Most of time time you probably watch YouTube videos by streaming them to your TV, phone, laptop or tablet. That's the way it's supposed to work, and that's the best way to support your favourite channels, so long as you don't skip all the ads.
But there are times when you can't stream. Maybe the signal on your commute is too poor, or your internet connection is being maxed out by everyone else, leaving you no bandwidth to stream at the glorious 4K quality you prefer.
Whatever your reason for wanting to download, there are many different ways depending upon the device you're using and whether you're happy to pay for the privilege or would rather find a free method.
There are two official ways to download videos from YouTube. First, there's the YouTube Go app which is available in countries where mobile data is too expensive for streaming them.
There's also a premium service (the creatively named YouTube Premium) that allows users in other countries - including the UK and US - to download YouTube content to later watch offline. There are other benefits of Premium, too, such as having music continue to play from the app in the background.
YouTube Premium has a premium price, but for those who download videos regularly it's arguably worth the cost - £11.99/$11.99 per month - but if you just want to download an occasional clip it's probably too much to justify paying.
The good news is that it's easy to download YouTube videos using unofficial methods. First, we recommend reading our guide to whether it's legal to download YouTube videos.
Jump straight to the section you need:
- Download using YouTube Premium
- Download videos using a web browser
- Download using a Windows app
- Download YouTube playlists
- Download YouTube music only
- Download videos to Android or iPhone / iPad
If you're a YouTube Premium subscriber then downloading videos is easy. There is one big caveat though: you can only do it using the official YouTube or YouTube Gaming apps, which means you can't use Premium to download videos to your computer - only to a phone or tablet.
To download simply open the app and head to the video you want to download. Underneath the player you should see a 'Download' icon - tap that, pick what video quality you want to download, and that's it.
Once the video has downloaded the icon below it will change to a blue tick - tap this if you want to remove the download. You'll be able to find all your downloaded videos in the Library or Account tabs.
If you want to save videos on your laptop or PC, an easy and free way is to head to a website where you paste the URL of the YouTube video. There are many such websites, but they often get shut down.
One that works currently (and has done for years) is SaveFrom, which is free but doesn't let you download just the audio (for music, say) and even if a video is in 1080p or 4K, you can only download a lower-quality 720p version.
There are lots of others like SaveFrom such as Bitdownloader, which usually try to push you into installing apps or web browser extensions if you want to download in the highest quality.
The bottom line is that using a website is fast and simple, but may not offer the quality or format that you need.
If you're forced to download in a format that's not suitable for playing back on your laptop (such as WebM) then you could use Freemake Video Converter to convert the downloaded videos into other formats.
To use a website such SaveFrom, this is the process:
1. Browse to www.youtube.com and find a video you want to download. Copy the URL from your browser's address bar. Clicking in the address bar is usually enough to highlight it, but clicking three times should also do the job. Press Ctrl-C to copy the highlighted address.
2. Now go to the video downloader website. Put your cursor in the box for the video URL and press Ctrl-V to paste your copied address. If there are options, such as resolution or format - such as MP4 or MP3 (which is audio only) - choose what you want and click Download.
3. Look in your ‘Downloads’ folder using Windows File Explorer to find the video file. You should be able to double-click on the file to play it, unless it has been downloaded in a format that Windows can't play. In this case, return to the website and see if you can choose a different format - ideally .mp4. Alternatively, here's how to convert videos for free using Freemake and Any Video Converter, or you could download and install VLC, which is a free video player that can play just about any file.
As with websites, there are lots of options for downloading with a desktop app. Not all are free, but some are. A paid-for one we recommend is YouTube By Click (see below). It has an easy-to-use interface, is regularly updated and does everything including downloading at high resolutions, grabbing entire playlists and more. It's also reasonably priced at $9.99.
There are lots of alternatives, but none that we've found to be as good - or as good value - as YouTube By Click. They include iTubeGo, which offers a basic interface, but which can download playlists and 4K videos. It isn't the cheapest option at $29.95 though.
If you want a free option, try WinX YouTube Downloader. This will nag you to upgrade to the full version which includes conversion to other formats (including MP3), but if you can put up with these, it won't cost you anything.
The process is virtually identical to using a website: you copy and paste the URL of the video into the app. Then you choose any options, such as the resolution to download, then hit the Download button. Most apps allow you to build up a list of videos and then download them in one go. Some even let you paste in a YouTube playlist and automatically download all the videos.
Sometimes you have to pay for software if you want an easy life. YouTube By Click makes it supremely easy to download video - or just audio - from YouTube. All you have to do is to copy the URL of a video and a pop-up will ask if you want to download the audio or video. Or you can set a default and it won't even ask: it will automatically download the MP3 or MP4 at the default quality.
If the video is part of a playlist you can click the 'Download playlist' button and you'll get a pop-up like the one shown below where you can choose which videos you want from the playlist. A single click on the Download button is all you need after that.
You get a day's free trial to see if you like the program, but after that you'll have to pay. Currently, it's half price at $9.99.
Sometimes you might want to download only the audio from a video on YouTube. The easiest way to do this is to use one of the above browser services like and set the format to MP3. This way you'll only download the audio track, with none of the video footage - perfect if you just want to download some music or the audio from a YouTube podcast.
It's worth noting that you can also download music as part of YouTube Music Premium, which is £9.99/$9.99 per month. It will let you download songs and even music videos, but is limited to music - you won't be able to download other videos as you can with a YouTube Premium subscription.
There's the official YouTube Premium service which we've mentioned already but there are other apps which allow you to download videos directly on your Android phone (including for free), but it's trickier on the iPhone. We've written separate guides for these:
But don't forget you can download videos on your laptop using the methods above then copy them to your phone or tablet.
For Android devices, simply copy the MP4 files(s) to the appropriate folder, typically Movies, using File Explorer. You can then play it back using the Gallery app or another video player.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, import the file into iTunes and then sync it to your iOS device. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the file(s) to your iPhone or iPad via the Apps tab when you click on your device in iTunes. All you need is an app, such as Good Reader or another video playback app which can transfer files using this method.
If you don't want to use iTunes and you're happy to pay, Waltr 2 is an excellent little utility for copying videos, music and other files to your iOS device so they appear in the native apps. Find out more in our guide to transferring videos to iPad and iPhone.
Finally, here's how to download any online video - not just YouTube, although almost all of the apps and services here will also download videos from other streaming services and social media platforms including Facebook and DailyMotion.