It’s an understatement to say that YouTube is kind of a big deal. Since the launching of its first video in 2005 (the riveting “Me at the Zoo”), the site has grown to be a phenomenon, bolstered by its passionate community and accessed by hundreds of millions of people each day. However, how do you watch YouTube videos when you leave your network behind? Maybe you just absolutely need to watch the music video for “Gangnam Style” or Bieber’s “Baby” while on the go, without eating up all your cell phone data. Or maybe you just want to compile those cute, cuddly, can’t-get-enough-of-them cat videos for your personal enjoyment when your Wi-Fi is on the fritz.
Should you decide to trudge the grey area that is downloading YouTube videos for your untethered enjoyment, let us be your guide. Tempting? Yes. Legal? Not necessarily. Either way, here’s everything you need to know to about downloading YouTube videos. Also, check out our guide on how to convert MP4s to MP3s if you’re looking to ditch the video in favor of portability.
Choose the software
While YouTube is undertaking a pilot project to allow content owners the ability to make their content legally downloadable for free or for a small fee, the bulk of videos on the website are not as fortunate. Luckily there are a handful of software programs – from popular browser add-ons to stand-alone programs – that will allow you to download videos regardless of whether the content owner has made the video available.
NOTE: See disclaimer on the following page for the legality of downloading YouTube videos.
Some websites, browser add-ons, and programs simply take the URL associated with a particular video and download the videos in their original Flash format (FLV). However, most will convert the files into a more accessible format such as AVI or MP4 so you’re able to play them in the media player or device of your choice. The following are some of our top contenders and suggestions for the ultimate YouTube video downloader. Remain on the lookout to avoid installing any bundled toolbars or additional malware during installation.
Clip Converter (Web-based/Windows/Mac OS X/Free)
Now officially out of the beta phase, Clip Converter is an easy solution to for all your YouTube downloading needs. The web-based utility is entirely free, requires no additional software to run and can quickly download videos from YouTube, Dailymotion, IMDB, Metacafe, Myspace and many others. The tool features all the standard format types — from MP3s to WMVs — and even includes an option to edit embedded ID3 tags.
Plus, there is a simple browser add-on for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and even Opera as well as a sleek desktop version for any operating system your machine may be running on, allowing users to bypass the Clip Converter homepage all together. Ads are relatively few and far between, no matter which platform your using, making it one the least invasive and streamlined tools of any YouTube converter out there. No wonder it’s garnered nearly 270,000 Facebook likes since its initial launch.
As one of the flagship downloaders of the late 2000s, VDownloader has been making the rounds ever since early 2007. The interface can be overwhelming at first glance, but it’s fairly easy to navigate once you know you’re way around the software. Like TubeBox, the software features an extremely handy search tool that allows users to instantly scour YouTube, Daily Motion and Yahoo Video as well specified playlists, usernames and their own library. Output formats can be broadened to simple quality selections, such as “highest quality” and “smallest file size,” or narrowed to specific file types including those playable on the iPad and Nokia N800.
The program also monitors users’ clipboard, automatically pasting the video URL for downloading purposes whenever you copy it to your clipboard, and includes the ability to merge multiple clips into one for seamless playback and lengthier files. Other features, such as the built-in browser and DVD burner, give more advanced users several reasons to pick up the piece of freemium software. VDownloader isn’t overly flashy, but its packed with enough extras to make it stand on its own.
FSS Video Downloader (Windows/Free)
Lack of features often means light on footprint and FSS Video Downloader is no exception. The software is as basic as it gets, equipped with a single box where users can paste their video URL from sites like Google Video, Facebook and YouTube before choosing their desired save destination and hitting the “Download” button. Video format selection will vary from video to video based on availability, but common formats such as MP4, FLV and 3Gp are typically available as download options for most videos. There are no additional features — not even an option to rename your new video file upon download completion — but the software works as intended with a minimalistic design and no ads.
aTube Catcher (Windows/Free)
This software shines among the arsenal of the free downloaders for multiple reasons. First off, it allows you to download videos from YouTube, Comedy Central, Dailymotion, Google, and a plethora of other sites with ease. Secondly, the videos can be directly converted into more than 30 formats, from WAV to MP3, all from within the program. The software also hosts a variety of other built-in features including a voice recorder, a DVD/Blu-ray burner, a stream catcher and screen recorder.
ATube Catcher is occasionally buggy and the interface could use a bit of tuneup — it looks like a shoddy Windows program circa 1998 — but don’t let mere appearances and infrequent glitch dissuade you of the software’s overall functionality and rich feature set. However, if using the robust set seems daunting, there is a fantastic Help menu that includes a Web-based manual and links for downloading additional codecs among other tools. Oh, and did we mention the software is completely devoid of ads? That’s always a plus in our book.
As a newcomer to the downloader game, it would seem like TubeBox has a quite a bit of catching up to do. However, the software is some of the best on our list, toting an impressive search function that allows users to search and access specific videos via YouTube, Funny or Die, Vimeo and other online video portals. That program can download and convert multiple files simultaneously — a feature that can be set and tailored appropriately to the amount of available bandwidth — and is bundled with automatic link grabber that will import the video URL directly into the program’s download queue.
Download and conversion options, though limited, include everything from MP4 files for your Android and iPhone to WMV for Xbox 360 playback. You can even filter your search results by HD and 3D, the latter opening up a whole new world of the Web I didn’t know existed prior to writing this post. The interface is clean and uncomplicated even when minimized to compact mode, and the downloads often download just as quick as it takes to find them. And who doesn’t like a cute, wholly mammoth for a logo?
MacX YouTube Downloader (Mac OS X/Free)
MacX YouTube Downloader is one of the better downloaders exclusively for the Mac. The program is simple to install, navigate, and use. The default settings are great for beginners, but there is also a level of flexibility and customization that gives more experienced users a bit more to play with. Additional features include the ability to extract photos from YouTube videos and the automatic video detection that makes manually copy and pasting video URLs a thing of the digital past.
The downloader is quick, efficient, and offers a variety of formats and resolution choices for playback on everything from Android phones to Apple iPads. There’s also no need to add the videos to your favorite media player as the the tool will automatically do so upon download completion. The lustrous interface is a pleasure to use, as is the is the multi-threading and batch downloading technology that allows the simultaneous download and preview of any video in your queue. It’s definitely worth a look if you tend to stray from Windows-based software.
Any Video Converter (Windows/Free)
Besides being one of our go-to choices for extracting audio from a video file, Any Video Converter is also a fantastic tool for downloading and converting videos from popular sites such as YouTube, Nicovideo and others. The software supports the conversion staples — AVI, WMV, MKV and more than 50 other accessible formats — as well as batch conversion and a customizable output management for tailoring your video for your desired device. Like Clip Converter, video files can be trimmed to a specified length by inputting the appropriate start and end times, and there is even a function that will allow you to merge multiple videos in varying formats into a single unified file.
The added video editing tools for cropping, editing codecs and the like is also a useful featuring that most YouTube downloaders lack. AVC doesn’t feature any intuitive URL grabber or search function like other programs on our list, but copy and pasting your video’s URL in the box is easy enough. It’s also impressively fast, has little trouble detecting the available video formats and comes bundled with a DVD and AVCHD burner for playback on both DVD and Blu-ray players. For across the board functionality and sheer convenience, AVC is one of the best bets on our list.
Clip Convert may be the clear winner when it comes to video downloading websites, but KeepVid tries its best to keep up. The website is compatible with all standard browsers and allows users to download videos from YouTube, Vimeo, Metacafe, and others. It also provides a variety of formats and quality options to choose from. The drawback? It’s a bit slow and chock full of commercial advertisements.
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