How Much Data Does YouTube Use?

Find out how much data you're using and find ways to lower your usage

If you're on a data plan or have a provider that utilizes bandwidth throttling, you may suspect that watching YouTube videos uses too much of your allotted data. The amount of data a YouTube video uses varies and is affected by video quality, video resolution, the internet connection, and the device.

Here's a look at how to estimate the amount of data a YouTube video uses, find other factors that affect YouTube data usage on a mobile device or desktop computer, and adjust YouTube settings to reduce your data usage.

Watching YouTube on a mobile device is data-intensive. If you regularly watch YouTube videos on a smartphone, consider a cellphone plan with unlimited data.

How to Use Video Quality to Estimate the Amount of Data a YouTube Video Will Use

Video quality is the main factor affecting YouTube data usage. When the original video uploaded to YouTube is high quality, more data is streamed. For example, a 4K video uses more data than a 1080p video.

Here's how to use a YouTube data usage calculator to estimate the amount of data a specific video uses.

  1. Enter the video's length and select the video quality. This example shows a 90-minute-long, 1080p video.

    YouTube Data Usage Calculator
  2. Select Calculate.

    The Calculate button
  3. The YouTube Data Usage Calculator returns an estimated amount of data usage based on calculated averages.

    YouTube data usage calculator results.
  4. This particular video will use an estimated 4,500 MB of data, although the actual amount will vary due to other considerations. This is a good way to determine how much data is used to watch a selected video.

How to Find the Video Quality

The quality of an internet connection affects the video quality available. If a video's quality is set to Auto, YouTube adjusts the video's quality based on the speed of the internet connection.

To find out the video quality at which a YouTube video plays on your current internet connection:

  1. Open YouTube and select a video to watch.

  2. Select the Settings icon (cog).

    In the YouTube app, select the vertical three dots and look for the Quality listing.

    The Settings gear in YouTube
  3. This video's quality is listed as 720p. Use this number and the video's length to estimate its data usage in the YouTube Data Usage calculator.

    The Quality of a video in YouTube

How to Decrease the Video Quality of a YouTube Video

To save on data usage, lower the quality of a YouTube video you plan to watch on a desktop computer or mobile device. A lower quality setting reduces the amount of data used.

YouTube offers as many as eight video-resolution options, including 2160p, 1440p, 1080p, 720p, 480p, 360p, 240p, and 144p.

Here's how to change a YouTube video's quality setting:

You can select only a resolution setting equal to or lower than the original video. Not every resolution is available on every device. Some devices only offer a few of these settings.

  1. Open YouTube and select a video to watch.

  2. Select the Settings icon (cog).

    In the YouTube app, select the vertical three dots and look for the Quality listing.

    The Settings gear in YouTube
  3. Select Quality to display a list of other video-quality options.

    The Quality of a video in YouTube
  4. Select a lower video quality to save on data usage.

    Quality options in YouTube

More on YouTube Video Quality and Your Internet Connection

YouTube provides two ways to learn more about the quality of an internet connection. Visit the Google Video Quality Report site to see the general quality of streaming you should expect based on your location and your internet service provider. The site shows the performance of several local internet service providers, although the service doesn't rate cellular network connections.

Google YouTube video quality report results for Comcast in Ann Arbor, MI. Shows graph of streams at 3 different quality rates.

Limit Mobile Data Usage

If you're concerned about the amount of data you use on your mobile device, it's possible to limit your mobile data usage.

On Android devices, open YouTube, tap your profile (in the upper-right corner), tap Settings > General, then move the slider to Limit mobile data usage: Only stream HD video on Wi-Fi.

On an iPhone or iPad with a cellular connection, open YouTube, tap your profile (in the upper-right corner), tap Settings, then move the slider to Play HD on Wi-Fi only.

Check Your Mobile Data Usage

To see how much mobile data YouTube used on an iPhone or iPad with a cellular connection, go to Settings > Cellular, then scroll through the list of apps until you locate YouTube. If cellular data access is enabled for YouTube, a data usage number displays below it. Scroll to the bottom of the screen to see which time period the data covers.

What About YouTube TV?

YouTube TV is YouTube's online streaming service. With YouTube TV, content can be viewed on a TV, computer, or mobile device.

Determining the amount of data YouTube TV uses can be difficult. Some providers, such as Comcast, display the data used by YouTube TV in the user's mobile app and online account. Other providers, such as Spectrum, don't display usage numbers at all.

Users report anywhere from 300 GB per month to 700 GB for YouTube TV data usage. However, the number varies according to viewing habits.