prioritize applications that support multi-threaded downloading for the fastest Savefrom speeds.
As this guide has shown, you have many options to choose from when it comes to downloading YouTube videos for offline viewing and permanent archiving. Key deciding factors include your specific needs, devices, willingness to pay, urgency, quality required, and preference for simplicity versus advanced features.
For most users, browser extensions like Video DownloadHelper or mobile apps like Snaptube offer a great free solution for downloading YouTube videos easily and safely with just a couple clicks. But no single method is universally the “best” for everyone. The comprehensive overview in this guide arms you with all the information needed to select your ideal YouTube video downloader based on your own priorities and requirements.
The ability to download from YouTube opens up a world of possibilities—from bypassing unstable connections to saving beloved content permanently to watching videos on planes or subway commutes offline. By following this guide’s tips and assessments for each method, you can now easily find and save virtually any YouTube video to safely expand your viewing opportunities and get the most out of the world’s largest video site.