Whats the best way to watch Youtube videos when offline?
March 6, 2020 3:09 PM   Subscribe

My internet is spotty right now and I wish to watch Youtube videos. What is a safe, easy way for me to save or download videos when I have internet and watch them later when I'm offline?

I have a newish HP laptop running Windows 10. I normally use Firefox but willing to branch out if it doesn't compromise security (I run U-blocker, Ghostery, Facebook Container etc). I can use my iPhone as a hotspot and use that data if I have to but I'd prefer not to. The videos I'm after don't need to be HD, and run time is from 10 minutes to and hour and a half approx.

posted by ninazer0 to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want to watch them on the laptop?

If you have YouTube Premium, you can download them in the mobile app. (And bonus: no ads!) I suspect that it doesn't work on Windows, though.
posted by yuwtze at 3:17 PM on March 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you're comfortable on the command line: youtube-dl.
posted by caek at 3:32 PM on March 6, 2020 [12 favorites]

Just get a Firefox add-on like YouTube Downloader and you will be set. There are many, I use this one.
posted by jessamyn at 3:38 PM on March 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's a GUI for youtube-dl

Nota bene: youtube-dl (and probably other downloaders) won't download some rights-restricted stuff.
posted by farlukar at 3:41 PM on March 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

I haven't come across anything it won't download as long as the site isn't blocking it specifically. There might be some streaming techniques like HLS that could cause it to stumble (it does fine with HLS), or login-protected content, but I've never had it complain that anything had a licensing problem.
posted by rhizome at 3:58 PM on March 6, 2020

Dirpy does this, as well as extracts audio only from YouTube videos. I use it regularly to listen to longer form talks or lectures in an audio-only format.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:15 PM on March 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just an FYI - I tried jessamyns suggestion of the addon as that seemed the easiest but cannot seem to make it work - ie no download button appears. A quick search seems to reveal others have this problem too and that it's something about the current versions of Firefox.

Will work through the others when I can. Access is flaky AF right now.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:29 PM on March 6, 2020

Ninazer0, I would try youtube red or youtube premium. It gets rid of ads, is offline, cross platform (on your phone) and you can listen to movies when the app is closed. It's quite nice! Plus the people you watch get money for you watching them.
posted by bbqturtle at 4:31 PM on March 6, 2020

Seconding Yuwtze’s recommendation of the YouTube Premium mobile app. When I signed up a few months ago, I got the first month free!
posted by ceramicspaniel at 5:04 PM on March 6, 2020

I use VLC when I want to download YouTube videos, from Quora:

In VLC, head to Media > Open Network Stream.

Paste the YouTube link in the box and click Play.

Under Tools, click Codec Information.

In the box that says Location, right-click the block of text and click Select All. Copy this text to your clipboard.

Go back to your browser and paste the link in the address bar. This will open the source file directly on YouTube's servers.

Right-click the video as it plays and select Save Video As.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:01 PM on March 6, 2020 [12 favorites]

I've had a fair bit of luck with this website - where you can enter a YouTube URL, and it generates a downloadable link for the video file. It has lots of obnoxious ads, but works well. (They also advertise a trick where you change the URL of any video from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyz to https://www.youtubepp.com/watch?v=xyz, and it automatically loads in this tool...)
posted by rdn at 7:06 PM on March 6, 2020

Youtube Premium only allows you to download on its mobile apps; downloading isn't (officially) supported by any of the browser-based interfaces. I'd nth the recommendation for youtube-dl for downloading youtube videos, and it's really quite easy to use for a command-line app. I haven't tried the GUI linked above, but it looks like that'd make it even easier.
posted by Aleyn at 9:24 PM on March 6, 2020

Best answer: youtube-dl is the easiest and most capable solution.

1. Download it from the youtube-dl site. The download page is a tad cluttered, for clarity you need the binary file under the "Windows exe" link, nothing else.

2. Grab the downloaded youtube-dl.exe file and put it in a folder of your choosing, that's where your videos will end up by default.

3. While in that folder, open the command prompt from Windows' file explorer by clicking in the "File" menu and selecting "Open command prompt".
It's essential that the command prompt is opened in the folder where you put the youtube-dl binary, I reckon opening it this way will achieve that, if not hopefully a Windows 10 user reading this thread will chime in and correct me.

4. In the command prompt window, type:

By default youtube-dl tries the highest quality audio+video combination available. These differ somewhat from video to video.
Given the spotty internet connection, using the "-f 18" format selection option downloads a 480p MP4 file that is available for almost every YT video, so it ought to work every time:
youtube-dl -f 18 YOUTUBE_URL_OF_VIDEO

5. youtube-dl works with many sites other than YT but format options differ from site to site. The "-f 18" trick will not work outside of YT.

youtube-dl -F URL_OF_VIDEO

(uppercase F) outputs a list of all available formats and their codes, from which you choose one then fetch (lowercase f) with:

6. Occasionally YT and other sites make changes that stop youtube-dl from working. This is usually fixed by updating it: youtube-dl -U
Again, maybe automatic updates don't work under Windows and you may need to repeat steps 1 and 2.

Minor aside:
> I run U-blocker

If this is not a typo, it's possible you're running malware, there's a load of malicious extensions purporting to be ad-blockers with deliberately misleading names. uBlock Origin is the one to use and should only be installed from the linked Mozilla extension page.
posted by Bangaioh at 8:27 AM on March 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: uBlock Origin is the one I meant, sorry for the confusion. My brain is pretty much fried at the moment from lack of sleep.

Youtube-dl does indeed work exactly as I need it to. I would use YouTube Premium if I could (if only to support the content makers) but some of the issues with spotty internet dropping in and out make that just about impossible. Youtube-dl seems to cope with lag and other weirdness reasonably well so far, so I'll mark this question as solved.

Thank you, everyone! You've made a tiny chunk of my life so much easier and I'm very grateful.
posted by ninazer0 at 3:33 PM on March 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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