How To Download and Convert YouTube Videos to MP4
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Streaming videos is the way to consume media when you have access to a reliable internet connection but doesn’t help you while on the train or subway or where there isn’t fast Wi-Fi. Then you either have to find something else to do or download the video so you can watch it offline. That’s what we are discussing today, how to download and convert YouTube videos to MP4.
MP4 format is a high quality video format that is very space efficient. A TV show can be downloaded in HD and be as little as 300 – 400Mb. A full movie can be anything from 800Mb to 3.2Gb depending on quality and length. YouTube videos vary hugely but can be as little as 30 – 40MB for smaller videos up to full length.
Now YouTube has (thankfully) left Flash videos in the dust, most video downloads should default to MP4 format. When uploading videos to YouTube, they are automatically encoded into MP4 anyway which is the default. All of the options listed in this tutorial will download in MP4 which you can then use with any device you choose.
If your device doesn’t play MP4 files automatically, which it should, just download a copy of VLC. There are versions for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.
Download and convert YouTube videos
Now that is out of the way, let us get to the meat of this article, how to download and convert YouTube videos. There are a few ways to download and convert YouTube videos to MP4. You can use an app, a web service or a browser extension. I’ll show you how to use all three.
VLC is my go-to video app for just about everything. It’s a movie player, basic video editor, streamer and so much more. It can also download YouTube videos and save them as MP4 too. This would be my method of choice were I to ever download from YouTube.
- Save a copy of the YouTube video URL you want to use.
- Open VLC and select Media.
- Select Open Capture Device and select Network.
- Paste the video URL into the network URL box. The video should appear in VLC.
- Select Tools from the menu, then Codec information.
- Save the contents of the Location box and paste it into a new browser tab. The video should appear in the browser in a slightly different format.
- Right click the video and select Save As.
- Select MP4 as the format and a location to download the file.
This process does contain a few steps but seeing as most people use VLC anyway, requires no extra software, browser extension or any potentially risky downloads. For these reasons, I think using VLC is the easiest and most secure way to download.
Free YouTube Download
Free YouTube Download is a small free application for Windows and Mac that does exactly what it says it does. It enables you to download and convert YouTube videos to MP4. The application is light and fast and as far as I can tell, is virus and malware free from this source.
The interface is simple, just add the video URL to the box in the top, wait for it to populate and then hit Download. It will download the video to your computer in a few seconds. The software itself is very fast but download time depends on your connection and the size of the file.
One neat trick with Free YouTube Download is the ability to enqueue a batch of videos. Paste the video URLs into a text file, point the application at that file and it will pick them all up and begin downloading them. If you don’t want to use VLC, this little program is well worth a look.
Savefrom.net is a web service that allows you to download a YouTube video directly through the site. No need to download an app or use an extension, this is about as easy as it gets.
- Navigate to net.
- Paste the video URL into the box and hit the blue button.
- Select ‘download video in browser’ in the next screen and select your quality.
- Select the green Download button to start downloading.
The website changes in layout regularly but never strays far from this process. The ‘download video in browser’ selection is new so may not be there when you try, but the process is simple enough to figure out. It is currently pushing a premium movie downloader but the free aspect still works fine. You just have an extra step to go through to get it.
aTube Catcher is another installed app but is so fast and easy to use that it deserves a mention. The UI is colorful and simple to get to grips with. The install is small but you need to be careful when you do it as there are bundled apps within it. Review your choices carefully when installing aTube Catcher unless you want a new browser toolbar.
Aside from that, the application is good. You can add video URL, batch download, convert videos to MP4 and other neat tricks. Start the program and it walks you through what you can do and how to do it. As an introduction, many premium software vendors could learn a lot from aTube Catcher.
Freemake Video Downloader
Freemake Video Downloader is another installed app worth checking out. It not only supports YouTube but also lots of other sites and can download in MP4 and a number of other formats. The program is also simple to use and makes short work of downloads.
Like aTube Catcher, the installer has ‘extras’ that you need to avoid if you don’t want a new antivirus and toolbar. The app is also ad-supported although these are easy to ignore. Once over those hurdles the core program is simple and fast. Two characteristics we like.
Clip Converter is a website that does the heavy lifting for you. Like Savefrom.net, this site will take a video URL from YouTube or other video site and download it as MP4. It is simple to use, relatively fast and requires no installation. The site can slow down some at peak times but other than that is a breeze to use.
Add the video URL to the box in the center and select your format. Hit Continue to set everything up, confirm your required quality and then hit Start. Your download will begin within a couple of seconds. As far as I can test, the only thing that is downloaded is the video and nothing else so for now at least, Clip Converter is perfectly safe to use.
Download YouTube Videos as MP4
Download YouTube Videos as MP4 is a Firefox add-on that will take care of the downloading for you. It installs seamlessly into the browser and adds download links to videos when you browse to them. The developer says the add-on doesn’t work with the new YouTube UI but I found it working fine. Hopefully you will too.
When you are on the page of a video you want, look to the sharing interface underneath. You should see a Download tab. Select it and quality options should appear. Select your chosen option and the download begins. It really is as easy as that.
Now let us address the elephant in the room. Is it legal to download and convert YouTube videos? I saved this until last as I hate to bury the headline but it is something that needs to be addressed.
Is it legal to download and convert YouTube videos?
The short answer is no it isn’t legal in most cases unless you have the express permission of the content creator. Even then, downloading is against YouTube’s T&Cs.
“You agree not to access Content for any reason other than your personal, non-commercial use solely as intended through and permitted by the normal functionality of the Service, and solely for Streaming. “Streaming” means a contemporaneous digital transmission of the material by YouTube via the Internet to a user operated Internet enabled device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be downloaded (either permanently or temporarily), copied, stored, or redistributed by the user.
“You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content.”
So if you don’t have a note from both the content owner and YouTube, you are breaking the rules and potentially the law by downloading. On your own head be it.
As you likely know by now, TechJunkie doesn’t condone piracy or breaking the law but we do believe in making information available to everyone. What you do with that knowledge is your business.
So there you have multiple ways to download and convert YouTube videos to MP4. Got any others you would like to suggest? Have any problems with any mentioned here? Tell us about it below if you do.