Downloading YouTube videos is easy, and there are lots of reasons to give it a try. For example. it lets you watch them without an internet connection, which is ideal for keeping yourself entertained on planes, trains, and trips to places without reliable mobile internet access.
Downloading YouTube videos is also great if you have a mobile plan with a limited data allowance. You can download them to your phone using your home Wi-Fi, and watch them on the move without risking going over your data allocation.
Best of all, you can do it free. YouTube itself provides some free tools for the job (on both desktop and mobile), and there are third-party free YouTube downloaders that you can use as well. Read on to find out how.
If you only want to save music from videos, or strip out the audio to turn it into a podcast, check out our guide to the best YouTube to MP3 converters and the best free video editing software for Windows, macOS and Linux.
Is downloading YouTube videos legal?
Using third-party apps to download YouTube videos is against YouTube’s terms of service – which state that you are only able to stream videos directly from its servers. Downloading YouTube videos also opens you up to potential copyright infringement unless you have permission from the copyright holder, it’s in the public domain, or you own the video yourself.
That said, YouTube does offer some ways to download videos through its web service and its own apps. In this guide we’ll explain how to do this, and take you through the other options available for iPhone, Android, Mac and 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 will allow you to download whole YouTube videos, or just rip the audio. Choose your preferred selection using the drop-down menu on the left, then choose a format using the menu on the right. We prefer MP4 for our videos, because it gives a good balance of quality and file size – and will play on basically every device.
Then, choose your quality. For playing back video on your TV or PC, we recommend picking the highest resolution, but bear in mind that this will take longer and will take up more space. Luckily, you can check the estimated file size on the left to see how much space it will take.
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.