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Tips and Tricks for Downloading Online Videos

Videos are widely distributed online through free hosting services like YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion. While these destinations make it easier to view and share videos on the Internet, none of them enable users to download clips and store them locally on their computers. Nonetheless, there are a few things that users can do to obtain the source files of videos that are embedded on Web pages.

Use Your Internet Browser’s Built-In Features

It is possible to download some online videos by utilizing a standard feature of your Internet browser. Applications like Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox enable users to inspect the elements of a Web page. This feature can reveal the direct URL to an embedded video and make the source file obtainable. When attempting to download videos using this method, load the Web page with the embedded video in the Internet browser and wait for all the elements to render completely. If using Internet Explorer, go to the “Tools” tab on the program menu and choose “Internet Options.” Select the “General” tab on the “Internet Options” window and click the “Settings” button in the “Browser History” section. Click the “View Files” button in the “Temporary Internet Files and History Settings” window and a folder directory will appear. The source file for the embedded video will be retrievable from this location. If using Safari, go to the “Window” tab on the program menu and choose “Activity.” A pop-up window will display an inventory of all the Web page’s rendered media files. Double-click the listing for the source file of the embedded video and the media will be exported to the desktop. If using Firefox, go to the “Tools” tab on the program menu and choose “Page Info.” Click the “Media” icon on the “Page Info” window and an inventory of all the Web page’s rendered media files will display. Select the listing for the embedded video’s source file and click the “Save As” button. Follow the on-screen instructions to store the media in a desired location.

Add a Plug-In to Your Internet Browser

Some Internet browser plug-ins are especially developed to download online videos. Since many of these components can capture an embedded video’s source file in just one click, users should take this approach if they want to save time. Video DownloadHelper is a free Firefox add-on that streamlines the process of downloading online video. To use the add-on, load the Web page with the embedded video in Firefox. Wait for Video DownloadHelper to recognize the streaming media. When this happens, the add-on’s icon on the Firefox navigation bar will be animated. Click the animated icon and the name of the embedded video’s source file will display. Choose the “Download” option from the fly-out menu and follow the on-screen instructions to store the media in a desired location. Google’s Chrome Internet browser is another application that can download online videos with the aid of a plug-in. In fact, there are numerous Chrome extensions which are designed to capture source files from YouTube (a subsidiary of Google). One example of an extension like this is Chrome YouTube Downloader. Once the component is installed, any YouTube watch page that is loaded in Chrome will display a “Download” button under the video player. When clicked, this button will offer users the option of downloading the YouTube video’s source file in a variety of output formats.

Install Software to Work with Your Internet Browser

There is also specialized software that users can install to download online video. But since these applications can be relatively large in size, users should only resort to this solution if an Internet browser method fails. Freeware like RealPlayer and Orbit Downloader work with Internet browsers to capture an embedded video’s source file. Although they are released by different software developers, both programs have a similar workflow. Once the program is set up and a user loads an online video in their Internet browser, an overlay button (“Download This Video” for RealPlayer, “GetIt” for Orbit Downloader) will appear on the streaming media. When the overlay is clicked, users will initiate the video download and the source file will be saved to a default storage location.

While these methods of downloading online videos are often effective, it is not possible to capture every single instance of streaming media. Online destinations like Hulu and Netflix encode their embedded videos with copy protection to prevent illegal duplication. As a result, these tools will not be able to extract the source files of encrypted content. Moreover, any attempt to override the copy protection on these videos may be considered tantamount to piracy.

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