How to Download YouTube Videos

Anastasios Antoniadis

A comprehensive guide on how to download YouTube videos to any device.

How to Download YouTube Videos

Downloading YouTube videos is generally easy and a handy function. It’s excellent in cases where you need offline access to YouTube videos, for instance, when in public transport where your connection may be unreliable. Downloading YouTube videos is also great in cases where you want to save your mobile data allowance. That’s why we have compiled a guide on how to download YouTube videos to any electronic devices to help you out.

You can download them to your phone using your home Wi-Fi and watch them on the move without spending any mobile data. However, free YouTube video downloads are necessary in certain parts of the world rather than a luxury. So, let’s discuss how you can download YouTube videos for free.

While YouTube itself provides this option, it requires a premium subscription. But there are third-party free YouTube downloaders that you can use as well. Below, we explain how to do all this. But first, let’s talk about the legality of free YouTube video downloads.

Online YouTube Downloaders vs Desktop Software

You can use many sites to download YouTube videos, but I won’t recommend them in this post due to their disadvantages over desktop software. First, they’re slower than desktop applications as you don’t download straight from YouTube. The intermediary connection to the site’s server is a bottleneck.  Moreover, these sites typically feature NSFW variety ads or display thumbnails of recently downloaded videos, which may not be appropriate.

Online video downloaders/converters typically don’t provide many formats and quality options, if at all. They only allow you to download a single video at a time and cannot handle playlists. 3D and 360-degree videos are also beyond their limitations, and very few can handle 4K video downloads. So, we generally don’t recommend using an online YouTube video downloader. It’s better to resort to desktop software, as they are a safer and more capable choice.

How to download YouTube videos to a PC

1. Download 4K Video Downloader

First, let’s see how to download YouTube videos to a Windows PC. Start by downloading and installing?4K Video Downloader. This 4K Video Downloader is free and can download whole playlists and 360-degree and 3D videos. It’s one of the best options for a free YouTube video downloader. When the download is done, check the box marked ‘Launch’ and click ‘Finish.’

2. Copy and paste the video URL

Next, find the video you want to download from YouTube on your web browser and copy its URL from the address bar. Go back to 4K Video Downloader and click the green ‘Paste Link’ button at the top left.?The downloader will retrieve information about the video and give you a list of video quality options. These will vary depending on the quality of the original video. But 4K Video Downloader can download YouTube videos even in 4K if available.

3. Choose the quality and format

4K Video Downloader can download full YouTube videos or rip audio tracks. You can choose your preferred selection using the drop-down menu on the left. Then, choose a format using the menu on the right. MP4 typically provides a good tradeoff between quality and size and will play on every device.

Finally, choose your preferred quality. You should choose high-quality TV or PC playback despite the longer download time and extra size. You can check the estimated file size on the left to see how much space it will take. You can also choose the download location of the downloaded video using the ‘Browse’ button at the bottom.

When done, 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, the 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 is downloaded, you can find it in the destination folder or right-click it in the 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.

If you often download videos in the same format, you can enable 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 the 4K Video Downloader; it will be downloaded instantly with the last settings you used.

How to Download YouTube videos to an Android device

1. Install TubeMate manually

TubeMate is one of the most popular tools that allows you to download YouTube videos on Android smartphones. It’s straightforward to use and has the features you need without any unnecessary extras.

The TubeMate video downloader isn’t available on the Google Play Store. Google, the owner of YouTube, is not a fan of YouTube downloaders. So, first of all, you’ll need to allow your Android device to install and run apps downloaded from unknown sources. However, make sure that you download only apps you know are safe.

Open up ‘Settings’ and go to ‘Security. Scroll down to where it says ‘Unknown sources,’ and 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, and the app will launch. TubeMate looks much like the official YouTube Android app. You can search for a video and begin playing it. You can tap the red ‘Download’ button at the bottom right from there.

3. Download the video

Next, you will see a video and audio formats list and quality and resolution options. Remember the trade-off between quality and file size so you won’t fill up your device. When satisfied with your selections, tap the red ‘Download’ button again. The video will download in the background, so you can use your phone as usual. Keep in mind that downloading YouTube videos drains the battery. You can also add YouTube videos to a queue to download later. This is useful if you currently use 4G and want to wait until you have Wi-Fi before downloading any large files.

Download YouTube videos to iPhone, iPad, or iPod

On iOS or iPadOS, you will need to install the Documents app. While Documents is a file manager, it can also download YouTube clips. The process is a little fiddly but still straightforward.

First, find the clip you want to download in the YouTube app for iOS or Safari. Once you’ve found it, tap the ‘Share’ icon and then ‘Copy Link’.

Open Documents and look for its web browser icon, the little compass at the bottom right of the display. Tap on that and go to 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 the Documents’ downloads section, from which you can drag it over ‘Photos > Camera Roll’ so it’s available from outside the Documents app.

Download YouTube Videos to your Mac

You have many options on a Mac and macOS, but one of the simplest is MacX YouTube Downloader (also available for Windows). The process is similar to 4K YouTube Downloader. All you need to do is add the link and choose the quality options, and you can download multiple clips at once.

How to download videos with YouTube Premium

A YouTube Premium subscription provides various perks, including downloading videos to watch offline without third-party software. You can do this using the YouTube, YouTube Music, and YouTube gaming apps. Remember that you can only watch the downloaded videos using the app. You can’t move the video file to a different device or watch it with a different player.

Start watching a video, then tap the ‘Download‘ button (a gray arrow) under the player and choose a quality setting. Once the video has been downloaded from YouTube successfully, you can find it in your Library or Account tab. 

You must be signed in to your account to watch downloaded videos, and you can’t respond to videos with comments or likes when watching them offline as you are accessing the locally saved version.

Available and Ideal Format Options for YouTube Video Downloads

Free YouTube video download software provides a choice of several file formats. The most common are MP4, 3GP, AVI, and MOV; the choice of format and quality settings will affect the devices you can watch your video on and its quality. For older phones with small storage and screens, 3GP is probably ideal. However, it’s terrible for pretty much everything else. 

MOV is Apple’s video format for other devices that works on every Mac. Its counterpart is the Microsoft-developed AVI, and it works happily on PCs. MP4 is the video equivalent of MP3 and works on pretty much anything. MP4 is the safest and recommended choice here.

Deciding on the Downloaded Video Quality

The next decision you’ll need to make is the video quality. That’s because YouTube streams in multiple qualities ranging from 3GP for old mobiles to 1080p high definition for big HD displays. Unless you download in 3GP format, your device has four options: 360p, 480p, 720p, and 1080p.

Choosing the appropriate video quality requires a careful balance between clarity and file size. Opting for lower resolutions, such as 360p or 480p, can help conserve storage space, especially if you’re dealing with limited storage capacity. These lower-quality options are suitable for small screens or video viewing on your mobile device where visual details are less crucial.

However, if you’re watching the video on a larger screen or want to enjoy a more immersive viewing experience, you may want to consider selecting a higher-quality option. 720p can be a great compromise between file size and visual quality. It offers a good balance, providing precise details without demanding too much storage space. It’s recommended if you plan to watch the video on a device with an average-sized display.

On the other hand, if you have ample storage available and want to experience the video in full high-definition glory on a large HD display, you can opt for the highest quality available – 1080p. This option provides the best visual clarity, allowing you to capture all the intricate details, vibrant colors, and smooth video motion.

Ultimately, deciding which video quality to choose depends on your preferences, device, and available storage space. When selecting, consider the screen size, available storage, and your desire for visual quality. Remember, if storage is a concern and you don’t have unlimited space, it’s recommended to opt for a lower quality that still provides an acceptable viewing experience.

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 prefer 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 affect the audio track’s quality. Keep that in mind if your primary focus is downloading songs, although ideally, you should look for YouTube to MP3 converters.

Using third-party apps to download YouTube videos is against YouTube’s terms of service, stating that you can only 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. Consequently, you are treading into questionable territory by downloading YouTube videos unless it’s by using YouTube’s apps.

Anastasios Antoniadis
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