YouTube is a great resource for viewing videos, but at some point or other you might want to download them to a computer or mobile device There's numerous reasons for doing so - from viewing offline to burning to a DVD for watching at a later date (or archiving), converting into an audio podcast for listening to while traveling or burning to a CD for entertainment while driving.
The process of doing any of those things sounds simple enough: find a video on YouTube (or a similar website like DailyMotion), download it, and upload it to your device. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen quite so smoothly, as videos and their accompanying audio soundtracks come in a variety of formats that determine aspects like video quality, resolution and whether they can be played back on certain devices.
You may have come across the issue before where you've downloaded a video, uploaded it to your PC, smartphone or tablet, opened the file and clicked play, only to stare at a blank screen, a dark picture with sound, or nothing at all. So what's the answer? Hunting down a YouTube conversion tool would be a good start, and luckily there's a few of them kicking about that won't set you back a penny - such is the magic of freeware.
We've listed some of the best free YouTube to MP3 converters here, and while they're all free, some of them come with some undesirable third-party apps that aren't essential for them to work, and you'll need to uncheck them to opt out.
Have we missed a program off our list? Let us know in the comments section below.
1. aTube Catcher
aTube Catcher is an appropriately named YouTube conversion tool as it'll catch any number of video downloads you throw its way before converting them to a number of different formats. It supports AVI, FLV, MOV, WMV, MPG and MP4, in addition to less common formats such as PSP, which is used for Sony's handheld games console.
The installation process is speedy, and once up and running you'll be presented with a colourful Windows 8-like grid that clearly presents the available options. From there you can dive straight into its video conversion utility for converting to another file format, or you can convert videos to MP3s for audio playback on devices.
Grid aside, it's not the best-looking program out there, but it's plenty functional and allows you to easily pick the format you want to convert your video to through a simple dropdown menu. Once you've chosen a format, drag in the files you want to convert and right-click Start to set them going. You can prioritize certain clips to have them converted first, or leaving the program will see it work on the queued files from top to bottom.
2. Free YouTube to MP3 converter
Free YouTube to MP3 converter is a freeware program that converts videos from YouTube to other popular video formats - including WMV and AVI - in addition to audio ones formats such as MP3. The program lets you queue up multiple files for conversion and features a clean interface that clearly displays what files are waiting to be converted.
It's a particularly useful tool for musicians who may want to download guitar backing tracks to jam along to, or similarly you could grab kareoke backing track to burn to a CD in time for that weekend party.
3. Freemake Video Converter
Freemake Video Converter features an attractive design and supports more file formats than you can shake a stick at. You can convert to more than 200 available formats after downloading a video - including AVI, MP4, WKV, WMV, DV, RM, QT, TS and MTS - and you can choose to rip and convert audio to MP3 too.
Freemake claims that a few of its features are unique - including integrated CUDA and DXVA technology that apparently converts videos faster while using less CPU resources. It's certainly one of the fastest on our list, but how quick it carries out conversions will ultimately depend on the power of your PC.
4. YouTube Downloader
YouTube Downloader can download and convert videos from some of the most popular video websites - from Facebook to DailyMotion and College Humor - in addition to YouTube. It features the ability to convert videos into most popular video formats - from MP3 and MP4 to WNV, FLV, MOV, 3GP and AVI.
The programme's makers claim that the latest version is faster and more stable than previous releases, and it also has the handy feature of resuming downloads automatically in the event that your internet connection goes down and comes back online.
5. Free Studio
Developed by DVDVideoSoft, Free Studio comes with a massive 25 video conversion options that can convert your files automatically once they've downloaded for viewing on different devices. It's particularly useful as it bundles multiple convertors into a single program, saving you from having to search around for several solutions when converting to different formats.
It's a flexible option that allows you to work with HD video file types in addition to high quality MP4 video. It also comes with an advanced screen capture utility that allows you to record a section of the screen, flip it and rotate it before saving the edited output to disk with the option of burning onto an other device.