How to download YouTube videos

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Image: Getty Images

So you want to download a YouTube video? While plain YouTube only offers downloads for a few select videos in a few select locations, there are ways to download any YouTube video you want, anytime.

This article will cover two approaches: paying for YouTube Premium and using a free Mac, Windows, or Linux application.

Likewise: Visit ZDNet on YouTube!

Your paid option: YouTube Premium

I’m a big fan of YouTube Premium because it saves my wife and I most of the ads, but it’s a luxury expense. You can subscribe to YouTube Premium for $11.99 per month (or $17.99 per month for a family plan).

My favorite feature is the total lack of Google-powered ads. There are no banners, no pre-roll and no interstitial ads. However, if a YouTube channel chooses to embed an ad in a video, YouTube Premium will not filter those creator-embedded ads.

YouTube Premium also offers background playback and picture-in-picture, YouTube Music, and access to YouTube Originals. I’ve never used these three features, but they are part of the premium package.

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YouTube Premium also offers the ability to download videos. If you have YouTube Premium, you will have a download button in your web browser or phone app.

Download button on YouTube Premium

Check out the download button denoted by my arrows.

You can find your downloads in the YouTube download area.

Note that YouTube says the downloads will stay saved as long as you have an internet connection at least once every thirty days. This allows YouTube to confirm that you are still a YouTube Premium user.

where to find downloads

You have no easy way of converting this download into a usable video file on a desktop device. So if you plan to use this video for anything other than offline viewing, you’re out of luck. The same applies to iOS.

However, if you’re an Android user with an SD card slot in your phone, you can set the YouTube app’s settings (tap your profile picture, then Settings, then Downloads) to access videos on your SD card to save.

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So, this is how you download videos in a barely usable form at the cheap price of $11.99 per month. But what if you want a better solution and want to do it for free? Yes we got you covered

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Your (even better) free option: ClipGrab

I have to agree with ZDNet’s editor-in-chief that he introduced me to this program a few years ago. I’ve been using it ever since.

ClipGrab is a free program available for Mac, Windows, and Linux users. The developer says it’s open source, but the source code is only available for Linux. In any case, ClipGrab rocks.

Set up your browser ClipGrab.org and click the View all download options Shortcut. There you will see download links for Mac, Windows and Linux. I’ll show you the Mac version in this article, but the user interface is practically identical on all three.

Using ClipGrab is easy

  1. Copy the YouTube video link. You can do this in your browser’s URL bar or by clicking the share button below the video itself.
  2. Then start ClipGrab. Make sure you are on the Downloads tab.
  3. Paste the URL of the video you want to download.
  4. Finally, click Get This Clip.
Clipgrab dashboard

There are options you can tweak.

For example, you can choose the format you want the video to be saved in when it’s saved to your computer. I generally go with Original, but I’ll specify something else if that doesn’t work.

You can also choose the download resolution. Depending on the original resolution of the video, you can choose to download the video in full resolution or reduce the resolution to save storage space.

formats.png

Finally tap the settings The tab allows you to customize where ClipGrab puts your newly downloaded videos.

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Moral, ethical, legal and caloric considerations

Now that you know how to download YouTube videos, should you? First, note that different jurisdictions have different laws. It may or may not be legal to download a particular video, even if you just want to watch it offline.

If you want to download a video to incorporate into something you produce, remember that some countries have the concept of fair use. In these jurisdictions, small clips of copyrighted media may be incorporated into your productions. But also remember that YouTube has algorithmic systems that look for people who reuse videos, and your channel could get a strike for media reuse.

When in doubt, it’s always best to ask.

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Here we go. Do you have other techniques to achieve the same thing? Let us know in the comments below.


You can follow my daily project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtzon Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtzon Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtzand on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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