Convert YouTube Videos to MP4 With VLC Media Player

Use VLC to save videos from YouTube to MP4

VLC media player
Wikimedia Commons

YouTube videos don't normally have a download button, but you can still save them to your computer with the free VLC media player. Not only that, if you've already downloaded the YouTube video to a format like FLV, you can use VLC to convert FLV to MP4 (a more widely accepted video format).

When the YouTube video is saved to MP4, you can play it on your phone or another device because MP4 is widely used, much more so than FLV.

Just looking to get the audio out of a YouTube video, likely in MP3 format? A YouTube-to-MP3 conversion tutorial can help you do this with VLC Media Player and other tools as well.

How to Convert YouTube Videos to MP4

If you want to download a YouTube video to MP4 with VLC, you have to take what might seem like a few somewhat strange steps, but they're actually really straightforward and easy to understand.

Download VLC if you don't have it yet, and then follow these steps:

  1. Copy the URL to the YouTube video.

    Screenshot showing how to copy a YouTube URL
    Jon Fisher
  2. Go to Media > Open Network Stream in VLC.

  3. Paste the YouTube video's URL in the text box provided in the Network tab.

  4. Click Play to stream the YouTube video through VLC.

    Screenshot showing how to play a YouTube video in VLC
    Jon Fisher
  5. Go to Tools > Codec Information.

  6. Copy the URL located in the Location text box at the bottom of the window.

    Screenshot showing how to copy a network stream URL in VLC
    Jon Fisher

    It might be hard to ensure you've selected the entire URL (it's really long). Click once in the text box and then hit Ctrl+A to select all of it, then Ctrl+C to copy it. On a Mac, these shortcuts are Command+A and Command+C.

  7. Paste the URL into your web browser's address bar.

  8. Right-click the video and choose Save video as, or whatever option your browser gives to save the video to your computer.

  9. Change the name to something recognizable and pick a folder to save it to.

  10. Click Save to download the YouTube video to your computer.

How to Convert FLV to MP4

If you already have a YouTube video saved to your computer but it's not in the MP4 format, then it's most likely saved as an FLV file. You can use VLC to convert FLV to MP4.

  1. Go to File > Convert / Save in VLC.

  2. Click Add in the File tab.

  3. Locate and select the FLV file you want to convert to MP4, and click Open.

  4. Click Convert / Save.

    Screenshot showing how to convert FLV to MP4 with VLC
    Jon Fisher
  5. Select Video - H.264 + MP3 (MP4) from the drop-down menu next to Profile. If you want to make advanced changes to the profile, click the small wrench next to it.

    Screenshot of the conversion profile selections in VLC
    Jon Fisher
  6. Click Browse to choose a folder to save the MP4 video to, and then click Save to place the video in that folder.

  7. Click Start.

You'll know the conversion is finished when the progress bar at the bottom of VLC reaches the very end. You might miss it if the video is really short, but for longer YouTube videos, it should be obvious how long it will take to complete if you watch the movement of the progress bar.