If you want to save a video in case it's taken offline or make a backup of your own videos for safekeeping, you need a free YouTube downloader.
These free tools will enable you to download and save videos from YouTube – and often other video sharing sites too – in a format of your choice. You can usually choose to save the whole clip or just the audio, which is a great choice for music videos and video podcasts.
YouTube downloaders can also come in handy in other circumstances. If you have a slow internet connection, you'll find that streaming videos can be a pain. With the right downloader, however, you can set the videos you are interested in to download overnight so they are ready and waiting for you to enjoy in the morning, stutter-free and buffer-free.
Free YouTube downloaders are always changing, but we upgrade this guide frequently so you can be sure that you're always getting up to date advice.
Using third-party apps to download videos is against YouTube's terms of service, which say you can only stream videos directly from its servers. Downloading videos is also a potential copyright infringement unless you own the video yourself, have permission from the copyright holder, or it's in the public domain.
Fast, free and flexible – the most versatile YouTube downloader
4K Video Downloader is the best free tool around for quick, fuss-free YouTube downloads. It's simple to use, highly customizable, ad-free, and doesn't include any bundled extra software.
To grab a video (or a whole playlist, provided it's not longer than 24 videos), simply copy its URL from your web browser, click 'Paste URL' and select an output format, quality and location.
There's a great choice of formats – both video and audio – including MP4 and MP3. You can download captions for individual videos, and there's support for 3D and 360-degree videos too.
Delving into the properties lets you tweak options like multi-stream downloads (increasing the number of streams will speed up downloads, but increases the risk YouTube blocking your IP address) and set up a proxy connection.
Buying a key will let you download longer playlists and playlists with captions, and at £7.95 (about US$10, AU$15) for a lifetime license for three PCs, it's a bargain, but the free edition has everything else you could wish for.
Clear, powerful and well designed – a very close runner-up
Running a very close second, WinX YouTube Downloader can download videos from all the most popular sites, including Facebook, Vimeo and DailyMotion. It's very easy to use. Just paste in a URL, select an output format and quality setting, and it will be added to the current batch.
Once you've added all the videos you want to download, simply click the 'Download' button and they'll all be processed at once, and saved to the destination folder of your choice.
WinX YouTube Downloader can download 4K video when available, and only loses out to 4K Video Downloader because it's unable to download 3D and 360-degree videos. If this isn't a problem for you, this free YouTube downloader comes highly recommended.
Download and convert videos, and add special effects
On the face of it, Any Video Converter Free is possibly the best free YouTube downloader and converter out there. The only drawback is that the free version of this brilliant program limits you to downloading a single video at a time, but if you're looking for a free solution, this is something you may decide you're happy to put up with.
There are lots of video formats to choose from, and there's even a basic video editor built into this YouTube downloader. This can be used to crop a video you download, add simple effects such as colour adjustment, and add overlay text.
The whole process is quick and easy. Any Video Converter's interface may not be to everyone's liking, but that's really nitpicking; this is a fantastic free YouTube downloader all other respects. Watch out for the bundled ByteFence and Yahoo software during installation, and you're good to go.
Grab videos without clicking a single button
There are no prizes for guessing what Free YouTube Download does. This is a very simple, tightly focused free YouTube downloader that does away with distractions to get the job done well. Paste in a URL from YouTube and you can download the video in just a couple of clicks – or no clicks at all if you enable the Auto Download option.
You can download several videos at once if you need to, and you can convert to several different formats on the fly. Just which formats are available to you will depend on the quality of the original video, but AVI, MP4, iPhone/iPod and MKV should be available in most cases. It's also possible to convert to audio-only MP3 if you don’t need the footage as well.
There's only one real drawback, but it's a biggie – you can only use Free YouTube Download to grab clips that are less than three minutes long. That rules out most music videos for a start, and is a real shame.
Download, convert and merge videos as they're playing
Although the name suggests that this is just a YouTube downloader, aTube Catcher can actually save videos from most of the big video hosting sites.
First, however, a word of warning: sneaky adware abounds during the installation. When you're offered the first app, make sure to hit Cancel, and for the second one click Decline – then you'll be free to enjoy aTube Catcher without any unwanted surprises.
Downloaded videos can be converted automatically to a number of popular formats, so you can tailor them for their intended use, or whatever device you intend to watch them on. If you're looking to download a large number of videos, you can download them all at once, maxing out your bandwidth – something not available in all free YouTube downloaders.
This free YouTube downloader offers plenty of added extras too, such as the ability to record any on-screen video, video merging, and disc burning.
- Check out our guide to the best video editors