Top Four Google Chrome Extensions to Download & Save YouTube Videos
In the years since YouTube made its debut in 2005, the site has come to utterly dominate the online video world. The word “YouTube” has become synonymous with entertainment for billions of people around the world, and the site has more than 1.9 billion (with a “b”) active users every month (and that’s counting only the people who log in to the service). YouTube hosts an infinite variety of content, from video game playthroughs to how-to videos on every subject, from funny cat videos to online pranks. There is content on YouTube to satisfy just about every taste or interest, and that’s what has made the service so attractive to its users. There are more than 5 billion videos on the site and thousands more added every hour.
However, YouTube is not without its annoying features, and one of the most-commonly cited irritations is that downloading videos to one’s local computer or device is not natively supported on the site’s free version. There are many reasons to download videos to your own computer for future use. Some users like to take their videos on the go, for when they’re out of range of cellular connections or WiFi hotspots. Other users like to use content from other videos to make remixes, reviews, and other new content of their own. Unfortunately, YouTube and its owner Google don’t appear to care for the idea of users taking content offline. The service does offer YouTube Red accounts, which for $9.99 a month will allow users to download content, but a YouTube Red account doesn’t allow you to use those videos in any creative way outside your own mobile device. A paltry 300,000 people subscribe to that level of YouTube content, out of the tens of millions using the site every day.
There are standalone programs that have the ability to download YouTube content. One of those programs is VLC, and we created an article on using VLC to download YouTube videos to your computer. There are many apps and websites that will download YouTube videos for you; we wrote an article covering many of those apps and sites as well. But what if you want to just use your Chrome browser to grab videos from YouTube? Are there extensions or plug-ins that will let you do this?
Well, of course there are. There are Chrome browser extensions for everything, and downloading YouTube videos is no exception. In this article, we’ll present several of the best extensions that we’ve researched. We’ve found these extensions are to work well, and we’ll make sure to keep our eye on this list every few month to make sure all of them are still reliable. (If one of our recommendations isn’t working, let us know in the comments below. YouTube and Google are constantly working to block extensions like this from functioning, so don’t be surprised if one fails to work unexpectedly following a major YouTube upgrade.)
Note that none of these extensions or plug-ins can be found on the Chrome store, and none of them are officially supported by Chrome. In fact, you should be careful about installing browser add-ons like these, because the potential for malware is real. That is why we have researched these and believe them to be safe. Don’t just install random add-ons that you find online; make sure that they have been tested and found safe first.
Without further ado, here are our recommendations for downloading and saving YouTube videos with Google Chrome extensions.
FastestTube is a program that is compatible with Chrome as well as with Chromium-based browsers like Chromium and Torch, and also works on Linux and macOS. It’s an easy program to download and install. Start by downloading the compressed .zip file from FastestTube’s website. You can do this by hitting the Chrome icon on their website. Extract the compressed Zip in File Explorer. Open the extension’s extracted folder, and then double-click on the Install.bat file. Next, open the Extensions page in Chrome; and drag the fastesttube_18.104.22.168 file in the extracted folder onto the Extensions page. Click the Add button to add FastestTube to the browser. Finally, click FastestTube’s Enabled check box.
When you open a new YouTube video, you’ll notice a Download button has been added to the video, which you can click to open a menu that allows you to download videos in both audio and video formats. If you’re looking to save the entire video with both audio and video, you can save the video in either 360p or 720p in MP4 format. If you’re looking to save the video in a higher quality you’ll want to download a 1080p video only copy along with a higher quality M4A audio stream before syncing the two pieces back together in the editing software of your choice.
In terms of features, FastestTube doesn’t have a lot to note. You can disable autoplay, annotations, and ads from right within the plugin itself, though we found the ad blocker to be spotty at best, and outright non-functioning at worst. The installation process is also a little shady, which might turn off some users from using the program, and without some amount of backtracking or terms of service for the app, it’s hard to know where the app is coming from and who can access its data. We also haven’t seen many updates for the app since 2016, putting the future of the app—and any upcoming features or security updates—into question. That said, it’s still a usable app, it works fast, and it’s free. Definitely check this one out.
YouTube Video Downloader is an extension compatible with Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Much like the above-mentioned FastestTube, Video Downloader is installed by heading to the group’s website and clicking “Download for Chrome” on the extension page. As before, the page will download and save a .zip file to your Downloads folder, which you can extract right from within your computer’s file explorer on either MacOS or Windows. After you’ve extracted the folder, head into Chrome’s extension page by hitting the triple-dotted menu icon in the top-right corner of Chrome and selecting “More Tools,” then “Extensions.” Once you’ve opened this page, look for a small checkbox at the top of the page titled “Developer Mode.” Check the box, then press “Load unpacked extension…” This will open a file explorer within Chrome; from here, browse to the extracted Video Downloader folder, select it, and hit OK. The extension will automatically add itself into Chrome; you’ll know you completed the process correctly when a new tab displaying a Thank You for Installing page opens in your browser.
So, once you’ve installed the extension, how well does it work? Overall, a bit better than what we’ve seen previously from FastestTube. To use the extension, just navigate to the YouTube video you want to download and click the extension’s button (a red shield with a play icon in it) in the extensions pane in Chrome. The developers are still actively working on this extension, with the most recent update having rolled out in February of 2019. This extension gives you a ton of different download and saving options for both music and video formats, making it really easy to save whatever you need from YouTube for your own use.
There’s a whole page of options that can be edited as well, making it easy to change settings and preferences on the fly. You can change the file format options that are show within the download interface, including formats like MP4, FLV, and WEBM. MP3-only files are also available for download, making it easy to choose your favorite songs or music tracks for download from YouTube. Video Downloader has an option to add a screenshot button, which, with one tap of a button, allows you to automatically save and download a PNG formatted photo screenshot from the video you’re watching—super useful stuff. There’s some other general enhancement stuff added by Video Downloader too, including a pop-out mode, the ability to minimize the video in the corner while scrolling through the comments section, and so much more.
Overall, Video Downloader is a very solid offering. The added features and options do help to put it a little above the run of the mill YouTube downloaders and it’s a great option to keep on your list.
YouTube DL is the most difficult program to use on this list. If you’re looking for simplicity, you aren’t going to find it here. YouTube DL doesn’t even have it’s own graphical user interface—to gain that, we’re going to have to install a separate program that will allow it to have that interface for easier downloads. At the same time, however, YouTube-DL is under active development and is regularly updated, so it is much less likely to fall prey to YouTube blocking its technology than some other downloaders. On its own, YouTube DL uses a command line interface. If you’re at all familiar with using these types of programs, YouTube DL will be a cinch to set up, especially on Windows, where you won’t have to use any sort of command line or code and instead have the option of using an executable file. For MacOS users, you’ll have to be comfortable using Terminal to install this one.
Once you’ve installed the file as detailed on the installation page, you can either run the program through a command line by using the executable file or by using command line interfaces on MacOS, or you can use the optional YouTube DL GUI interface that is available for download here. While not technically a browser extension, what makes YouTube DL so great is the ability to work outside of YouTube exclusively. This means changes to the YouTube platform UI shouldn’t stop you from downloading videos. Side-stepping these issues of support with future updates to the YouTube platform is one of the best things about YouTube DL.
Even with the GUI installed for YouTube DL, things are pretty standard and simple. You can add URLs to your download list, view downloads, and that’s about it. Downloads, when completed, will be added to your personal hard drive, where you can view your completed content. GitHub has a full list of keywords and terminal instructions on how you can use commands to change the appearance and content of your download, but overall, things are pretty standard within YouTube DL. If you’re comfortable with command lines and terminal interfaces, as well as adding programs to your user PATH on Windows, this is definitely the best option.
Alas, as of February 2019, KeepVid has been forced to shut down after complaints from Google and YouTube. For now, we will leave this section archived, in case the site is able to return to service, but this option is no longer workable at the present time.
KeepVid is our favorite website to download audio, video, or both from a YouTube video quickly and easily, so it’s no surprise that their Chrome extension is our favorite of the bunch. Though not perfect by any means, KeepVid’s own extension seems to work better than any of the others we’ve tested, with more stability, more reliability, and a better instruction guide than any other extension out there for downloading videos. The steps are simple: install TamperMonkey, an extension available right inside the Chrome store that allows for special userscripts. Once TamperMonkey’s been installed into Chrome, you have the option to add KeepVid’s own userscript from their website. Unlike script and command lines like YouTube DL above, downloading a userscript from TamperMonkey and putting it into effect is as easy as a few clicks—you won’t have to do anything else.
Once the app is installed, we still ran into a few problems. First, the extension seems to have difficulty on newer versions of YouTube, specifically the June 2017 update with the newer version of the YouTube subscription button. Sometimes the button would appear, sometimes it wouldn’t. In older versions of YouTube unaffected by the recent change, the button appears as it did in KeepVid’s own screenshots. The other major problem with KeepVid is recent: as the company continues to push their into premium and Pro versions of their software, 1080p downloads have been hidden behind a paywall implemented by KeepVid to earn more cash from their downloading business than ads can. You may only get a few free downloads through YouTube before you’re forced to pay for the application.
Problems aside, it’s still the easiest way to download videos through KeepVid; rather than using their own website, using their TamperMonkey script makes it really easy to just download with a couple clicks. While we wait for KeepVid to update their script for newer versions of YouTube, they also have their website as a permanent backup, along with mobile apps for Android that make downloading on the go really easy. None of these are perfect choices, but KeepVid is the easiest to install, safest to use, and our favorite of the bunch.
YouTube ByClick is actually an add-on program that runs on any browser, including Chrome. After installing the program, you simply leave it running. Then navigate to the video you want to download on YouTube (or many other video sites) and the program will automatically pop a window asking you if you want to download. It’s very simple and very quick.
YouTube ByClick comes in a free version and a premium version (which costs $9.99 for installation on up to three PCs). The main difference between the versions is that the paid software will allow you to download video in HD, as well as convert to AVI and WMV formats. The base version allows you to download either just the sound file or the entire video clip, to choose between MP3 and MP4 formats, and to specify a destination directory. The interface is clear and easy to use, and although the feature set is limited, it does work and it works on multiple video sites so you don’t have to keep jumping around between programs.