How to Download YouTube Videos

So you want to download a YouTube video? While basic YouTube only offers downloads for a few select videos in a few select locations, there are ways to download any YouTube video you want at any time.

This article will cover two approaches: paying for YouTube Premium and using a free Mac, Windows, or Linux app.

As well: How local politics made me turn to YouTube Premium for my last resort defense


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I’m a big fan of YouTube Premium because it saves me and my wife the hassle of most ads, but it’s a luxury expense. You can subscribe to YouTube Premium for $11.99 per month (or $17.99 per month for a family plan).

My favorite feature is the complete absence of ads provided by Google. There are no banners, no pre-rolls and no interstitial ads. However, if a YouTube channel wants to embed an ad in a video, YouTube Premium will not filter those YouTuber embedded ads.

YouTube Premium also offers background and picture-in-picture playback, YouTube Music, and access to YouTube Originals. I have never used these three features, but they are part of the Premium package.

YouTube Premium also includes the ability to download videos. If you have YouTube Premium, you have a download button in your web browser or phone app.


You can find your downloads in the YouTube Downloads area. Note that YouTube says downloads are retained as long as you have an internet connection at least once every thirty days. This way, YouTube can confirm that you are still a YouTube Premium user.


You don’t have an easy way to turn this download into a usable video file on a desktop device, so if you want to use this video for anything other than offline watching, you’re out of luck. The same goes for iOS.

However, if you are an Android user with an SD card slot in your phone, you can set the YouTube app settings (tap your profile picture, then Settings, then Downloads) to save videos to your SD card.


That’s how to download videos in barely usable form for the super low price of $11.99 per month. But what if you want a better solution and want to do it for free? Yeah, we’ve got you covered.

Also: 4 Best Free Video Editing Software Apps

ClipGrab to the rescue

I have to give ZDNet editor props for introducing me to this program a few years ago. I’ve been using it ever since. ClipGrab is a free program available for Mac, Windows, and Linux users. The developer says it’s open source, but the source code is only available for Linux. Either way, ClipGrab rocks.

Point your browser to and click the View all download options link. There you will see download links for Mac, Windows and Linux. I will show you the Mac version in this article, but the interface is almost identical on all three.

Using ClipGrab is simple. Copy the YouTube video link. You can do this in your browser’s URL bar or by clicking the Share button below the video itself. Then launch ClipGrab. Make sure you are on the Downloads tab, then paste the URL of the video you want to download. Finally, click on Retrieve this clip.


There are options you can change. For example, you can choose the format you want the video to be in when stored on your computer. I usually go with Original, but I’ll specify something else if that doesn’t work. You can also choose the download resolution. Depending on the original resolution of the video, you can choose to download the video in full resolution or reduce the resolution to save space.


Finally, by tapping on the Settings tab, you can customize where ClipGrab drops your newly downloaded videos.


Moral, ethical, legal and caloric considerations

Now that you know how to download YouTube videos, should you? First, be aware that different jurisdictions have different laws. It may or may not be legal to download a certain video, even if all you want to do is watch it offline.

If you want to upload a video to incorporate into something you produce, keep in mind that some countries have the concept of fair use. In these jurisdictions, small snippets of copyrighted media may be incorporated into your productions. But also keep in mind that YouTube has algorithmic systems looking for people re-using videos and your channel could get a warning for re-using media.

When in doubt, it’s always best to ask.

There. Wondering how to download YouTube videos? What do you plan to do with them? Do you have any other techniques to accomplish the same thing? Are you subscribed to YouTube Premium? If yes, what do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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Raymond T. Helms