Save a YouTube video

Save a YouTube video
Mac Tip #386, 27 May 2009

There are many reasons to want to have offline access to an online video. For example, as a trainer and presenter there’s no way I’d rely on having access to the Internet or YouTube while presenting my session. If I absolutely have to have that clip of a cat playing the piano I embed it in my presentation.

You don’t have to be connected to the Internet to view a YouTube video — if you record it yourself first. Here’s how to record a YouTube video while it’s playing on your Mac’s screen.

How to save a YouTube video

Update, July 2012. It seems YouTube really don’t want people saving videos. I believe they’re working on breaking the software that claims to be able to download or save YouTube videos. They’ve also recently broken up videos into smaller chunks and this Tip no longer works. I’ve left the original technique below so you can still try it though. What follows are some new instructions for recording a video (from any source) as it plays on your screen.

Locate the video you want in YouTube and get it ready to play. You may decide to select a screen size, quality, captions or other features, for example.

I choose the quality of the YouTube video before I start recording.

I choose the quality of the YouTube video before I start recording.

Start up your screen capture software. Quicktime Player 10 can record video and audio from your computer screen, for example.


I recommend Screenflow though as being a far superior app for this purpose. If you routinely want to record movies playing on your Mac then the investment in Screenflow will pay off handsomely. I use it myself for all my screencasts. If you buy through my link here I receive a small percentage.

If your Mac commonly delivers messages and notifications to you, as mine does, then you may want to turn off those alerts. For example, you may need to quit your email app.

Once you’re ready to record keep in mind you won’t be able to use the computer for anything else while recording.

Tell your screen recording app to start recording, then switch to the browser window where you have the YouTube video ready and press Play.

Now walk away and let the recording happen in real time. Note how long the video is and come back once it’s had time to play through.

When it’s finished stop the recording app and save.

Then you can edit the recording, perhaps trimming out the moments before and after where you were switching apps.

Finally, you may need to export the recording in a different format for use in a Keynote presentation, for example.

This is definitely a technique for last resort. Recording the screen in this way can work your Mac quite hard. It’s also time consuming and annoying. But for those times when you just have to have the cat video or your presentation is worthless then this technique could just make your day.

The original Tip (now outdated)

Here’s how to save a YouTube video if you’re using Safari. If you use other web browsers, the process is the same, but you may have to look around in the menus to find the right items.

  1. View the YouTube video you wish to download and save.
  2. Open Safari’s Activity window (from the Window menu).
  3. In the Activity window click the disclosure triangle beside the correct Safari Tab or Window. A list appears showing all the activity for that Tab. In my screenshot you can see a long list of items that are part of the Queen Rania YouTube page I have open. Beside each item is a size in Kb or Mb.
  4. Identify the biggest item — it’s likely to be several megabytes. In my screenshot it’s a 3.4Mb item at the top of the list.
  5. Watch that item as the size may be constantly increasing. If it is that means the video is still loading.
  6. Hold down the Option key (⌥) and double click on that line. The movie file downloads to your Downloads folder. It may be named something like video.flv.

Play the video in VLC

You should now be able to play that video file using the free VLC Media Player.

Update February 2012: originally my Tip said to wait till the file size in the Activity window stopped increasing. Actually you can do the Option double-click any time to start the download.

By the way, the video I loaded for my screenshots was by Queen Rania of Jordan. She is an extremely intelligent and beautiful world leader who is using YouTube, Twitter and other channels to bring about change in the world.

Her themes are around education, eradicating poverty, and encouraging understanding.

This particular video is a humorous response to an award she won.

I recommend Queen Rania’s YouTube Channel

Visit Queen Rania’s official YouTube Channel to experiment with the download technique I’ve explained here.

How this Tip came about

I became quite caught up with the last few shows on American Idol 2009. I heard Adam Lambert sing Ring of Fire and was hooked. I found him a very versatile and exceptional performer.

In fact, I enjoyed his performances so much I followed the link to buy his songs on iTunes. But there’s a huge problem with that: they aren’t available in the New Zealand iTunes Store.

So, I did the next best thing: I downloaded his performances from the American Idol website so I can listen again when I want to. And if they ever do allow me to pay for them, I will.

I used the same process to download those songs as to download a YouTube video — it’s not as obvious as it seems.

Related posts

[wpzon keywords="pressure cooker" sindex="PCHardware" snode="1232597011" sort="salesrank" listing="8"]


  1. Alex said:

    Some of the youtube downloader sites don’t work on my mac too well. Have to spend time to find a decent one that keeps their scripts up to date!!

  2. julian gibbons said:

    Dear friend
    this download of yotube thing does not work, because there is not jsut one biggest flie, but about 10 which are all the same..1.7mb
    if you have another tip, please tell me

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      It seems YouTube may have changed how they do things, breaking up the files to stop people from downloading the videos. I’m afraid I don’t know how to deal with that.

  3. jack johnson said:

    i click window then i double click in the download. then i go to finder and it opens up only as text edit. then i copy the folder and try to play it in quickplayer and or i try to convert using to itunes by using replayer converter…ive been trying to figure this out for about 3 months. gettube was working for the flv. file but is not working anymore…i just need someone to explain the step very simply…i cant figure it out

  4. Tom said:

    Hey Miraz –

    Thanks for the easy to follow tutorial on that. I was able to download a youtube video that I recently narrated for the Energize Indiana TV campaign.
    Now I can add it to my voice-over demo reel. : )

    Here it is:


  5. Alison said:

    Hi Miraz

    Excellent tips and easy to follow thank you! just one question, if there are many lists of the same high number of mb’s which one should I select?

    • steve said:

      I have te same problem. seems to be a file that is a few mg’s. any suggestions that may help me see this line/file?

      there is no line with the video loading like in the link that was posted on feb/16/2012 shows.

  6. Henry said:

    Open Safari’s Activity window (from the Window menu). is badly written.

    File >> Open File >> etc. is better.

    It’s like a hand drawn map. The only person who understands the map is the person who drew it.

    Please redo ands advise.


  7. Miraz Jordan said:

    @BruceHoult pointed out: If you’ve installed Perian (every Mac should have Perian and Flip4Mac) then any QuickTime-aware app can play it, not just VLC.

  8. john said:

    I need to keep revisiting video in youtube for music lessons. I find the programmes like Keepvid and wondershare don’t work for me but there again I am not super cleaver with computers is there a easy wasy to download video to a mac?

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Well, John, scroll up and read the instructions on this page that tell you how to save a YouTube video to your Mac. :-)

  9. Rosie said:

    This always worked well for me, but now has stopped. I can find the downloading file of several Mb, and double clicking makes it download, but when the file has downloaded, and claims to be eg 10Mb, when I open it it says it is a ‘plain text’ file and is full of code, couldn’t possibly be 10Mb as it claims. What has changed? What can I do about it? Any suggestions would be gratefully received!

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Hi Rosie,

      it sounds as though the wrong app is opening it. Do you show file extensions on your Mac? If the file extension is .flv or .m4v or similar then instead of double clicking to open it try this. Right click (Control click) on the file and choose Open With from the menu that appears. Open with Quicktime or VLC or similar.

      Does that help?

  10. Andrew said:

    Great tip, but I’m having one problem with it. It seems that you can only download 7 minutes of video. I am trying to download a ten minute tv show episode, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Any advise?

  11. tc said:

    tried several time
    saves in downloads as an html & uses safari to open & play
    downloaded vlc media player & tries to open the html, did not work

    what am i doing incorrectly

    converting from pc to mac(10.5.8) the last year
    please help

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Hi tc,

      I can only think that maybe in Step 4 above you’re not Option clicking on the correct file. Make sure you’re getting the biggest item as that will be the movie.

      i just checked again with a movie I’ve never seen before and it worked just fine.

  12. Sophie said:

    Thank you so much for this!! Worked perfectly and kept me from having to download another application that might not have worked! (: By the way, Handbrake (google it) is a fantastic program for converting .flv and almost any other file types to mp4 and AVI files, so try that if you need another file type for the videos you’re downloading.

  13. tubekeeper said:

    You can also visit this site,

    copy and paste youtube video page URL and paste to the site,
    it will generate download link for you (FLV, MP4-HD, 3GP).

    Facebook, Metacafe video download supported too.

  14. kyla said:

    thank you very much!!! I needed this for my project and you gave me the way :D thank you so much!!!!

  15. Marco Spada said:

    A tip of the morion to C. Jones. Copying the link and pasting in the Downloads screen gets instant results. After download is finished, click the little magnifying glass to find in Finder, drag file to desktop, and change name (to name of video) and add the .flv extension. You can play it in VLC, or convert with FLV Crunch (unobtrusive, fast and free) to MP4 and play in iTunes.

  16. Alfred Savarani said:

    I waited until the file on activity monitor was saved , but when I double clicked the file (in activity monitor), it just simply opened a new window & started playing ,No downloads, any idea? Have downloaded some videos, but this one didn’t work.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Alfred, instead of double clicking the file in Activity Monitor find the file in the Finder and play it from there.

      Remember to Option double click the file in the Activity Monitor in order to download it in the first place.

  17. Miraz Jordan said:

    Thanks Phil, I appreciate the handy tip. I’ll try it next time I need to grab a YouTube video.

  18. Philip Roy said:

    Miraz, the best app I’ve found on Mac and PC for this is Tooble….

    Even the free version converts a YouTube link to a format that will play in iTunes (it’ll even move the file there for you or just leave it on your computer) and therefore, it’ll play on your iPhone etc.


  19. Daniel said:

    Why does everytime i click on the line on the activity page
    i just goes to another window?
    it doesn’t download

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      It depends which line you click. You need to identify the line for the video, then hold down the Option key while you double click.

      • C. Jones said:

        The same thing has happened to me more recently. It’s obviously a way of them trying to prevent you from saving the video. And I know I have identified the right line. However, I just discovered that you can outsmart this by doing the following:

        In the activity window highlight the line that corresponds with the video and push option-c to copy.

        Then open the downloads window and push option-v to paste and the download should start right away.

  20. Miraz Jordan said:

    Thanks for the comment Flightmaster, but I’m confused.

    If I Command double-click the movie itself it goes fullscreen. If I Command double-click the listing in the Activity window then it does the same thing as Option double-clicking – as I describe in my Tip.

    Can you explain exactly what you’re suggesting people should click on?

  21. flightmaster said:

    Great idea but this is a whole lot simpler than it seems. Just double click while holding down on the apple (command) and it is instantly in the download folder. Don’t need to download again. You’re welcome.

  22. narendra ghate said:

    THanx..!! that was most useful…

  23. Y Jajoo said:

    Superb… simplest and easiest way to download files…

    Wish that iTunes gives this support or You Tubes give this option at their site in near future…

  24. Miraz Jordan said:

    Awesomesauce: iTunes probably won’t play the .flv file. You may need to convert the file to another movie format. I’m sure Google will give you lots of possibilities if you search on something like ‘convert .flv to .mp4′.

  25. awesomesauce said:

    By the way, once you download a video[not through the iTunes store], how can you get into your iTunes?

  26. awesomesauce said:

    I found this page by googling help to get some Adam Lambert videos too! I didn’t even use Adam Lambert as the keywords, ha… Anyways, so you do the same thing as the saving a YouTube video when you want to download his video performance off the American Idol site?

  27. Pingback: Extract the sound from a video — Mac Tips

Comments are closed.