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When the topic of downloading YouTube videos comes up, there’s a side subject that must be broached: Is it legal? When it comes to copyright, as long as you’re downloading a video for your own personal offline use, you’re probably okay.
It’s more black and white when you consider Google’s terms of service for YouTube , which reads: There’s a reason YouTube runs pre-roll ads: Let’s be clear: If you want to share a video, YouTube and most other video sites make it easy, from embedding to emailing to sharing via social networks.
You simply do not need to download a video most of the time. However, you have your reasons. If you must download a YouTube video—absolutely need to, just for yourself, and not for dissemination, and not to be a total douche-nozzle—here’s how. This story is updated frequently as the tools involved change regularly. Some of those changes are not always pleasant, such as software so full of “extras” it gets flagged as malware by antivirus tools.
The same goes for the helper websites—a change in a site’s ad network can also create issues with malware. We want to prevent this becoming a laundry list of programs and sites that can download YouTube vids—for there are far too many of these tools. To be included, the software must: Support 4K downloads even in the free version. Work with top three video sites: YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo. Download entire playlists or channels in a batch on YouTube , at least with a paid version.
Output to MP3 for audio or have some companion software that does so. Have an interface that doesn’t suck. Not collect your personal data beyond your email address. Not contain malware. If there’s even a faint whiff of it in the air, even a PUP , it’s out.
Big time. Especially if you’re not really emptor-ing. Software Third-party software is where you will find the best control for downloading online videos. Typically, you paste the URL for the YouTube video you want into the program, and it downloads the highest quality version it can find. It used to be that YouTube videos were all Flash-based , so your download was an FLV file, but those tend to be harder to play back. Note that the MKV file, also called a Matroska, is a container—the file could contain video in any number of codecs inside.
As for the downloads, here are the best options. The software does what it advertises in a simple interface: The sites supported are more limited to the big names like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and a few others, but that probably covers most of what you need. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming film Glass—to download in 4K. If you enable the Smart Mode and its pre-sets, 4K Video Downloader can then do one-click downloads to your favorite format.
The program itself has an option to extract audio to MP3 format, so you don’t even need the 4K YouTube to MP3 companion software if you’ve got the original. Perhaps the biggest selling point of all is the claim that “There is no malware, adware, spyware or virus. You start with the “analyzer,” which checks all the options. With Glass, this tool also tried to default to the 1,by-1, version in MP4; I picked the 4K version 3, by 2, pixels in WebM format , which is a subset of the MKV format—you can rename a.
You can set up a number of them to back before you even click the download button. The 4K I couldn’t find options for downloading closed captions. So that’s a strike against it, if you need that function. But WinX probably makes up for it by supporting so many download sites. It’s shareware so you get limited functions even during the two-week trial 10 downloads a day, five video conversions a day ; even if you buy it, there’s a day money-back guarantee.
There’s a Discover mode, which is mainly a browser option to quickly find your way to the supported sites including adult sites to find content to grab.
AnyVid lets you do more than work with a pasted URL—it’ll search among the sites it supports for your search term. But pasting a URL works, too. You’ll get a quick preview, but no options until you click the Download button. There’s also typically a large list of options to get the video sans audio. Click the format you want, and the file is added to your library. Click the Library icon to actually see the download.
Grabbing a Clicking the play button next to a video labeled as Downloaded opened it instantly in VLC for me, and the video was flawless. There’s no caption capture, however. To get a playlist, you can also use a URL, but have to click download to add each individual video to your AnyVid library. The free version has limits, however—there’s no one-click download, it doesn’t support all 10, sites, you only get five downloads a day, and download speed tops out at 1Mbps no matter what your connection speed.
You can also only grab audio in M4A and can’t get subtitles. All those restrictions go away if you pay. However, even free, you can grab 4K video from YouTube with no problem. The If you want a playlist, you can do them in a batch, but in my test TubeGet would only allow a max of p HD even on the 8K video playlist. Before you even do the first download, you can use the “dial” on the interface to set up a preferred download format MP4 video or MP3 audio and a default download quality as high as 8K, even on the free version.
Downloading an MP4 in that size was a long wait, but that’s not surprising—the free version’s speed is limited to 2Mbps. I gave up counting after seven minutes and had to leave the room. The paid version has unlimited download speed.
You also need premium to download playlists and channels, do conversions, avoid ads, and get closed captions. You can also enter your account credentials for YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and a couple of other foreign sites to get instant private downloads. Promising no viruses and no ads and no need for plug-ins is a good start. You can still use it as a media player if you don’t register; I didn’t and was also still able to download 4K vids from YouTube.
When downloading, the program does try to hide some options. Paste in the URL for a YouTube video and the analysis engine runs and shows only a few download options.
Click the Gear icon then the Show All button and you’ll see more—including ability to get a 4K 3,by-2, file in WebM format. Grabbing playlists was also possible, but you have to set things up one video at a time.
The confusing interface makes it hard to go back to the other videos in the playlist. The player didn’t like playing back the overly large 4K file though and experienced buffering issues—VLC didn’t have any problem with the same file. Ultimately, there’s a lot to like about 5K Player, from the price to the features, especially if you look at them as extras on a downloader.
But the interface and playback issues may have you looking elsewhere. Helper Websites Do you prefer to avoid installing software? Video download helper sites do the download work for you, providing conversion and then a download link—you don’t have to install anything on your PC. It can take a lot longer, depending on the size and quality of the video you want—a typical two-minute movie trailer in p can be around 30MB—but you can’t beat the convenience.
There are hundreds of these types of sites out there—it seems anyone with a modicum of coding ability has set one up. Such sites can easily go from useful to suspicious, especially if they get popular. If your browser or your instincts throws up warnings, avoid and move to the next. A few of these sites make it easy to grab video by letting you change the URL of a vid at YouTube slightly, so the service takes over.
We’ll note a few of those below. Beware of the ad traps on some helper sites—some ads look like they should be the download button to get your desired content, but they are not. Also, depending on the ad network employed by the site, your own virus detection software may throw up some warnings. The more the developers of sites rely on ads they don’t control, or resort to trying to get you to place something on your system as “payment,” the worse off we all are.
Here are a few helper sites that stand out. All of them do one basic thing:
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