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Pocket your favorite videos with our guide to downloading from YouTube

So you want to download YouTube videos? It’s not surprising; after all, in our increasingly mobile world, you might want to watch a new music video or viral sensation, only to find yourself thwarted by a lack of Wi-Fi or a restrictive data plan. Thankfully, if you want to store your favorite videos, there’s no shortage of web-based and desktop software specially designed for downloading videos from YouTube.

More: Play any video on any device with the best free video converters

Here’s everything you need to know to download YouTube videos. But first, a quick disclaimer: It is generally legal to share and embed YouTube videos on the internet, but downloading them for your own offline use isn’t always permitted. Downloading videos is a violation of the YouTube Terms of Service, unless YouTube has explicitly given permission to download the video in question. While we’ve tested the methods below, some may also have ads that link to shady websites or even download adware. As with any website, be cautious when clicking links and installing new software.

VLC (Windows, MacOS, Linux)

If you have VLC installed on your computer, you already have a great tool for downloading videos from YouTube. It’s not as straightforward as other methods, but it still allows you to bypass ad-riddled websites and other third-party software that you might otherwise seek out. And if you don’t have it, you can download it here. The method differs slightly between operating systems, but it’s not terribly confusing.

Keep in mind that there are downsides to using VLC, however. You can’t convert the video to another format, for instance, or choose which resolution you prefer. But the software still gives you access to your videos faster than other tools, mostly because it downloads directly from Google’s servers. Best of all, this method doesn’t require a website or any third-party tools, well, other than the open-source VLC player.

Step 1: Navigate to the YouTube video you’d like to download in your browser, and copy the URL. Then, launch VLC as you would normally, and click Open Network Stream. If you’re on a Mac, you’ll want to click File, then Open Network. Once done, paste your YouTube URL in the box housed within the Network tab, and click Open. Your video will automatically start playing in VLC.

vlc-youtube-download

Step 2: If you’re using Windows, select Tools in the toolbar at the top and select Codec Information from the resulting drop-down menu. If you’re on a Mac, select Window and click Media Information in the drop-down menu.

vlc-youtube-download-codec

This will bring up a screen with various information about the video, but we’re only interested in the “Location” bar at the bottom. This will showcase the exact URL for your video, directly from Google’s servers. Go ahead and copy the link and paste it in the address bar of your browser.

youtube-downloading-video-url

Step 3: The video will then play within your browser. Right-click the video, click Save As — or Save Video As…, if using a Mac — and wait for the download to complete. That’s it! The video is now on your hard drive.

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