It's easy to spend hours watching new videos on YouTube when you have a reliable internet connection, but if you're going to be offline, you might want to save a collection of clips to watch later on your PC, tablet, games console, or smartphone. That's when you need a free YouTube video converter.
The best YouTube converters include preset profiles to take the guesswork out of choosing the optimum format, resolution, and compression settings for your device. They also let you save and convert clips in batches, and let you choose where they're saved once the download and conversion is complete.
Downloading videos from YouTube is against the site's terms of service . There's also a risk of copyright violation unless the video is in the public domain, or you have permission from the copyright holder.
If you specifically want to save music or other audio from videos, check out our guide to the best YouTube to MP3 software. If you're using a mobile device, the best video editor for iPhone might be a worthwhile addition to your collection, turning your phone into a mobile production studio.
Fuss-free conversion from YouTube and all other popular video sites
When you need to download videos in a specific format, 4K Video Downloader should be your first port of call. Unlike most free YouTube video converters, there are no ads or unwanted extra applications to worry about - just a superb, flexible program that will grab the clips you want with the minimum of hassle.
It's possible to convert videos with subtitles and annotations, and - as the software's name suggests - in resolutions up to 4K where available. Those are features you'd normally only find in premium software, but here they're completely free.
4K Video Downloader can also convert videos from many sites besides YouTube, including Vimeo and DailyMotion. You can even download and convert entire playlists up to 24 videos long (a premium subscription will unlock the ability to convert more).
The downside of 4K Video Downloader is its relatively small selection of conversion formats - you can save video as MP4, MKV and 3GP, and audio as MP3, M4A and OGG. These will be enough for most purposes, and you get a wide choice of quality options (the exact number will depend on the quality of the source video) but it's a shame WMV and AVI aren't available.
If the choice of file types available covers your requirements, then you won't find a better YouTube video converter.
Convert videos and rip their soundtracks for offline listening
Free YouTube to MP3 Converter (from the superb DVDVideoSoft) is a wonderfully simple YouTube converter for ripping the audio from videos and saving it to your PC in a format of your choice.
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. There's even the option to download an entire channel, though this can be time-consuming so you might prefer to be selective.
If you do decide to go on a downloading spree, look in the options menu for the setting that shuts your PC down automatically once it's finished.
Free YouTube to MP3 Converter is a particularly useful tool for musicians who may want to download guitar backing tracks to jam along to, or similarly you could grab a karaoke backing track to burn to a CD ready for that weekend party – provided you have the copyright holder's permission, of course.
Convert videos from YouTube or any other source in seconds
Any Video Converter Free can download and convert files from almost any source – CDs, locally stored files, or video sharing sites including YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and LiveLeak.
Any Video Converter Free is packed with options, but still accessible. The interface is well designed, with tooltips to explain each function. You can paste in URLs from your clipboard, as with most free YouTube converters, or drag videos directly from Chrome or Firefox.
While installing Any Video Converter Free, you’ll be prompted to install ByteFence (an anti-malware tool) and a Yahoo browser extension. It’s not immediately obvious, but you can opt out of these using the small text links labelled ‘Click here to customize the installation’ and unchecking the boxes that appear. Or you might choose to leave them selected to support the developers.
Makes it easy to fine-tune clips for playback on your chosen device
Another great tool from DVDVideoSoft, Free YouTube Download comes with a massive 25 video conversion options that can convert your files automatically once they've downloaded for viewing on different devices.
Its interface is almost identical to Free YouTube to MP3 converter – a clean, self-explanatory affair with more advanced settings tucked away in an Options menu. There, you can choose to shut down your PC once the download is finished, download via a proxy, and paste URLs from the clipboard automatically.
Clicking the file format details beside each thumbnails gives you a great choice of export options. Once you've made your selection, click the 'Download' button and your video will begin processing. You can only download and convert one video at a time without upgrading to the premium version of the software, but there's little else to complain about.
Dropped connection mid-rip? No problem – YTD will pick it up
YTD Video Downloader can download and convert videos from some of the most popular video hosting sites, including Facebook, DailyMotion and College Humor and, of course, YouTube. It features the ability to convert videos into most popular video formats – from MP3 and MP4 to WNV, FLV, MOV, 3GP and AVI.
This YouTube downloader's makers claim that the latest version is faster and more stable than previous releases. It also has the handy feature of resuming downloads automatically if your internet connection goes down temporarily.
The thing keeping YTD from a higher place in our roundup is the WebDiscover browser that comes bundled with the software, and is difficult to avoid if you don't want its search bar welded to your desktop.