I have a youtube video I am listening to, having waited for it to download from youtube. Now, if I close the Chrome browser tab it is in, I will have to wait for the download again. The file must exist somewhere on a local cache, but how can I retrieve it from that cache?

  • Could we get an answer for Linux as well please? – n0pe Aug 5 '11 at 11:33

Flash video files are marked with a delete-on-handle-closed flag whereupon as soon as the handle to the file is closed (eg, the page it’s playing in is closed), the file-system immediately deletes the file. Furthermore, you cannot simply keep the page open and then copy the file because these files are opened in exclusive-access mode, so trying to open or copy them gives an access-denied error.

What you need to do to copy Flash videos from the browser cache (this works for other browsers as well, but you need to change the cache directory) is as follows:

  1. Get a copy of Unlocker and install it
  2. Clear the cache (to make the job easier)
  3. Navigate to Chrome’s cache location—the defaults are
    • %localappdata%\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Cache for Google Chrome
    • %localappdata%\Chromium\User Data\Default\Cache for Chromium
  4. Reload the page with the Flash video
  5. Wait for the video to finish downloading (ie, “buffering”)
  6. Sort the files by size
  7. Right-click the largest one and select Unlocker
  8. Click the drop-down list in the lower-left corner and select Copy
  9. Save the file somewhere, giving it an appropriate name and extension
  10. Close the Unlocker dialog (and if you want, the tab as well)
  11. Open the copy of the file in your player (VLC and GOM are a popular choices for FLVs)

NB, most video players can’t play partial Flash videos. That is, you need to make sure to have the beginning of the video, even if you stop the download before it finish. In other words, you can’t just skip to the middle of a video, then use Unlocker to copy a section from the middle because when you try to play it back, it will not work (the video will be blank, and if you are lucky, you may get the audio). Getting it from the start of the video, but stopping before the end does however work, though it may stop playing back some seconds before the actual point at which you stopped it (because of the block-nature of the encoding scheme used).

Also, you can always just use a video-downloading extension. I prefer YousableTubeFix because it includes Youtube customizing functions like disabling autoplay/autobuffer, removing comments, etc. There are also websites like KeepVid that can get you the videos for download.


Most of the above information (about copying the videos) applies to older versions of Chrome (extensions still work well—for now). The Chrome devs have changed how various things like streaming videos work and where certain files are stored since this question was first asked and I originally wrote this answer. It is now much easier to copy (most) streaming videos. The other answers below now apply to videos streamed in Chrome, but since they are still changing them, you should check each location to be sure you get the right file(s).

In newer versions (~21, 22 or so and up?) Chrome no longer uses locked-temporary files in the temp-directory. Instead, it now saves streaming videos to the regular browser cache folder in the User Data Directory (e.g., %localappdata%\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Cache) and the files can be easily copied from the OS (e.g., Windows Explorer).

However they still have no descriptive filenames and must be identified first. This is easier if you first clear the browser cache before starting the video and then sorting the files by size.

Note however that this still only applies to certain videos like those on YouTube; sites that use other methods of streaming videos like RTSP will still not work as they still use “native files” in Windows (and presumably tmpfs in *nix/Mac). As such, they must still be “ripped” using the same stream-capturing tools as before.

  • Lovely to find Unlocker. I had a similar tool for XP, but it disappeared with the advent of Vista, and I couldn't find it for Windows 7 either, until now. – ProfK Aug 8 '11 at 7:16

Firstly, to view the cached URLs you can enter about:cache into the chrome address bar.

You can access the Chrome cache at the following location (enter into the Windows Explorer):

%LocalAppData%\Google\Chrome\user data\default\cache

However, the file extensions are removed. So you will have to order by size and then check each individually.

Alternatively, you could use something like the Google Chrome Cache Viewer.

  • That won’t cut it; the files are locked and set to be immediately deleted once released. – Synetech Aug 8 '11 at 6:41

You can also find flash files on Windows 7 inside:

C:\Users\<your_user_name>\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Pepper Data\Shockwave Flash

You can also try to use the private navigation mode, it may avoid the need to unlock files (although I'm not sure).

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