How to download & save streaming video from the internet, using Linux

The information in this post will help you download and save video files that are hosted on sites like Youtube, Supernovatube, Youku, Megavideo, and linked to by sites like, and It is a good idea to read the entire post before using any of these methods, as host sites have changed from time to time, and so have the methods you can use to download the streaming video files.

Seen the latest cool video on Youtube?  Want to save it on your hard drive so you can watch it again at your leisure or share it with your internetless friends?  Well, it’s simple – if you use Linux.  Everything I explain in this post was done on a computer running Ubuntu 8.10, but I think it will work with any distro.
Okay, let’s start with Youtube videos.  First, watch the video.  Then, before you navigate away from that web page, go and look in your system’s /tmp directory.  You should find a flash video file, named something like Flashbt0cVD.  That’s the file you want.  So move it to your home directory (or wherever you keep your videos) and rename it something more descriptive.
This trick will also work with the movie and TV videos  files streaming over the internet via sites like,, and
There is a problem.  One or two of the video links sites (like delete temporary files when they have finished playing.  This means you can’t move the file out of /tmp after you’ve watched it.  The solution is to link the temporary file to one in your home directory before the temporary file is deleted.  So you start to play the video, then go look in the /tmp directory. You’ll find a randomly-named video file there.  You need to link it to your home directory.  Do this by running this command in terminal:
ln /tmp/Flashuh4G6s ~/video.flv
Now you have got the video file in your /home.  You have to make sure that the name you give to the new linked file does not already exist in the directory.  So in the example above, you would first check that there is no file called video.flv in your home directory.
But there’s another problem.  If you watch a video via the links sites that is hosted at Youku, the video will be delivered as a series of small files (12-13 MB each).  But this isn’t a serious problem.  When they’ve downloaded you can put the randomly-named files into the correct viewing order by checking the properties of the files, looking at the time when the files were created.
If you have any queries, feel free to leave Comments.
UPDATE: If you are a Windoze user and you want to learn how to save streamed media, you should check out this site. There you’ll find info on how to capture and save video from lots of websites, plus audio files from and other internet radio stations. I only use Linux, so I can’t verify the accuracy of the info. But it looks good.
Here’s info about a couple more tools for downloading video from the web. One for grabbing BBC TV (and radio) content, and one for those Youtube videos we all know and love.
For some time now, users of any operating system have been able to watch BBC TV shows streamed over the internet by BBC iPlayer. But if you wanted to download programmes, you used Windows or you were shit out of luck.
Now, Linux users can download BBC content via the new iPlayer Desktop application. But I don’t like it. The content is crawling with DRM. And the player doesn’t work properly on my EEE PC. It might work okay on a better-specified computer. But iPlayer Desktop is compatible with just Intrepid and Jaunty and my desktop machine runs Hardy (I’m talking Ubuntu here – the app works on other distros too). Anyway, I don’t like the app so I’m not supplying a link to it. It’s my blog so blah! If you really want to try it for yourself, check out the “Labs” link on the iPlayer web page.
Anyway, if you want to download BBC TV and radio shows and you use Linux, there is an easy solution – get_iplayer.
This is how it works: Steve Jobs was desperate to sell his crappy iPhones in the UK. So he turned on his diabolical charm and convinced the BBC to offer iPlayer downloads to iPhones. This happened many moons ago, when only Windows OSes could download the content. But some dastardly fellow created a program that pretended to be an iPhone. Oh, and get this: the DRM that infects all the content downloaded from iPlayer is absent from the .mov files sent to iPhones and consequently computers running get_iplayer. It’s a command-line utility, which might put some people off. But as far as I’m concerned there isn’t much wrong with command-line utilities in Linux. So check it out!
The other video download solution I want to present here is the excellent The way this site works is simple. When you search for or go to watch a video on Youtube, you get an URL something like:
To download this video, you type that URL into your browser’s address bar, then add the letters “pwn” like this:
Go to that URL and you will find download links for the video in question. You can download the file in .flv flash format, and most are also available in mp4.
If you have an unreliable internet connection, you can marry pwnyoutube with wget to great effect. Let’s say you want a video of The Clash playing London Calling live. A search of Youtube may turn up this video URL:
So, you run the edited URL in your browser:
This brings you to a web page offering 2 download links. You want the “high quality” mp4 version. But your network connection is lousy. If you set the browser to download this file, chances are the connection will drop before the download completes. But this is no problem. Just right-click on the download link and select “Copy Link Location”. Now open a terminal and paste the download url into the following command:
wget -c
Wget will download the file, and the -c flag means that if the connection is broken, you can run the same command when the link is resumed and wget will start the download where it left off.
Hope this helps.
UPDATE OF THE UPDATE: OMG they have ruined PWNYoutube!!! 🙁
Back when I first wrote the review of PWNYoutube, it was simple, and great in its simplicity: you found the video’s URL, you added “pwn” to the URL, browsed to that URL… and you were given a couple of download links. I liked to right-click the link, copy it, then paste it into a wget command in the terminal. Brilliant, right?
But now, you do all that adding “pwn” to the URL stuff… but when you go to that URL, instead of getting a couple of simple download links, you are confronted with a bunch of complicated ridiculousness. “Use one of: SaveVid | YouDDL | ClipNabber | KeepVid…” etc etc etc. No simple download link. No simple wget. Just a bunch of downloading utilities/services/whatevers that I know nothing about, and which I want to know nothing about. Ruined, man. Ruuuiiinneddd!!!
I cast my weary eye over the options, and finally decided to try the bookmarklet. Dunno why, I guess maybe it sounded simple, or maybe unthreatening in its diminuitiveness. I successfully downloaded an mp4 (high quality) image file by using the bookmarklet – what you do is browse to a webpage that includes a Youtube video (it doesn’t have to be a web page actually on – many bloggers and webmasters have Youtube videos embedded in their own sites) and click on the bookmarklet. The resulting mp4 file played well in vlc, so I’ve got no issues in that regard. But changing the PWNYoutube interface so you no longer get a simple download link – that’s just bad. Shame on you, PWNYoutube!.

PWNYoutube – new interface. Boo!!

So, what’s the new PWNYoutube like? Well the bookmarklet works; I don’t know about the other utilities, if I get round to trying them I will post my verdict here. And I really should make an effort to try it all out. That’s what this blog post is all about, after all. But I’m so pissed off with PWNYoutube at the moment, I just don’t feel like doing it. If PWNYoutube can’t be bothered to provide me with a simple download link that works with wget, maybe I can’t be bothered to give them publicity. Fancy shmancy download utilities just don’t do it for me. I like wget. But PWNYoutube don’t like wget. Which makes it feel like PWNYoutube don’t like me.
Here’s a couple more things relating to online video. First of all, some of the sites I have mentioned previously have become pretty crappy. is terrible nowadays.  All it seems to offer are links to buy videos from Amazon or watch videos streamed from Megavideo – and if you don’t sign up to become a member of Megavideo, you can’t watch anything longer than about 56 minutes.
But it’s not all bad news.  It has become easier to download videos from, and these downloaded files are in mp4 format and much better quality than the streamed flash videos.  To download these files, you need to use Firefox, and the Firefox add-on Video DownloadHelper.  When you’ve installed Firefox and the add-on, go to and navigate the site to watch the video you want.  When you click on “Play”, you’ll see the DownloadHelper icon change colour and start moving.  Click on the icon and you’ll get a drop-down menu with a number of options.  Choose to download the file.  Once the download has started, close the tab which contains the playing video: the download speed will increase considerably, and you won’t need the crappy flash version.
That’s all for now; but I’ll update this post as and when new video downloading methods come to light.
6 JUNE 2012: ANOTHER BLOODY UPDATE – but its not really a bad update:
The stuff I told you about at the start of this post, about grabbing video files out of the tmp directory, does not appear to work anymore.  Grr!  BUT:  If  you are using Firefox and have the DownloadHelper add-on, go to Project Free TV and select the TV show/movie you wanna save.  Start watching it; when it’s started properly, the DownloadHelper icon will become all colourful and rotating.  Click on that, and select Copy URL.  Now, go to a terminal and type in something like wget -c -O movie.flv then, before hitting Enter, right-click and select Paste.  That will paste in the actual URL of the movie you want.  Hit Enter, and wget will start downloading the movie.flv file (or whatever name you chose) to your Home directory. Note: in that wget command, the -O is a capital letter O, not a zero.  This seems to work with all the sites Project Free TV link with.  Dunno how long the trick will last, so get going while the going’s good!  Oh yeah, one you’ve got wget downloading the file, close the Firefox tab that’s playing the movie.  Otherwise the download will take much longer.  Good luck!!
Locations of visitors to this page

free web stat

0 thoughts on “How to download & save streaming video from the internet, using Linux”

    1. Hafiz, you need to launch Nautilus with root privileges. Do this by pressing Alt+F2 then type into the box:
      gksudo nautilus
      This opens a file manager window. Be careful – it is possible to do serious damage to your system with this file manager. Use it to navigate to the file in question, click on Properties then Permissions, and you should be able to change the file’s permissions any way you want.

  1. hi thanks for outting this up. Few questions…i have Vista and i clicked onto temp files to look for the video file i watched in youtube…but i can’t find it what so ever! Any idea y??

    1. crazyguy: I wrote this guide for Linux. I don’t know anything about Vista, so I can’t really tell you anything about your problem. BUT! did you look in temp files after you’d played the video on Youtube? It’s possible that Vista deletes the temp file immediately after playback (the same as what happens when you watch a video on So the solution might be to access the temp files during the video playback. With Linux, I’d say link the temp file to a file in your home directory, so when the video finishes playing you’ll have a copy of it in your /home. But I don’t know how file-linking works in Vista. Sorry! Hope this helps…

  2. Use Firefox with Flashgot extension plus tie it with any downloader (wget for e.g.). No problems at all. When there is any media on the site you’ll get a blinking icon in the bottom right corner of your browser. Click on it and the downloader fires up, giving you the video.flv file 🙂

  3. Shayna: Hmm, there seems to be no RSS icon to click. I didn’t design this interface and I don’t know very much about it.
    If you’re using Firefox you can subscribe by clicking Bookmarks > Subscribe to this page. I haven’t used this myself. If you don’t use Firefox… I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe someone else could enlighten us?

  4. Kitkat: are you using Linux? If not, I can’t help you.
    If you *are* using Linux: your /home directory is the directory where you save all your personal files; it is located at, for example, /home/kitkat. The /tmp directory is where Linux saves temporary files; it’s at /tmp.
    Unfortunately, the fact you don’t know what I’m talking about suggests to me that you are *not* using Linux. And as this post’s title is “How to download & save streaming video from the internet, using *linux*”, I fear you are looking in the wrong place.

    1. hsartoris: do you mean what theme I’m using here on this blog? Well, it’s called “Contempt”; but I’ve modified it slightly, changing the sidebar and some other stuff. It’s nice, yeah? I’m so glad you agree!

  5. “But now, you do all that adding “pwn” to the URL stuff… but when you go to that URL, instead of getting a couple of simple download links, you are confronted with a bunch of complicated ridiculousness. “Use one of: SaveVid | YouDDL | ClipNabber | KeepVid…” etc etc etc. No simple download link.”
    I don’t believe this change is PWNYoutube’s fault. They were forced to do this because YouTube blocked direct downloads of their videos from other websites.

  6. What about flash streaming sites that don’t save a file it the /tmp folder like
    Does anyone have an idea of where these video files are ‘buffered?’

    1. Thomas William: I don’t know why you asked that question here. This blog post is about how to download and save streaming video, specifically in relation to Linux.
      I was a bit concerned about the number of links included in your post – the system automatically marks such posts as “possible spam” and asks me to moderate them. I’ve decided to let your post remain, but I’ve x’d out all those URLs. Please, please don’t use my Comments utility as a way to spam. That might ultimately make me disable Comments altogether, which I’m sure is not what you want.
      As for your question about rss-feeds – have you tried using Google (or Bing, or whatever) to find what you need?

  7. Hmm strange.
    This technique used to work for me. I would copy the file from /tmp as you desribed.
    However, I was just trying to do it and it no longer works because the FLV file is not there in /tmp even with “show hidden files” enabled. I don’t know whats changed?
    Any ideas?

    1. Yes, it seems YouTube has decided to block that trick.
      I would no suggest that you use Firefox as your web browser, and install the add-on DownloadHelper. You can use that to download the video file that you’re watching, and it can also convert the file’s format like .mp4, .avi, etc. That’s what I do. A bit of advice: once you’ve told DownloadHelper to download, it might be useful to kill the browser tab from where the you were watching the video. Doing this will get the download starting much sooner.

  8. Hi there
    Can I straight influence what a relief to find someone who in actuality knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You finally be versed how to draw an issue to light and win it important. More people essential to read this
    and understand this side of the story. I gobbledygook rely upon youre not more stylish because you categorically secure the gift.

  9. Pingback: download
  10. Pingback: oyun,oyna,flash,
  11. Pingback: funny videos
  12. After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service? Cheers!

    1. Ack! Off the top off my head I can’t think how I can help you with this problem. Later on I’ll do some looking round for a solution. But in the meantime: go ook at one of these notification emails and scroll down to the end. Is there not some text saying something like “You have been sent this email because you requested notifications. To unsubscribe, click here”? If so, click where indicated and you should be removed from the notifications list. If that doesn’t work: I’ll see what I can find…

  13. Pingback: internet income
    1. Thanks for the OT comment Cassandra! I don’t really mind you spamming Pirate Bay links (as long as you don’t do it again! 😉 ) but I was posting about how to download streaming content, not using bittorrent. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have nothing against bittorrent, but it isn’t really appropriate here. Incidentally, is that link for a real Pirate Bay site? Looks like it’s kosher, but what’s with the “3” and the absence of the pirate ship? I hope you’re not an agent provocateur working for the “industry”! :p

  14. I think this is one of the most significant information for
    me. And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few general things, The website style is perfect, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  15. I will right away clutch your rss feed as I can’t find your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you’ve any?
    Please permit me recognize in order that I may just subscribe.

    1. Hi, seo training. When you visit my site, scroll down and on the right, just below the “TOP POSTS” box, is the “EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION” box. Fill in the email address link, click on the “Sign me up!” button and voila! You will join my happy band of followers!
      I’m very flattered that you want to follow my blog. But tell me something: do people really pay $2297 for a search engine optimisation course? Sounds like a lucrative enterprise; especially compared to my free-to-use, advert-less site. Incidentally, a while back I wrote a small series of posts about using search engines: it starts at It’s a 5 part series (I think). I was planning to bring it all together as a single tutorial, but I never got round to doing it… This is all from 3 years ago, and real life has a nasty habit of messing with the virtual plans of virtual mice and men… Also, part 5 doesn’t look to me like it’s finished. I’ve only just now added its categories and tags, it was “Uncaterogised” for ages! Maybe now I’ll get round to doing it. It’s all free, of course, but I’m sure your $2297 course is much better than my feeble offering.

  16. No longer does a music lover need to bother about traveling out of range when a fantastic song comes
    on over the vehicle radio. It was an entertaining radio program that played
    the music people wanted to hear combined with his groovy upbeat personality.
    But mostly BBC Radios 4 and 5 because, being speech orientated, they’re more like what I do, so I can learn lots from them.

  17. This is more important than ever in a world where there are dozens of different audio formats.
    They also apparently believe that their customers who like a particular song they hear on the radio, are likely to purchase that
    song, which could add to downloads from i – Tunes.
    But mostly BBC Radios 4 and 5 because, being speech orientated, they’re more like what I do, so I can learn lots from them.

    1. BBC Radio 4 is fantastic and I recommend anyone who can listen to it should do so. It’s available through BBC’s iPlayer, but I think you have to be in the UK or spoof a UK IP address to get it. But it’s a great station: talk-oriented, so very little music. Lots of documentaries, drama, book reading (fiction and non-fiction), and news and current affairs. There have been periods in my life when I’ve had no TV or internet, but Radio 4 saw me through those periods just fine. Radio 4 FTW!!!

  18. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite sure
    I’ll learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

  19. Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any suggestions for newbie blog writers? I’d definitely
    appreciate it.

  20. Hey there! I just waanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many months of hard
    work due to no back up. Do you have any methods tto prevent hackers?

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately the post is a rather cobbled-together affair, a kind of “update” on my previous posts on the matter. As time goes on, methods of downloading are “fixed” while new opportunities come up. A major change is the fact a lot of users don’t mind streaming video. More ppl now don’t have the urge to “own” vast libraries of videos and mp3s that i feel. And the shift to high and unlimited data transfer agreements makes some of my concerns moot.
      But I plan to continue to keep an eye on streaming, downloading, catch-up TV, “smart” boxes like the NowTV box in Britain, and who knows what other online audiovisual solutions may appear. I like downloading stuff, the freer the better. And I will share anything I learn with likeminded fellows. I don’t watch much TV (1,000 channels showing sheer shite FFS) but I do like the so-called “box sets”. Download ’em, watch ’em, give the finger to “the Man”. Watch this space!
      Sent from an Android smartphone

  21. This is something cool but I am going to buy some thing from its a tv box and they said it can work with anything, just for saving my cable cost so I can watch anything free for online.

  22. You will want to skip these steps because it takes a lot of time to rip and convert video files.
    This means it will mostly broadcast in your computer, the normal TV stations available in your region and not those from outside the country.
    Hence, you can watch and download as much movies as you want without worrying how much it would cost you.

    1. This is a pretty old blog posting Irwin – 2009, 6 years ago. But sometimes the old tricks are the best tricks, they slip under the radar of security looking out for hi-tech attacks. I’m downloading Game of Thrones at the moment (I’d heard so much about it, it’s not available on free-to-air TV in Britain so I’d never seen it. Bing bong, a week or so later later I’ve got nearly all of it). I’m up to Season 5, episode 6 – I think that makes me up-to-date, as I’m having to wait a week for each next episode to become available. There are some really dedicated peeps out there, putting these shows online almost right away. The online pirate community is thriving, and I support all of ’em so long as they’re not using us as cash cows. I *never* pay to download, and may the Goddess amuse her malicious side on the rip-off merchants. Rip DVDs, don’t rip the people!! Grrr!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *