Sometimes streaming just doesn’t cut it. You may want to watch a video on a device without a fast connection, or where you can’t rely on a solid enough connection to get through a long clip. You might want to download your own videos because you didn’t keep the originals. Video takes up a ton of disk space, after all, and downloading is often quicker than digging out iMovie, finding the project and re-exporting it. Provided you have the permission of the copyright holder (or, as in our last example, you actually are the copyright holder), a decent YouTube video downloader is well worth having.
Unfortunately it’s a jungle out there because free downloaders can be used for copyright infringement too – and the kind of people who don’t want to pay for their music or movies aren’t going to be rushing to pay app developers either. As a result, some developers put serious limits on what their apps can do. Others run ads, and still others make it really hard to find out what the free versions do and don’t do without actually downloading them first. Macs don’t really suffer from the malware that plagues free downloaders on Windows, but as ever, it pays to be careful.
With that in mind, here's our pick of the best YouTube downloaders for your Mac. Incidentally, if you’re wondering where one of our previous picks, Ummy, has gone, we couldn’t get it to work on High Sierra.
Download and convert videos from YouTube in one effortless action
We think Any Video Converter Free is the best free YouTube downloader for Mac. It’s a cut-down version of Any Video Converter Pro, a video recording and DVD converting app with tons of features, and because it’s there as a gateway drug it offers an awful lot of features in the free edition.
The only real limitations here are that the free version of this YouTube downloader isn't isn’t optimized for multi-core processors, so the conversion speeds aren’t spectacular, and you can’t download multiple videos simultaneously.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that it does tons of things very well. The clear interface makes it easy to convert videos for playback on specific phones, consoles and other devices, to convert between file formats, and even to burn video to disc for watching on DVD players, whatever they are. Think of it as a Swiss Army knife for internet video.
A stylish YouTube downloader, though downloads don't start automatically
Like Any Video Converter Free, MacX YouTube Downloader is a cut down version of a paid-for app: in this case YouTube Downloader Pro, which is $29.95 (about £20, AU$40). The free version isn’t time limited or restricted to a certain number of downloads, but it tops out at 4K quality whereas the Pro version gets 5K and H.265.
As befits a trimmed-down version of a paid-for product, MacX YouTube Downloader looks more professional than some of its rivals, but the interface isn't quite as clear as it could be: whereas other apps automatically commence downloading, MacX adds them to the queue and displays the progress bar but does nothing until you click the 'Download now' button in the bottom right of the app. It’s an odd decision and had us crafting sarcastic comments about not-downloading being a bit of a problem for a downloading app.
A YouTube downloader that integrates directly with your web browser
As a free YouTube downloader, Airy is of limited use: you get two downloads and then it locks until you buy the full app for US$19.95 (about £15, AU$25), but that's a price worth paying.
Airy integrates with your browser for effortless downloading, supports 3GP and MP3 as well as the familiar MP4, supports up to 8K ultra HD resolutions (if available) and can automatically download entire playlists and even channels. It also preserves the subtitles of captioned videos, which is a nice touch.
Airy is well designed, doesn’t take up too much screen space and doesn’t bombard you with notifications, reset your search engine or blast you with ads.
A full YouTube browsing, playing and downloading experience
You can use iTube Downloader 6 free for one day, after which you'll need to buy a license. Don't be put off, though – at US$8.99/£8.45/AU$12.75 for a lifetime licence covering 10 Macs, it's hardly a major expense.
iTube Downloader looks like a browser running YouTube. That’s because it is: you get the full YouTube experience with an extra download button up top. When you click it you can choose your quality and format – AAC, WebM or MP4, with resolutions of up to 4K – and add the clip to your queue.
You can download individual clips, playlists or entire channels, and in those two latter cases the app gives you the choice of everything or just the selected clip so you don’t download more than you actually want.
An excellent downloader, though you'll have to convert the files afterwards
YTD Video Downloader for Mac is simple, straightforward and doesn’t die after a few downloads or days. You can choose between downloading and converting existing files, and if you buy the app rather than the free one you get automatic file conversion; if you don’t, you need to do it manually. You can choose from MOV, AVI, WMV, 3GP and MP3 and choose between four different quality levels or just match the original. The free version doesn’t contain any nasty surprises, just a banner ad at the top of the window.
If you do choose to buy the app, be aware that it’s a subscription, not a one-off payment. YTD is £7.99 (about US$10, AU$15) for the first year and £22.90 (about US$30, AU$40) per year thereafter. Payments renew automatically via credit card or PayPal.
Free YouTube video downloading from the convenience of your browser
This YouTube video downloader is online-only, and runs in Safari or any other browser. For copyright reasons, Clipconverter doesn’t work on music videos or videos that contain music, which rules out an awful lot of content. The site also blasts you with redirects urging you to download Flash Player updates every time you click on anything.
However, while these issues are annoying the core functionality of Clipconverter is very good: give it a YouTube URL, choose the quality and file format (including audio) and it creates a version for you to download. The conversion is fast and the resulting files aren’t watermarked or otherwise compromised. Just watch out for those redirects.
- Want to tweak your video clips? Check out the best free video editors for Mac