Dear Lifehacker, I watch a lot of online videos, and it's great when I'm actually connected to the internet. But sometimes I want to finish what I'm watching when I don't have an internet connection. Is there a way I can download videos so I can view them offline? Sincerely,Online Video Addict
Video lock icon created by Luis Rodrigues (The Noun Project)
Yes and no. Many online video sites operate on a streaming model, so you can't just download the video file to your hard drive. They do this because they offer ads or want control over when and how you watch the content. While you're breaking the rules by downloading from services who try to prevent you from doing so, it's understandable if you just want to finish watching something when you don't have an internet connection. There are ways you can do it, and some methods are better than others. Let's take a look at the most popular online video sites and look at your options.
Downloading from YouTube used to be as simple as clicking a button. Video files used to be exposed. You could just find the URLs and download them. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case, but that doesn't mean saving a YouTube video to your hard drive is impossible. Adapter is a free audio and video converter for Windows and Mac that also happens to have a YouTube downloader built in. In fact, it can often recognise videos from other video-sharing sites, so long as they use Flash. You just enter the URL in Adapter's built-in browser, and it'll recognise the video content. The downside is that you'll generally have to let the video play through for Adapter to capture the entire thing. This isn't a big deal, however, as most web content is fairly short and you can just mute your computer and do something else while Adapter handles the job. What's even better is that Adapter will convert that video for you when it's finished, whether that means a standard MP4 file for your mobile or an MP3 version of a music video. It's pretty much the easiest way to handle the job if you want to save Flash content.
Vimeo is a video-sharing site that often lets you download its content without any trouble. Right below the video, you'll often find a download button and the option to download your video of choice in multiple formats. Vimeo leaves the choice of whether or not the download button is available to content creators, which is pretty cool. It's a little less cool when content creators don't allow downloads, but that's up to them. If you just want to watch those videos offline, Adapter can pull that down for you too.
Videos from elsewhere can be a bit trickier, but none of them can stop you from recording your screen. If you want to save a video for later viewing, get a screencasting app, set the recording area to the size of the video window in your browser, tell it to record only your computer's audio, and record until the part of the video you want to save has completed. Then you can watch it later whenever you want.
Like all of these methods, none are perfect. They all involve waiting to save the content, and that's generally pretty annoying. If you want to save a streaming video for later, you're going to have to plan ahead a little and wait. That said, there are few situations these days where internet access is sparse. In most cases, you will be able to watch online the way the sites intended. For the few exceptions, you can use the tricks above to save videos for watching later.
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