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 in a format of your choice, then watch them later without an internet connection.
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.
Are YouTube downloaders legal?
Before we proceed, it's important to note that you should only download videos when you have the copyright owner's permission to do so. YouTube's terms of service explicitly prohibit unauthorised downloading.
Fast, convenient and customizable, Freemake is the best YouTube downloader
Freemake has made quite a name for itself after producing an impressive range of audio and video related software, and making it available free of charge. Freemake Video Downloader fits neatly into this category, making it easy to download videos from YouTube.
Unlike some of the other free YouTube downloaders mentioned here, there's no integrated search option so you'll have to visit YouTube to copy and paste the URL into the program. This is no major hardship though – particularly if you enable one-click downloading. The free version of the program is limited to downloading at 4MB/s, but you can queue up and unlimited number of files to download at once.
There are no fancy options here that you'll never use – it's just a YouTube downlaoder that gets on and does what you'd expect it to, with a minimum of hassle.
A quick note about the installation: watch out for the bundled Yahoo Chromium browser. It's easy to opt out, but you have to keep an eye open for it – and note that there are two check boxes to untick.
Review and where to download: Freemake Video Downloader
Download, convert, merge and even record videos as they're playing with aTube Catcher
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.
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 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.
aTube Catcher really is a great all-rounder, but 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.
Review and where to download: aTube Catcher
Download YouTube videos free, and apply effects as they're converted
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.
Review and where to download: Any Video Converter Free
Grab videos without even clicking a button with this fuss-free downloader
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.
Review and where to download: Free YouTube Download
YouTube downloading made easy – just find your video, pick a format and go
You were hoping to grab some video clips from YouTube? Here's ClipGrab to help you do just that. Dodge the ByteFence and Yahoo software that the installer tries to foist on you, and you'll find a great free YouTube downloader that's an excellent addition to your arsenal of media utilities.
ClipGrab differs from other free YouTube downloaders mentioned here in that it not only allows you to paste in a video URL to download it, it also features a clipboard monitor that notices when you copy a URL – and then offers to download for you. More than this, there is also a YouTube search tool that can be used to track down videos from within the program rather than in your web browser.
You can convert the YouTube videos you download to different formats, and choice the quality at which they should be saved. It's all pretty simple stuff, but that's really what you want at the end of the day.
Review and where to download: ClipGrab
What makes a great YouTube downloader?
When you're choosing a YouTube downloader, one of the first things to look for is the ability to download videos in batches. There are lots of free online video downloaders, but most only allow you to grab one video at a time, which can be time-consuming and inconvenient. Many online-only downloaders also limit the number of videos you can save in a certain period of time, so even if you have the patience to return to the homepage and paste in URL after URL, you're forced to wait until a cooling off period has expired before you can save another one.
The best YouTube downloaders can also encode videos in a format of your choice so you don't have to use a separate program to convert them afterwards. A great YouTube downloader should also be able to handle high-resolution clips, and support for 360-degree video is a welcome addition.
Speed is also important, and is another area where desktop YouTube downloaders have an advantage over web apps. For fast downloading and encoding, you can't beat a tool that does the processing on your own PC.