How to Download YouTube Videos for Free

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Are you wondering how to download YouTube videos for offline viewing, educational purposes, or research? You’re in the right place! Keep reading to learn more.

YouTube has the highest market share, 75.41% according to Datanyze, in the online video-sharing and video-streaming services sector. The platform is widely used for posting entertaining, educational, marketing, and other type of media content. It also became the major place for music video premiers.

YouTube users may want to save videos offline for future consumption or cut down their internet data usage. However, downloading YouTube videos comes with various limitations and isn’t something that can be done right away.

In this article, we will explain the regulations and restrictions that apply to YouTube content. Additionally, we will share the safest ways to save a video from YouTube for personal use only. Let’s get started!

Can I download a YouTube video?

According to the "Permissions and Restrictions" section of YouTube’s Terms of Service text, the platform doesn’t allow you to download its videos due to copyright laws.

However, you can the platform's services like YouTube Premium or the "Download" button in Android, iOS, and Chrome OS. This will give you the option to save an offline copy that you won’t be able to replicate to an external data storage.

The digital content ecosystem is covered by a web of many copyright and intellectual property protection laws. So, before downloading a YouTube video, assess the restrictions behind it, whether your country supports Fair Use policy, etc. If you must download a video just for research, keep in mind that you shouldn’t share it with someone else.

You may need to download a video from YouTube for personal use, which is fine, as long as the content remains private and you don’t share it with others (for free and for a payment).

Now that you know the legalities, let’s explore below some of the safest ways you can use:

YouTube downloaders: summary table

Method OS Copyright compliance Output format Rating
YouTube Studio
web
MP4
5.0
YouTube Premium
Web
MP4
4.0
YouTube mobile app
iOS
Android
MP4
3.5
VLC Media Player
Windows
MP4
3.0
QuickTime Player
macOS
MOV
3.0
Google Takeout
web
ZIP, TGZ
3.0

1. YouTube Studio

Suppose, you want to download all YouTube videos of your channel to back up your content or make adjustments. You can do so easily with the YouTube Studio.

Here’s how you can use this YouTube downloader:

Step 1. Visit the YouTube Studio portal using your Google email.

Step 2. Click Content in the left-side navigation panel. You will see all the videos you uploaded to YouTube.

Step 3. Find the video you want to save your video from YouTube and hover over the title until a toolbar pops up.

Step 4. There, click on the three dots icon (Options) and hit "Download".

Step 5. YouTube will start a download queue for the video you selected.

Step 6. You should find the MP4 file in the Downloads folder of your PC or Mac.

Download your video from YouTube - Studio

The downloaded clips come in the MP4 file format, so you can edit your videos, transfer them to an external hard drive, or upload them to cloud storage like Google Drive or Dropbox.

2. YouTube Premium

Suppose you are somewhere where the internet connection is unreliable. Or, you travel a lot and you’d love to watch your favorite YouTube videos during those long flights or bus rides. In such cases, you may want to download YouTube videos on your device and not be afraid that they will be interrupted due to network issues.

The best way to do so is by using a YouTube Premium subscription. It enables you to watch videos ad-free and download as much as you want without worrying about the IP ban.

Sign up for the Premium:

Step 1. Open YouTube in a browser on your device .

Step 2. In the menu on the left side of the screen, find YouTube Premium.

Step 3. On the new page, scroll down to pick a plan - individual, student, or family.

Step 4. Follow the instructions on how to add payment details.

Youtube Premium subscription

Download a video from YouTube:

Step 1. Browse to your favorite YouTube channel. Click a video to play.

Step 2. Hit the "Download" button below the video playback frame and to the right of the Share button.

Step 3. Depending on the network speed, the download may be fast or slow.

Step 4. Once done, you should find it on the YouTube Downloads page.

Step 5. There, you can also activate Smart downloads by clicking the Turn on button to automatically download recommended videos.

YouTube Downloader - Premium subscription

Tip: If you need to save a video from YouTube just once legally and don’t want to pay for YouTube Premium, sign up for the 30-day free trial. In this way, you will get 1 month of unlimited functionalities, including the YouTube video downloader.

3. YouTube mobile app

Users of the YouTube mobile application, even without the Premium subscription, can download certain videos from YouTube. The Download button in the YouTube app will only show up if the channel owner allows such a feature for their content.

Attention!

  • If you start downloading many YouTube videos from one IP address, the algorithm may flag your Google account. Then, you may get banned from accessing YouTube for a specific period or for eternity.

To check if the video you want to save is available for a free download, follow the steps outlined below.

Step 1. Launch the YouTube application and look up the video you need to download.

Step 2. Tap the three dots below the video thumbnail. Then, tap the Download button.

Step 3. Select the video quality you want to download from the pop-up menu that shows up.

Step 4. Tap Download again to start the process.

Step 5. The selected YouTube video shall start downloading in the background.

The app works similarly on almost all phones, so the same instructions apply to downloading YouTube videos on iOS and Android-based devices.

4. VLC Media Player

Suppose you don’t have a credit card to subscribe to the trial of YouTube Premium. In that case, you can use the VLC Media Player and its screen recording tool to save a YouTube video for free.

Attention!

  • Ensure you’re not sending the videos to third parties in exchange for money or for free. Use it only for research and educational purposes and delete the videos as soon as possible.

Here are the steps you can follow:

Step 1. Open the application and click the "Media" menu. Choose "Open Capture Device".

Step 2. Click the "Capture" mode drop-down menu and choose "Desktop".

Step 3. Expand the drop-down menu on the "Play" button and select "Convert".

Step 4. On the "Convert" dialog, hit the "Browse" button and choose a destination directory and file name.

Step 5. Now, click the "Start" button.

Step 6. Open the YouTube video on your web browser, make it full screen, and play it until the end. Do not open other apps or tabs and do not move your mouse for the best recording quality. Also, ensure no one is around talking.

Step 7. To finish screen recording, click the "Stop" button on the player's interface.

Step 8. Go to the destination file directory to find your screen recording file.

5. QuickTime Player

QuickTime Player is the native macOS media player. It comes with a screen recording feature just like the VLC Media Player.

Here’s how you can use this player for YouTube video download purposes:

Step 1. Open the application.

Step 2. Click "File" in the Mac Menubar and select the "New Screen Recording" option. A camera icon will appear on the cursor.

Step 3. To record an already playing or open YouTube video, click on the web browser window using the camera icon.

Step 4. The screen recording will start.QuickTime Player is specifically recording the YouTube window, so you can focus on other tasks when the video plays completely.

Step 5. Once finished, click the square button on the right side of the Mac Menubar to end the screen recording. The recorded video will open up automatically.

Step 6. Now, again click the "File" menu. Pick the "Save" option in the context menu that pops up.

Step 7. Mac will show the "Export as" dialog box. Type a file name for the recording and choose a directory to save it.

Step 8. Click "Save" to save the screen recording on your Mac.

6. Google Takeout

The Google Takeout service in the data & privacy portal that enables you to download all YouTube videos you uploaded to your channel in a single click.

Here are the easy instructions you can follow along with:

Step 1. Visit the "Data & Privacy" portal from your Google account or YouTube channel.

Step 2. Scroll down the page until you find the "Download or delete your data" card.

Step 3. There, click the "Download your data" button. You arrive on the "Google Takeout" portal.

Step 4. Click the "Deselect all" hyperlink at the top of the page. Keep scrolling until you reach the bottom of the Google Takeout page.

Step 5. Check the box for the item "YouTube and YouTube Music". Hit the "Next step" button.

Step 6. Click the drop-down menu under the Destination section. Choose any cloud storage service from the list or select the Send download link via email choice.

Step 7. Now, schedule a frequency of video downloads. Under the "File type & size" section choose between the ZIP and TGZ options. For the "File size**" section, choose the maximum video file size after which YouTube will split the download size.

Step 8. Click the "Create export" button to finalize the download.

Other methods

There are many other ways to get a copy of a YouTube video of interest for offline viewing or research purposes. These are as mentioned below:

Creative Commons Videos

The YouTube Filters tool allows you to see only the creative commons-licensed videos. You can try to download those just for personal viewing or education. Here’s how:

  1. Search for a topic of the video on YouTube.
  2. Click the "Filters" button on the top right corner.
  3. On the "Search filters" dialog, click on "Creative Commons".
  4. Now, the search results only show those videos that were tagged with the Creative Commons license by the creator.
Download videos from YouTube - filters

Obtain Permission From YouTube

If you need a YouTube video for media or work-related purposes, you can also reach out to the YouTube for Press team.

The YouTube Press team will guide you through how to appropriately broadcast original content by crediting the relevant creators. Through this email, you can request videos, images, press content, statistics, and more.

Obtain Permission From Content Owner

Most channel owners possess backup copies of all the videos they upload to YouTube. Thus, they are also trusted and reliable sources to get YouTube videos in MP4 or other formats which you can view in the offline mode.

Here’s how you can send a content-sharing request to the channel owner:

  1. Go to the channel that uploaded the original video you want to download from YouTube.
  2. Click the "About" tab of the channel you visited.
  3. Scroll down to the "Details" section.
  4. Click the "View email address" button to uncover the contact details of the channel owner.
  5. Now, send an email to the creator requesting a copy of the video you’re interested in.
YouTube video download - permission

FAQ

Is it save to download videos from YouTube?
You may be exposed to risks such as malware or viruses if obtain the content using unreliable sources. Additionally, you may violate YouTube's terms of service and copyright laws, potentially leading to legal consequences.
Can I download entire YouTube playlists or channels?
Yes, some tools and software allow users to download videos from YouTube playlists or channels in bulk. This feature can be convenient for offline viewing, but users should be mindful of copyright restrictions and obtain permission if necessary.
How can I ensure the downloaded videos are of high quality?
Select reputable download tools that offer options for different video resolutions. Additionally, downloading directly from the official source whenever possible can help maintain video quality.
Are there any limitations to downloading YouTube videos?
Yes, certain content on YouTube, such as age-restricted or copyrighted material, may have restrictions on downloading. Users should respect these limitations and avoid downloading such content without proper authorization.
Can I edit or modify downloaded YouTube videos for my own use?
Generally, you can edit YouTube videos for personal use. For example, you can create compilations or add subtitles. However, it's crucial to respect copyright laws and avoid any modifications that infringe upon the original creator's rights or integrity of the content.

Conclusion

In this article, we've explored all the safe ways to download YouTube videos that are compliant with copyright laws. Give the above methods a try depending on what type of content you want to save, the device kind on which you’re working, and the purpose you need the video for.

Tamal Das

Expert Tech Writer

Tamal is a tech writer at Icecream Apps. After completing his MS in Science, he joined reputed IT consultancy companies to acquire hands-on knowledge of IT technologies. Now, he’s a professional content writer of B2B and B2C software products and also a meticulous software reviewer whose reviews on applications and web apps have been published in reputed technology websites. He has already been published on such reputable sites like MakeUseOf, Geekflare, AddictiveTips. When he’s not writing, he researches the internet and technology journals to stay updated about the latest happenings in the SaaS industry.
7 min read
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