How to Download YouTube Videos on Desktop or Phone (2020)

by Daniel Ndukwu

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YouTube is a huge website with billions of page views a month and billions of hours of videos collected. Almost any kind of content you’re looking for can be found on YouTube.

I do mean that literally. Short of murdering someone on video (which you can still upload in certain circumstances) and porn, you can see a creator that’s making content around it. With that kind of breadth and depth, there are limits to what a single user can consume in a day or in a sitting.

It makes sense that some people would want to convert videos to mp4 files for personal use offline. It’s surprisingly easy to download YouTube videos because there are tons of sites dedicated to it.

Unfortunately, many of those sites, for some strange reason, want your personal information or attempt to sneak malware onto your computer. That’s never fun.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to download and convert YouTube videos on desktop, phone, and tablet devices using clean platforms and software.

There’s one big caveat. Though I’ll be updating this article often, things on the internet change – fast. It may be that a recommended tool is no longer recommended because the service delivery has declined or it’s doing something sneaky.

I strongly suggest you do your own due diligence when using any YouTube downloader because, well, things happen.

Caveat over.

Let’s dive into the good stuff.

A note on copyrights AKA is downloading YouTube videos legal?

Yes, I was supposed to dive into an explanation of how to buck the system and download YouTube videos but after writing the article, my conscious pricked me. I know most people don’t read terms of service – including the one from YouTube – so you may not know what I’m about to share.

It says, in pretty clear terms that you’re not allowed to download videos from YouTube:

“You are not allowed to…access, reproduce, download, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, alter, modify or otherwise use any part of the Service or any Content except: (a) as expressly authorized by the Service; or (b) with prior written permission from YouTube and, if applicable, the respective rights holders.”

YouTube TOS

Here’s the thing. If you’re downloading YouTube videos to your computer for personal use, there shouldn’t be any backlash. If you’re downloading YouTube videos to distribute in some way or to grow your own income, that’s when you’ll have a clear problem.

That means you’re taking money out of the pockets of Google and the creators who rely on that income. It’s not cool and I don’t support it at all. It takes a lot to build a YouTube channel or any platform for that manner so please be a decent person.

I’ve been long-winded here so, now, let’s really get into what you came for.

What are the steps to download YouTube videos

There are two tools you can use for this process and I’ll go through both of them in turn complete with screenshots and examples.

Here are the general steps for using a YouTube to MP4 converter and they can be repeated with most YouTube video downloading tools out there.

1: Choose an online or desktop video downloader

As I mentioned before, there are many tools that allow you to download YouTube videos directly to your desktop. The important part is choosing the one that’s compatible with your operating system. Some of them will only work with a specific OS while others will work with the major OS.

There’s no tool that will work with all of them.

Another thing to consider is the cost of the tool. Are you looking for a free option (most people are)? If yes, know that it comes with certain usage limits. Some of the tools will only allow you to download a specific video length or limit your video and audio quality.

Again, if you’re just using it for yourself this shouldn’t be too big of a deal. Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not the tool is converting the file to MP4 or MP3. The final consideration is if it’s browser-based or downloadable.

My recommendation is that you download the software if you can trust the source. That way, you won’t have to worry about the online tools adding malware to your computer.

2: Copy the YouTube URL

Once you’ve selected the YouTube to MP4 converter, navigate to the video you want to download on YouTube and copy the URL to your clipboard.

Image of copying the YouTube URL

If you’re using an online YouTube download tool, simply type in its address in a new browser window and load the page. Paste the URL of the YouTube video in the box provided.

Youtube downloader example

3: select your options

This is where it can get a bit confusing depending on the tool you’re using. Some of them will limit the quality of the video but others will give you multiple options which are labeled based on the video dimensions.

1920×1080 is full HD and is usually the highest quality you can download from these tools. If that’s an option then go ahead and choose it. The smaller the number, the lower the quality of the video.

Selecting the videos quality

4. Download and save

Select the one you want and save it to the proper location on your computer then rinse and repeat as often as you like.

Going through the process with 4k video downloader

4k video downloader is a desktop application that allows you to download YouTube videos for Mac and Windows devices.

Navigate to its website here and click the button to download the application.

4k downloader

A popup window may appear asking you to sign up to the website. That’s not necessary to get access to the software so you can avoid it if you like.

Once the installer has finished downloading, open the containing folder or run it directly from your browser. If you’re using a Windows device, you may see a notification that says you’re trying to install an app that’s not Microsoft-verified. Click install anyways then follow the on-screen prompts.

The installation process will take less than a minute.

When done, launch 4k Downloader and you’ll see a short onboarding tour.

onboarding tour example

Navigate to YouTube and copy the URL of the video you want to download. Open 4k Downloader and click the green paste button in the top left corner.

4k stogram working

It’ll start retrieving and parsing the content. Depending on your internet speed, it should take a few minutes to finish. When it’s done downloading, click on it to play or right-click -> show in folder to access the file directly.

Invideo YouTube Downloader

The Invideo YouTube to MP4 converter is much simpler than the 4k Downloader version. Simply navigate to the website here and paste your video URL into the search box in the center of the screen. Click the blue button labeled convert video.

After retrieving the file, you’ll be able to select the video resolution. Once you’ve done that, simply click download and the tool will get to work.

Download YouTube videos with Invideo options selection

Download YouTube videos on iOS phones and tablets

Downloading YouTube videos on iOS phones and tablets is just as simple as the process for desktop devices. The only real difference is that there are more steps involved. Let’s walk through them.

  1. Open the App Store and download “Documents by Readdle” The icon is named Documents.
  2. Open the built-in Safari browser on your phone or tablet
  3. Navigate to YouTube and find the video you want to download
  4. Copy the URL to your phone’s clipboard by tapping the share button
  5. Within the Documents app, open the browser by tapping the compass icon in the bottom right corner
  6. Type in bitdownloader.com
  7. On the page that loads, paste the URL of the YouTube video into the box provided
  8. Tap the download button
  9. Wait a moment then scroll down the page and you’ll encounter a section labeled “download with sound”
  10. Choose the option for the video resolution that you want and tap the green download button
  11. Choose a name for the file and tap done
  12. The file is now downloading and you can check its progress within the Documents app
  13. After the download is complete, if you want it to appear in your camera roll, tap the purple folder icon, then tap the downloads folder
  14. Tap the icon with three dots (ellipses) at the bottom right of the file you just downloaded and select the copy option
  15. Choose the Photos option when prompted

You’re all set. The video is now in your camera roll next to all you other recent photos and videos.

Conclusion

This short guide has gone through some of the simplest ways to download YouTube videos using the safest tools I could find. The best part is that if you just follow the steps, you’ll be equipped to download YouTube videos as MP4 or MP3 files from almost any software you encounter.

Now, you can binge on your favorite YouTube videos without having to connect to the internet or for those times when you don’t have a good connection. I’ve lived in many places where the internet situation made me want to pull the little hair I have out.

Let me know how you’ve downloaded or converted to MP4 and which of these tools is your favorite in the comments.

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