Downloading YouTube videos to your computer

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(Welcome! I publish a new computer tip every Monday – if you want to subscribe by email, just enter your email address in the subscription box on the right.)

YouTube has millions of videos available, and a ton more are being added every day. In addition to the stupid ones (of which there are quite a few), there are many that are entertaining, informative, even educational.

What if you’re watching a video on YouTube, and you want to download that video to your computer for your own archives? You can look for a “Download” button, but you won’t find one. Youtube doesn’t want to make it easy for you to save videos to your computer, because they would rather have you come back to their website (and see their ads) whenever you want to view one.

Yet, thanks to a free service, downloading a YouTube video is pretty easy. Let’s walk through it.

Let’s say you’re watching the Annoying Orange video. Watch the video on the YouTube site (here), and then of course you will see why most people would want to download that one and save it. Okay, maybe not, but it will work as an example for us anyway.

When you are watching that video on the YouTube site, you can look up at the top of the screen at the address bar and you will see the URL:

If you click once on the address, it will highlight the whole line in blue. Then click one more time, right after the “y” in “youtube”. If you don’t click in exactly the right place, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the cursor to immediately after the “y”:

When the cursor is in the right place, just hit Backspace one time to erase the “y” and type the number 3. So you just replaced the “y” with a “3”.

Now hit Enter on the keyboard. You will see a screen that offers to download the video to your computer – you just need to choose which format you prefer (.mp4 or .flv). In most cases you will probably want .mp4.

When you click that link, you will have the option to save the file to your computer. If you plan to download more than a few videos, it would be a good idea to create a special folder for just that.

This week’s video is a foreign commercial for caviar (it’s not actually caviar, since the product is spelled “kaviar”). This baby has a unique way of showing that he really likes the taste.

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Judith Boyian
April 4th, 2010

I was able to download videos from youtube two months ago. The directions no longer work.