How to download YouTube videos to watch offline

YouTube’s selection of content is huge, with between 100 and 300 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute.

How on earth will you find the time to watch everything that is of interest?

Well, you won’t – but you can increase your consumption of such material by downloading YouTube content to your laptop or mobile device to make it available for viewing offline. In this guide, we’ll show you how to do just this, both via the site itself and through third parties.

YouTube Red

If you’re in the US, Australia or New Zealand, you can subscribe to YouTube’s premium service, Red, for around US$10 a month. Subscribing gets you a number of benefits, including the ability to watch videos in the background, skip ads and, most importantly for this article, watch videos offline.

If the video you’ve selected is available to watch offline, you can simply touch the “Add to Offline” button in the YouTube app for iOS or Android and the video will be available even if you don’t have an internet connection.

If you’re not in the three countries where Red is available, you can follow our instructions below instead.

Is downloading against YouTube’s terms of service?

The legality of downloading a YouTube video has always been a bit of a grey area. Over the past few months, however, the “Terms of Service” policy has been updated, and as such Google has made the rules of downloading a video from the site a little more black and white.

To quote Section 5.1 L of the ToS:

“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.”

And 5.1 M:

“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.”

There’s a lot more legal jargon in the document, which can be found on YouTube’s Terms pages, but to put it into language that’s a little easier to understand, in order to download a YouTube video you need the permission of the person who uploaded the content or YouTube itself.

Without such permission, you will in fact be breaching the agreement you have between yourself and Google/YouTube.
YouTube makes considerable money from advertising, and by downloading content you’re actually bypassing the advertising that keeps the shareholders happy and puts food on the table of the person who created and uploaded the video.

So while we can advise that you not break the Terms of Service with YouTube, we certainly can’t stop you. And for the rest of this “How To”, we’ll proceed with the assumption that you are in fact downloading a video with the permission of the parties stated in the above ToS.

Desktop download

Although there are a million and one tools, links, third-party installers and other such programs designed to allow you to download a video from YouTube to your desktop, our experience has us conclude that the easiest way is usually the most effective.

YouTube downloader

    Using one of our own YouTube videos as an example, to download allowed content you simply need to make a short addition to the YouTube link in the address bar.
    For our example, the video at
needs to be altered to Note the addition of the “dl” before

YouTube downloader 1

  The addition of “dl” into the URL will serve to launch, and the video will automatically be added to the site’s download tasks. You’ll notice the main image for the video, and to the right a selection of download options ranging from HD MP4 to 3GP and even an MP3 audio rip of the content.

YouTube downloader 2

    Simply click on any of the links, and you’ll be presented with the usual desktop (Windows, Mac or Linux) Save or Open options. From there you can save the content for viewing offline – obviously depending on what you’ve agreed with the content owner.
YouTube downloader 3
    The great thing about TubeNinja is that you don’t have to install anything, either to your desktop or to your browser as a plugin.

Mobile download

If you want to download on Android and iOS, and you’re using the YouTube app, you’ll first need to locate the URL and add “dl” to it. On both Android and iOS, select the Share button – to the right of the like/dislike buttons – and then select “Copy to Clipboard”.

Next, go to your phone’s web browser and hold your finger on the address bar until the Paste button appears; tap it. This will paste the video URL into your browser. Now just add “dl” to the URL and follow the steps above.

YouTube downloader 4
    TubeNinja will load up the video and, as before, you can tap on the download options. On Android this will usually start the video playing; a long press will bring up the Save Video option. Click on this and the video will then download to your device for offline playback.