Is it legal to download YouTube videos?
Using third-party apps to download YouTube videos is against YouTube’s terms of service, which say you can only stream videos directly from its servers. Downloading videos is also a potential copyright infringement unless you own the video yourself, have permission from the copyright holder, or it’s in the public domain.
That said, YouTube does offer some ways to download videos through its web service and its own apps. In this feature we’ll explain how to do this, and guide you through the other options available for iPhone, Android, Mac and PC.
How to download YouTube videos to a PC
1. Get 4K Video Downloader
To download YouTube videos to a Windows PC, start by downloading and installing 4K Video Downloader. This versatile software is completely free, and can download whole playlists, as well as 360-degree and 3D videos. When it’s done, check the box marked ‘Launch’ and click ‘Finish’.
2. Copy and paste the video URL
Open your web browser, find the video you want to download from YouTube and copy its URL from the address bar. Then return to 4K Video Downloader and click the green ‘Paste Link’ button at the top left.
The software will retrieve information about the video and give you a choice of quality options. These will vary depending on the quality of the original video, but the software can download YouTube videos in 4K if it’s available.
3. Choose the quality and format
4K Video Downloader lets you download the whole YouTube video or just rip the audio. Choose your preferred option using the drop-down menu on the left, then choose a format using the menu on the right. MP4 is our preferred format for videos because it gives a good balance of quality and file size, and will play on almost any device.
Then choose a quality setting. For playing back video on a PC or TV, we recommend choosing the highest option, but bear in mind that this will take longer and the downloaded file will be larger. Check the estimated file size on the left to see how much space it will need.
You can also choose where the downloaded video should be saved using the ‘Browse’ button at the bottom. Once you’re happy, click ‘Download’.
4. Download the YouTube video
The YouTube video will now be downloaded for you. If there are other videos in the creator’s channel, 4K Video Downloader will ask whether you want to download those as well. It can download up to 24 videos at once.
Once the video has finished downloading, you can find it in the destination folder, or right-click it in 4K Video Downloader and select ‘Play’. Unless you adjust the settings, the video will stay in this list until you choose to remove it – even if you close and restart the software.
5. Try Smart Mode
If you often download videos in the same format, check out Smart Mode. This saves your download preferences and loads them automatically. Click the lightbulb icon at the top right and next time you paste a URL into 4K Video Downloader, it will be downloaded instantly with the last settings you used.
Read on to find out how to download YouTube videos to an Android device or iPhone.
How to download YouTube videos with TubeMate
TubeMate is one of the most popular tool for downloading YouTube videos on Android smartphones, and with good reason: it’s really easy to use and has the features you need without any bells and whistles you don’t.
1. Install TubeMate
The TubeMate video downloader isn’t available on the Google Play Store (Google isn’t too keen on YouTube downloaders), 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 download apps you know are safe.
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 visit the TubeMate YouTube Downloader website and select one of the verified sites to download it from.
2. Choose a video to download
You might see a warning message about downloading APK files, so click ‘OK’ to allow it. Once TubeMate has downloaded, run the file and tap ‘Install’, then tap ‘Open’. You’ll then be informed which permissions the video downloader needs to run. If you’re happy to proceed, let it go ahead and the app will launch.
TubeMate looks much like the official YouTube Android app, with a black background. Search for a video and begin playing it, then tap the red ‘Download’ button that appears at the bottom right.
3. Download the video
The next thing you’ll see is a list of formats. You’ll see video and audio formats and different quality and resolution options for each. If you have a high-end device then by all means download the highest possible quality versions, but remember that the higher the resolution the bigger the file: if your phone or tablet doesn’t have much free space, YouTube videos will soon fill it up.
When you’re happy, tap the red ‘Download’ button again. The video will download in the background, so you can keep using your phone as normal – though downloading videos uses a lot of juice and might make your batter run down faster.
You can also add YouTube videos to a queue to download later. This handy if you’re currently using 4G and want to wait until you have Wi-Fi before downloading any large files.
Download YouTube videos to an iPhone or Mac
The process of downloading YouTube clips is very slightly different depending on which Apple OS you’re on. If you’re using iOS on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch then you’ll need our first method, and if you’re using OS X or MacOS on a Mac you’ll need the second.
How to download YouTube videos to an iPhone
On iOS, the trick is to install a clever little app called Documents. It’s a file manager, but it also happens to be able to download YouTube clips too. The process is a little fiddly but still straightforward.
First of all, find the clip you want to download in the YouTube app for iOS or in Safari. Once you’ve found it, tap the ‘Share’ icon and then ‘Copy Link’.
Open Documents and look for its web browser icon, which is the little compass at the bottom right of the display. Tap on that and go to savefrom.net. Paste the address of the YouTube clip in the big input box, choose the quality options you prefer and the file will start to download.
When it’s finished it’ll appear in Documents’ downloads section, from which you can drag it over ‘Photos > Camera Roll’ so it’s available from outside the Documents5 app.
How to download YouTube videos to a Mac
On a Mac there are stacks of options, but one of the most straightforward is MacX YouTube Downloader (also available for Windows). All you need to do is add the link and choose the quality options, and you can download multiple clips at once.
What formats can I download YouTube videos in?
Video downloading apps usually give you 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 explained on the previous 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 360p video won’t look good on an HD display).
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.
Download videos with YouTube’s own apps
You can download your own YouTube videos in MP4 format without any software at all. Log into your account using a desktop web browser, click your user photo in the top right and select ‘Creator Studio’. Select ‘Videos’ from the menu on the left, then select ‘Download MP4’ beside the video you want to save. You can download videos in either 720p or 360p, depending on their original resolution.
If you subscribe to YouTube Red, you can download videos to your mobile device to watch offline for up to 30 days, after which you’ll need to reconnect your device to the internet.
Sign into your account, start watching a video, then tap the ‘Download’ icon underneath the video player and select a quality option. Once the video has finished downloading, you can find it under the Library or Account tabs. You must be signed into your account to watch downloaded videos, and you can’t respond to videos with comments or likes when watching them offline.
It’s also possible to download videos with YouTube Go. Simply select the video you want to download, tap the thumbnail, select a quality setting and tap ‘Download’. The video will be available to watch for 29 days, after which you’ll need to reconnect to a Wi-Fi network.
Not all videos are available to download with YouTube Go. If a video is unavailable, it will be greyed out. You can share downloaded videos offline by selecting the ‘Downloads’ tab, tapping ‘Send’ at the bottom of your screen, then selecting ‘Send’ again to connect to the recipient’s phone.
YouTube Go is available in 130 countries, but not the US, UK and Australia. Users in unsupported countries can download the YouTube Go APK (installation package) and install it manually, but this isn’t officially supported by Google, and is done at your own risk. Find out how to download and install APK files.
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