It’s a real shame that the only way to download YouTube videos officially is to subscribe to YouTube Premium. Now, we fully support the subscription service model here which removes ads, but if you’re happy to watch ads to support your favourite channels you still have to pay your £11.99 / $11.99 per month for the privilege of downloading videos.
There are alternatives of course. You can go to any number of different websites or install various apps which will download online videos from many sites, including YouTube. And here you will find the downloaders we recommend for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android (and there’s even one that supports Ubuntu).
Many of these options have paid-for ‘pro’ versions, but if you’re not averse to paying for some software we can wholeheatedly recommend YouTube By Click. It’s regularly updated, has tech support, and does everything you’d want – and more. It even supports 8K downloads.
Downloaders also let you save just the audio from a video, and the best ones make it simple to choose the resolution and format, as well as downloading playlists with one click.
4K Video Downloader
- Available for Windows, macOS, Ubuntu
The best free app for downloading YouTube is 4K Video Downloader.
There are several reasons for this. First, it doesn’t bundle other programs (such as adware) with its installer. The 27MB download won’t put unwanted software on your computer.
Second, the interface is clean and easy to use. You can copy the address of a YouTube video and click the ‘Paste Link’ button to download the video.
It would be severely disappointing if it didn’t download 4K videos – but thankfully it does. And it can also download playlists (the first 25 videos at any rate). If you need to download longer playlists, you’ll need to pay to activate the Pro version.
There’s also support for downloading 3D and 360° videos. You can’t ask for more for zero money.
Usefully, like TubeMate for Android, it can download using multiple streams to speed things up, but this comes with the risk of YouTube blocking your IP address.
As well as Windows versions, you can get 4K Video Downloader for macOS and Ubuntu.
WinX YouTube Downloader
- Available for Windows, macOS
WinX is a completely free YouTube video downloader which has an intuitive interface and gives you a list of resolutions to pick from when downloading a video.
It has limitations: you can’t download just the audio, and it will nag you to upgrade to the full (paid-for) version in order to get the ability to convert the downloaded videos to other formats, including MP3.
As well as YouTube, WinX also lets you download from other sites including SoundCloud, DailyMotion, Facebook, Vimeo and more.
TubeMate – Android
This is one of the best Android downloaders, and we’ve been using it for years now. The interface isn’t exactly slick, but once you’ve downloaded a video you are, of course, free to watch it in your favourite video player.
The other snag is that you can’t get Tubemate from the Google Play Store, so you’ll need to follow our guide to downloading TubeMate for installation instructions.
It’s essentially a web browser, so you can browse to the YouTube mobile website. When you start playing a video, a red download button will appear and tapping it gives you a choice of resolutions and formats.
Oddly, the app can play all the video and music stored on your phone, and you’ll see lists of video and audio when you tap on the right-hand two icons in the ‘downloaded video’ tray.
It doesn’t support resuming a video where you left off unless you pause it and return to the app without playing any other downloaded videos. And that’s why we recommend using a different player. Subtitles are supported, but only if you download a separate companion app.
It will download videos using up to four streams, so even long shows or high resolutions can be saved up to four times faster, assuming your internet connection is quick enough.
So, while not perfect, TubeMate allows you to quickly and easily download videos to your phone or Android tablet.
Documents – iOS
Documents works in a similar way to TubeMate, although it does a whole lot more besides and has a nicer interface. It’s also one of the only ways we’re aware of that currently allows you to download videos from YouTube directly to your iPhone or iPad. (The apps you’ll find in the App Store don’t work.)
To download a video, tap the small purple icon at the bottom right to open the web browser. You can then head to YouTube, find a video and copy the URL from the address bar. Then you browse to a downloader site such as Savefrom.net, paste the URL and choose which quality to download.
(As an aside, that website is also the one we recommend using if you don’t want to install an app on your Windows PC or Mac: you can download videos directly to your hard drive.)
Once the video is downloaded, you can watch it from the main Documents interface.
It’s no surprise to have to jump through these hoops in iOS, but it’s a quick and free way to get YouTube videos directly on your iPhone or iPad without using a PC or Mac.