Skip to main content

How to download YouTube videos on iOS, Android, Mac and PC

how to download youtube videos
(Image credit: Alexey Boldin / Shutterstock)

Learning how to download YouTube videos can be very useful in certain circumstances, such as when you're traveling. There are several good reasons why you might want to download videos from YouTube, such as if you're not going to have an internet connection for a while and want to save them for offline viewing. 

Downloading YouTube videos to your phone over Wi-Fi is also a way to save on data usage charges. And you won't have to worry about buffering caused by network congestion and slowdown.

YouTube makes it easy to share videos on social media or via embeds. But is it legal to download YouTube videos to keep? We address that issue below, to ensure you stay on the right side of the law (and YouTube itself). 

If you want to know how to download YouTube videos for personal use offline, here's a complete guide on how to do it on iPhone and iPad, Android, Mac, and Windows PC.

According to Google's terms of service for YouTube, the answer is no: "You may access Content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the Service and as permitted under these Terms of Service. You shall not download any Content unless you see a 'download' or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content."

If you want to download YouTube videos, the only way to do so responsibly is by paying the $11.99 for YouTube Premium.

If you violate the YouTube ToS, the company may terminate your account, as noted here: "YouTube will terminate a user's access to the Service if, under appropriate circumstances, the user is determined to be a repeat infringer."

However, the issue isn't totally black and white. GitHub reinstated the open-source tool YouTube-dl after taking the software down when the Recording Industry Association of America complained that it violated Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But GitHub found that YouTube-dl was used in non-copyright infringing ways by journalists and educators. 

Content on YouTube that is permissible to download includes public domain videos that aren't copyrighted, clips covered by a Creative Commons license, and homemade videos that friends and family have shared with you (and don't mind you downloading). 

How to download YouTube videos on iPhone and iPad

Downloading YouTube videos on your iPhone and iPad is a bit tricky, since Apple polices the apps available in its store. If you jailbreak your phone, there are more options, but if you don't want to go that route, here's the best and easiest way. 

1. Download and open the app Documents by Readdle.

2. Tap on the compass icon to open the web browser and go to www.videosolo.com/online-video-downloader/.

3. Paste a YouTube video link in the text box and tap "Download." After a few moments, the video will decode and generate a list of different output format and quality options. 

How to Download YouTube videos on iPhone

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Tap "Download" on the preferred output option. 

5. Enter a name and download location for the video. 

6. Tap the Downloads section in the bottom navigation bar to view your downloaded videos within the Documents app.

How to Download YouTube videos on iPhone -next steps

(Image credit: How to Download YouTube videos on iPhone)

7. To save your downloaded videos to your iPhone or iPad hard drive, go back to the Documents app home screen and open your Downloads folder.

8. Find the video you want and tap the three dots icon on it. 

9. Tap on Share and then Save Video.

How to Download YouTube videos on iPhone final steps

(Image credit: How to Download YouTube videos on iPhone)

10. You can find the downloaded YouTube videos in the Photos app.

How to download YouTube videos on Mac

There are several tools and programs that allow you to download YouTube videos on a Mac.

One easy way is to use the screen capture tool built into macOS. It won't be high quality but it's something. Just press Command + Shift + 5 to bring up the screen recording options. You can select a window or record the entire screen, and change the options to include audio from your Mac's microphone.

The best program for downloading YouTube videos on Mac in high quality formats is 4K Video Downloader. It's free for up to 30 downloads a day, or you can upgrade to one of its premium plans. The software can download videos in up to 8K quality and in a variety of formats. And 4K Video Downloader can also grab entire YouTube playlists.

Here's how to use it:

1. Download and install 4K Video Downloader and open the program.

2. Find a YouTube video and copy the link. 

4. Click Paste Link in the menu. 

How to Download YouTube videos on Mac - in 4K video downloader

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5. Click Download after selecting from the list of quality and format options.

How to Download YouTube videos on Mac - download options

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. After your video is downloaded, click the three dot icon so you can play, find it on your computer and perform other actions.

How to Download YouTube videos on Mac - downloading

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

How to download YouTube videos on Android

Downloading YouTube videos with an Android app from the Google Play store is going to be impossible, because Google prohibits such tools. However, you can get a YouTube downloader on your phone or tablet by installing a APK file from outside the Play store, like our top suggestion TubeMate. Here's how to use it.

1. Download TubeMate and install on your Android phone. You may need to change your security settings.

2. Open TubeMate and search for a YouTube video.

3. Tap the green Download button.

How to Download YouTube videos on Android - first steps

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Choose from the list of quality and format options. Tap the green Download button.

5. Tap the Downloads List icon in the bottom menu to find your video. Or access the Downloads list by tapping on the three dot icon in the upper right corner of the TubeMate menu.

6. Tap the three dot icon next to a video to save it to a new location, rename it and other actions.

How to download YouTube videos on Android - final steps

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

How to download YouTube videos on a PC

The best way to download YouTube videos to a Windows PC is to use 4K Video Downloader. Follow the same steps that we outlined above for downloading YouTube videos on Mac.

However, there's also another way to download YouTube videos to your PC, using the excellent free program VLC Media Player. Here's how to do it. 

1. Download and install the latest version of VLC Media Player, if you don't already have the program on your Windows PC.

2. Copy the URL of a YouTube video to your clipboard.

3. Open VLC and click the Media menu in the top-left corner. Select Open Network Stream.

how to download YouTube videos - vlc open network stream

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. Paste the copied video address into the "Please enter the network URL" box and click Play. The YouTube video will start playing in VLC.

how to download YouTube videos - vlc paste network url

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5. Now go to Tools, Codec Information and copy the long URL from the Location box at the bottom of the window. 

how to download YouTube videos - vlc codec

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. Paste the URL into your browser’s address bar and click OK, and the video will begin playing in a new tab. 

Right-click it and choose "Save video as" to download the YouTube video as an MP4 file.

how to download YouTube videos - vlc save video

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Kelly Woo

Kelly is a senior writer covering streaming media for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.