In this time of ubiquitous internet and abundance of content, downloading videos to your hard drive is rarely necessary. But sometimes, an important video can be hard to find, or can even be permanently removed from a platform, in which case it’s not a bad idea to have a personal copy.
Say you’ve encountered a cool YouTube video and want to download it for your archive to make sure you still have it in case it disappears. YouTube has no easy “download” button, so how do you download a video off the platform?
Fortunately, there are a few ways to grab a YouTube video fairly easily, and in good quality. However, before we continue, note that downloading videos from the regular, free version of YouTube is against the site’s terms of service. And this brings another problem: Because of this, many of the ways to download YouTube videos that you’ll find online are fairly dangerous as they’re riddled with spamware and shady ads.
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Get YouTube Premium
So we’ll start with the simplest option: Buy YouTube Premium.
One of the advantages of Premium subscription is that you get to download videos for offline viewing right there on YouTube itself. Another, very important advantage is that this way you’re not breaching YouTube’s terms of service.
There are plenty of downsides, too. An obvious one is that Premium costs money; $11.99 per month with a one-month free trial at writing time.
There are numerous other limitations as well: Downloading is only available on mobile devices, you can only view downloaded videos in YouTube’s native app, you cannot move them anywhere, and they go away after your subscription runs out. Check out all of the details here.
Note that YouTube Premium is probably your best bet if you must download videos on your phone; there are third-party services that promise this functionality, but I haven’t found one I’d comfortably install on my phone without fear of compromising safety.
4K video downloader
If you’re a bit more serious about downloading videos off of YouTube and other services such as Vimeo and Facebook, you should consider getting the 4K Video Downloader app.
The app is available for macOS, Windows and Ubuntu Linux and offers a myriad of options beyond mere downloading of content. For example, you can save full playlists and channels from YouTube, you can schedule videos to be automatically downloaded from a YouTube channel, and you can save videos in a variety of video/audio formats (yes, even 4K or 8K videos).
Other features of note include extracting YouTube subtitles from videos and downloading 360-degree videos as well as 3D videos.
The process of downloading videos is simple and consists of copying the YouTube video’s URL and pasting it into the 4K Video Downloader app.
The free version of the app contains ads and limits the number of playlists, channel and subtitles you can download. To get rid of those limitations, you can purchase the premium version of the app, which costs a one-time fee of $15. This grants you a license to use the software on three computers indefinitely.
The problem with online services that promise video downloading is that they don’t last long. In fact, an earlier version of this article contained a list of 11 such services, most of which don’t work anymore. More importantly, by visiting these sites you do potentially expose your computer to adware and malware, so tread very carefully.
That said, there’s a couple of these services that have been around for a while and they’re fairly reliable.
Probably the cleanest-looking among them is U2convert, which has a very simple UI, allowing you to paste a YouTube URL and download the video in two clicks. It does have some limitations, though: The free version will only allow you to download in the lowly 360p resolution. To be able to download higher-res videos you’ll have to pay for the premium version of the service. Note that if you just click on the download button, the video may open in another window. To download it to your computer, you may have to right click it and choose “Save link as.”
Another decent service is Keepvid.ch, offering a bit more in terms of quality for free. It does, however, constantly prompt you to download a desktop client called Vidus that offers more options. We haven’t tried Vidus out and cannot vouch for its quality.
A parting note before you go: If you’re only looking to download your own videos that you’ve uploaded to YouTube, that’s easy to do.
Here’s how to download your own YouTube videos:
Click on your profile pic in YouTube’s upper right corner
There you’ll be able to download each one of your videos from the three dot menu next to them