Updated: How to download YouTube videos for free

Updated: How to download YouTube videos for free

How to download YouTube videos

There are many reasons why you would want to download YouTube videos, as anybody who’s going to be in a poor coverage area, who has a capped mobile broadband data plan or who won’t be able to stream high-quality video will appreciate the ability to download YouTube videos for offline use.

It’s also handy if you suspect that the video is about to disappear for sinister reasons too; downloading videos from YouTube couldn’t be simpler, although the methods you employ will depend on the device you’re using.

In this guide we show you how to download YouTube videos for free, as well as looking into the ethic and legality of downloading YouTube videos.

  • Also check out: How to download music from YouTube

How to download YouTube videos for free

How to download YouTube videos to your Android phone

YouTube added offline viewing to its Android app in late 2014, but the feature is limited to YouTube Red subscribers. If a video is available for offline viewing – not all videos are, and it’s up to the video owner to decide whether offline viewing should be available for each clip – you’ll see an icon showing a down arrow. Tapping on that will download the clip for offline viewing.

This isn’t the most flexible of ways to download YouTube videos to your Android device, but at least it’s officially supported. If you want a bit more freedom to download YouTube videos on Android, then you’re going to want to look at third party apps.

How to download YouTube videos for free

There are a number of free apps to help you download YouTube videos, and one of the best ones is TubeMate. This app isn’t available on the Google Play Store, so first of all you’ll need to allow your Android device to install and run apps downloaded from other places. Be cautious when you turn on this setting, as you’ll want to make sure you only downloaded apps you know are safe and reliable.

Open up Settings and go to Security. Scroll down and next to where it says ‘Unknown sources’, tap the toggle to turn this setting on. Now on your Android device browse to the TubeMate YouTube Downloader website and tap on the Download button.

You might see a warning message pop up and downloading .apk files, so click ‘OK’ to allow it. Once downloaded, run the file and tap ‘Install’.

With the app installed, open it up and watch videos as you would in the normal YouTube app. If you see a video you want to save for later, load it up, then tap on the green arrow icon at the top of the screen. You’ll be given a range of video formats and resolutions to download the file as. Select the one you want and it will then download the YouTube video to your Android device.

How to download YouTube videos for free

How to download YouTube videos to your computer

It’s important to note that under YouTube’s terms and conditions, downloading other people’s YouTube videos is prohibited. If you’ve submitted your own video, you can download it by logging into YouTube, going to your channel’s Video manager, finding the video you want to download and then clicking Edit > Download MP4.

If that doesn’t work, for example because YouTube has decided you’ve downloaded too many of your own videos (the limit is two videos an hour) or because the clip contains an audio track you didn’t write yourself, then you’ll need to turn to a third-party app.

How to download YouTube videos for free

How to download YouTube videos to your PC with an app

There are lots of YouTube video downloader websites and apps, but many of them are dodgier than dodgy Dave’s dodgy dodgems: expect unwanted software installation, misleading download links, terrifying terms and conditions and other tomfoolery.

We’ve come to trust ClipConverter.cc, though, as it doesn’t do any of those things. If you know of a better rival, please let us know in the comments.

Using ClipConverter couldn’t be simpler. Point your browser to its website, paste the URL of the YouTube video you want to convert, choose the file format you want and edit the options (if you want to – the defaults work well too).

The web app will then give you a choice of sources at different quality, ranging from tiny 3GP mobile files to larger 1080p HD files, and once you’ve chosen your options clicking on Start will fly through the conversion process and present you with a download link on completion.

You don’t have to capture entire videos, either – if you only want to download a chunk, for example because you’re using it for criticism or review, you can specify the start time and end time for the file conversion.

How to download YouTube videos to your iPhone or iPad

Apple isn’t very keen on allowing apps that can download YouTube videos on its App Store, so you may often find an app you’ve been using has suddenly vanished.

How to download YouTube videos for free

One way to download YouTube videos to your iPhone or iPad is using the free Documents 5 app. This is a PDF app, but it comes with a web browser. Open up the app, then click on ‘Browser’ and search for ‘savefromnet’. The first result found should be for en.savefrom.net YouTube Downloader.

How to download YouTube videos for free

Click the link, then open up the YouTube app and find the video you want to download. Tap to play it, then tap on the video to show the controls and select the Share icon at the top of the video (which is in the shape of an arrow).

How to download YouTube videos for free

Tap on ‘Copy Link’, then switch back to the Documents 5 browser and paste the link into the textbox where it says ‘Just insert a link’. Press the Blue arrow button, and then select the resolution and tap on ‘Download’, then ‘Done’ to download the YouTube video.

Is it legal to download YouTube videos?

That’s a very good question. It’s certainly against YouTube’s terms and conditions, which say you can only use its content for streaming, and you could argue that it’s unethical too – many artists depend on YouTube’s ads for their income, so any ad-free playback you do is depriving them of real cash money.

We suspect the legality of this is similar to ad-blocking: content owners would really rather you didn’t do it and try their best to stop the tools from working, but there’s not a lot they can actually do to prevent you watching videos ad-free if your listening comes under "fair use" in copyright terms. Then again we’re not lawyers, so proceed with this at your own risk.

What formats can I download YouTube videos in?

If you’re downloading via YouTube’s Android app, you’ll download an MP4 video file – although it appears to go through some tomfoolery that means it’ll only play back in Google’s own YouTube app. With video converter services, you’ll usually get a choice of file formats. The most common are MP4, 3GP, AVI and MOV; the choice of format and quality settings will affect what you can watch your video on, and how good the video will be.

If you’re not too fussed about video quality, 3GP is the file format for you. It’s perfect for small-screened mobile phones and awful on anything else, but the files are tiny – which matters on old mobiles, as they don’t usually have very much on-board storage or any memory expansion capabilities.

For other devices, MOV is Apple’s video format and works on every Mac, AVI was developed by Microsoft and works happily on PCs, and MP4 is the video equivalent of MP3 and works on pretty much anything. For maximum compatibility we’d suggest sticking with MP4.

How about video quality?

The next decision you’ll need to make is the video quality. If you’re downloading via a service such as ClipConverter, a process we’ll show you on the second page of this article, you’ll be given a choice of video sources. That’s because YouTube streams in multiple qualities ranging from 3GP for old mobiles to 1080p high definition for big HD displays.

3GP aside, you have four options here for your computer, smartphone or tablet: 360p, 480p, 720p and 1080p. The higher the quality the bigger the file, so the trick is to balance quality and size: unless you’re watching on a really big screen, you can probably manage without 1080p quality unless you’ve got oodles of spare storage – although watching 360p video on a typical HDTV or HD tablet display is likely to be a fairly blocky experience.

Unless you have unlimited storage capacity, the trade-off usually means finding the lowest video quality that you can tolerate on the display you’ll be watching the video on.

If the video you’re downloading has music, it doesn’t matter what video quality you choose – the soundtrack has the same bitrate whether you go for a 480p video or a 1080p one. That’s because YouTube’s audio and video streams are two separate things, so adjusting the video quality doesn’t make any difference to the quality of the soundtrack.

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