So, you want to download videos for free.
It’s possible. It’s also safe and legal using the right chrome extension.
But which is the best video downloader for Chrome?
Of the dozens (and dozens) of chrome video downloaders available, there are only three we’d recommend:
Despite the name, this extension does more than just download video from Facebook. You can download video from across the web. It’s free, and the only major platform it doesn’t seem to work on is YouTube.
Install it from the Chrome Web Store here.
Once it’s installed, just click the download arrow in your extension bar on Chrome and you’ll see a list of available videos on the page you’re viewing. Unusually, FBDown displays both the video filename and a thumbnail image that lets you identify the video you want more readily.
You can also enter a video URL to download at the FBDown website.
You don’t get a lot of choices with format, and when you choose to download a video you’re taken (in a new tab) to a download page—the extension is a portal to the web functionality. FBDown has said the company’s servers don’t keep download histories of their users or track their behavior.
That said, FBDown is easy to use, practical, well-reviewed, doesn’t ask for any weird permissions or behave oddly, and doesn’t seem to interfere with or slow down browsing.
vGet also works on everything except YouTube, and has the added advantage that it can be used to cast video to DLNA-enabled TVs.
You also get more control over the file type and format when you download. Although you don’t get the handy thumbnails that FBDown uses to help you find your video on the page, you do get something arguably better: scroll down the list of available videos that comes up when you click the extension icon, and as you mouse over each one, the video on the page is highlighted and marked with the download icon.
Install the extension from the Chrome Web Store here.
Let’s take a quick detour. By now you’ve probably guessed that it’s tough to download videos from YouTube. The streaming giant’s parent company also owns Chrome and has a vested interest in keeping users on YouTube, so extensions aren’t allowed to offer YouTube download functionality. That means you’re not going to find a good video downloader in the Chrome Web Store.
So what are your options?
YouTube Premium, formerly YouTube Red, offers offline playback as part of the $12/month subscription package. This functionality is also available in some countries with a standard YouTube membership. Here’s the list, characterized by inaccessibility or typically poor connectivity.
Depending on what you want to download videos for, YouTube Premium might be just the answer you’re looking for. It gives you complete access to YouTube Originals, YouTube Music, YouTube Kids, and ad-free YouTube access.
But YouTube’s offline playback doesn’t solve all the problems that might have caused you to need a downloader in the first place. For instance, you can (obviously) only use it on YouTube. And it’s only usable on mobile devices since you need to have the app. If you want to compile video playlists from multiple sources, or cut and remake your own videos, you’ll need another solution.
One way to get more options and control is by using a browser-based downloader like Freemake.
Freemake is free and web-based. To use it, just open it in a browser tab. Here’s the link.
We tested it by downloading a video of my co-founder, Hiten Shah, speaking at Startup Grind. We figured they wouldn’t mind.
All you have to do is drop the video URL into the bar on the website and click Download. From there, it takes a few seconds to convert the video and a few more to download it as an MP4. You can change the format, with the most common options available on the homescreen:
Dig into the site a little more and you’ll find you can download YouTube and other videos in other formats like WebM or FLV, as well as rip web links as AVIs to multiple devices including phones, Kindle Fire, and more.
And Freemake makes a big deal of assuring users that original quality is preserved. In the video we downloaded and then played in Quicktime, quality certainly looked equal to the YouTube version.
However, that’s not as convenient as being able to download YouTube videos with a single click, which for many use cases is ideal. For that, you’re going to need our third and final pick of Chrome video downloaders, SaveFrom.
SaveFrom is built for YouTube. The extension is a little complex to install, but once it is installed, it works quickly and easily. You can download YouTube videos with a single click from the video itself, from history, or from browsing.
You won’t find SaveFrom itself on the Chrome Web Store. It works by downloading a separate Chrome extension that enables this one. It’s also web-based. The extension doesn’t work with video sources other than YouTube, but the website does, so bookmark that and you can download video from everywhere.
Or to install the extension:
Once you’re set up, you can just click on YouTube videos to download them.
Since other videos need to be downloaded from the SaveFrom website, this tool is less versatile than the other solutions we’ve talked about—with the major exception that it works on YouTube. It probably makes sense to have both SaveFrom and vGet or FBDown at the same time. They don’t seem to interfere with each other and the combination would give you broader access.
This extension has had malware and other security issues in the past, but these now appear to have been resolved; when we tested it, we didn’t see any strange adverts or security alerts from Chrome.
There are several legal reasons to use a video downloader for work, education, or leisure:
You might just want to view videos offline. Instructional videos or communication from co-workers in video form can be easier to use and more intuitive than text. But it’s inconvenient to rely on an internet connection for content you might need to access while flying, on your commute, or in other circumstances where connectivity is spotty. Downloading videos can make them more accessible.
Sometimes you might need to share video with contractors or partners. But not everyone is comfortable passing links around, and some organizations might have objections to allowing links in emails or other communications. In some cases, contractors will be in places or situations where internet connectivity is spotty. It’s helpful to be able to download your own videos to share directly without having a centralized video repository.
In schools, colleges, and training sessions, it’s common to want only part of a video. Whether that’s the specific ten seconds that really clarify what you’re talking about, or whether you want to stitch together parts of several videos, it’s much easier to download them and then use a video editing tool to shape, splice, and trim the video the way you want.
Create a playlist in each service, add to the playlist, then sign in to both services in separate tabs when you want to watch both videos. Or you can copy the URLs, dump them in a Doc, and open the videos from there—clumsy and old-school as that is, it’s not the worst. Or, of course, you can download the videos themselves and put them in a folder on your device.
Videos get moved or taken down. If you have a video that’s your go-to resource, you want to make sure you don’t lose it when someone restructures their website or closes their YouTube account. Download the video and it’s yours forever.