Luke: Hey! I’m talking to you.
Reid: And yet I’m not listening.

— Luke and Reid

Downloading Videos from YouTube | Revised 19 January 2011

This tutorial covers how to download videos from YouTube to your hard drive. Please click here for instructions on getting Mp4 videos off your hard drive onto your iPod.

For many of us, YouTube is our lifeline.  We have no way of watching LuRe live on-air because we are at work/school/have children too young to watch with us, or live abroad.  Downloading YouTube videos to your hard drive is easy and free. I personally prefer using FireFox over Internet Explorer for a few reasons (though either will work):

  • I am running Windows 7 64-bit edition and Flash (and hence YouTube) won’t run in IE 64-bit.
  • The Internet Explorer method described below (using sometimes doesn’t work for any good reason.
  • The FireFox method is much simpler (many fewer steps) and seems to run faster.

Choosing file formats

Regardless of which method you use, you will be able to select from the formats available (automatically generated by YouTube based on the video uploaded).  If available, I always download the Full HD versions because the color and clarity are SO much nicer!  For fanvids, I generally use regular MP4 because that’s all that’s available, and mixing the Full HD with MP4 can be distracting. These are also the ones I carry on my iPod.

Some thoughts to help you choose:

  • FLV – Flash video.  Smaller than MP4 files (20MB vs 33MB for a 4-minute video), but not as easy to read. FLV files cannot be played on an iPod or in iTunes, and may play in Windows Media Player depending on your version. WMP requires a codec (decoder) to read it, which is complicated. Also cannot be read by many video editing programs.
  • MP4 (480 x 360) Can be read by WMP, iTunes and iPods without any additional intervention, and can be read by most video editing programs.
  • 3GP – I personally haven’t used this, so thanks to Cc for clarifying in the comments that this is for mobile applications (no surprise I haven’t used this, then – my phone is way older, clunkier, and more primitive than those our teenage babysitters’!). Though many newer phones also support MP4s, these vids are TINY – 3MB for 4 minutes (vs 15MB for MP4), so you may want to choose 3GP to squeeze a few more in.
  • HD (1280 x 720) and Full HD (1920 x 1080) – higher resolution MP4s.  These files will generally look better, but can be VERY big.  For example, a 5-minute video in regular MP4 is 18MB vs 138MB in Full HD.

If you use FireFox,

  • Launch FireFox
  • From the Tools menu, choose Add-Ons
  • Click on the Get Add-Ons button

  • In the Search box, type YouTube
  • Look for Easy YouTube Viideo Downloader; if you see it, click on it, then click on the Add to Firefox button
  • If you don’t see the Easy YouTube Video Downloader on the short list provided, click on the See All Results link at the bottom

  • Look for the option called Easy YouTube Video Downloader (I’m running  version 4.0)  1-Click YouTube Video Download
  • Click on the Add to FireFox button
  • You should have to do the above steps only once.
  • Then, in FireFox, browse to the desired video.

  • Below the video, just to the right of above the Comments box, you should see a drop-down menu with an orange arrow links for downloads. The options listed may include  MP4 360p, FLV 360p, MP4 1080p, and MP3 among othersThese may include FLV, MP4, 3GP, HD and FULL HD. Choose your preferred file format.
  • You’ll be prompted to choose a filename ane location then voila – you should have a video that can be viewed using Windows Media Player, iTunes, QuickTime, iPod, etc.
  • This method is very reliable, but not perfect. I have occasionally found (especially when trying to download Anthony’s clips immediately after posting, that it will appear to download, but will actually fail). I’m guessing this is a server overload issue.  I have never failed to have it work if I try again (either in a few minutes or in an hour or so).

If you use Internet Explorer,

  • Browse to the YouTube page that contains the video you want to download.
  • Copy the URL out of the Address bar – for example, Part 1 of HappyInChintz72’s Reid Oliver story has a URL that looks like: (it’s fine if the URL has extra stuff in it if you’ve copied it from a playlist or channel window)
  • Open a second Internet Explorer Window or Tab (if you use a version of IE that has tabs, just click on a blank tab; otherwise use the File menu to select New Window)
  • In the second IE window, browse to
  • Paste the YouTube address into the URL box at the top and click the Download button
  • If you get a message about allowing the application to run, or installing Java, confirm that it’s okay to proceed.
  • You’ll see a Processing Links ticker appear.
  • If you get a message about no links being found, confirm you have pasted the URL properly and that there isn’t a stray space at the beginning or end and try again. Sometimes this is just flakey and will tell you there isn’t a valid video available.  Try removing any playlist or channel information from the URL so it looks more like the one above and try again. If it still doesn’t work, give it a rest and try again later – I have never failed to download a video from YouTube, but it has often taken many tries using this method (and generally takes more tries than the FireFox method above).

4 Responses to “Downloading Videos from YouTube | Revised 19 January 2011”

  1. Paris says:

    Hey LL-

    Random question. You know how cbs steams episodes on their website. Can we download their version as that is more high def and stuff? Read about this software and wonder if it can be applied.

    Am asking as some of the clips online has annoying coverage and what not.

    You wouldn’t know how to rip interviews from the cbs site/, would you?


  2. Meghan says:

    Hi, I have a Ipod nano 2GB. What format should I be using to download from youtube and to go to itunes and to sync onto my ipod.

    • lovelure says:

      Depending on what else you’re carrying around on your iPod (I have a 16GB Nano), I’d start with MP4. If you find you only have room for a few, give me another shout and I’ll see if I can find a suggestion for shrinking the MP4 files. The YouTube MP4 files contain way more information than you need so you should definitely be able to shrink the files to fit more on. I know it’s possible, but I’m not sure the best software to do it. If there’s enough interest, I can have a look around and see what I find. Thanks for stopping by! -LL

  3. Cc says:

    3GP format is for cellphones I believe, at least that’s the format I used when transferring videos to my t-mobile sidekick.

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