Posey's Tips & Tricks

Saving Videos With Internet Explorer

Having trouble saving Internet videos to your computer? Brien walks you through a lesser-know Internet Explorer exploit that should get the job done.

Lately I have been working on a new project. I don't want to publically say exactly what the project involves because I'm sure that a lot of you would probably consider it to be silly or frivolous, but it is something that I have had an interest in since I was a young child. At any rate, this particular project is very technical in nature and has a very steep learning curve.

Back before Christmas I found some video tutorials on the Internet that seemed to do a good job of guiding me through some of the more complicated tasks that I needed to learn. Just about the time that I really started to figure things out though, I had to go out of town for Christmas.

I really didn't want to have to wait until after Christmas to pick up where I had left off and I knew that I would have a lot of down time during this trip that would be perfect for studying more of the video tutorials.

My initial plan was to watch the videos on my phone while I was out of town, but the Web site where the videos are hosted doesn't really work with my phone. That being the case, I decided to see if I could download the videos and take them with me on the go.

Before I tell you how I pulled this off, I want to tell you up front that the videos weren't hosted on YouTube. If they had been then downloading the videos would have been easy. There are countless utilities available for downloading YouTube videos.

Incidentally, if you ever need to download a video and don't want to invest in a download utility, there is a really great Web site that can help you with the process. The site is www.keepvid.com. The Web site contains a text box in which you can enter the URL of the video that you want to download (you don't need to purchase the software it advertises). Assuming that you have Java installed you can just click the Download button and the Web site will present you with a link that you can use to download the video. If multiple resolutions are available then the KeepVid Web site provides a link for each resolution so that you can pick exactly the video that you want to download.

As much as I like the KeepVid Web site, it doesn't work with everything. I have used it to download videos from YouTube and Daily Motion, but it doesn't work for the site that was hosting the videos that I wanted to download. Furthermore, the site itself didn't offer any option to download the videos.

I got around this little problem by exploiting the Internet Explorer browser cache. When a site streams MP4 videos, the entire video is downloaded (assuming that you wait long enough) and copied to the computer's browser cache. That being the case, you only have to know where to look for the video.

Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 9 do a pretty good job of hiding the browser cache. The first thing that you will need to do is to configure Windows to show hidden files and folders. You can accomplish this in Windows 7 by opening Windows Explorer, navigating to the C: drive, and pressing the Alt key.  Next, choose the Folder Options command from the Tools menu. When the Folder Options dialog box appears, go to the View tab and then choose the Show Hidden Files, Folders and Drives option. You will also need to deselect the Hide Protected Operating System Files check box and the Hide Extensions for Known File Types check box. Click OK and it's time to go get the file.

Now, navigate through Windows Explorer to C:\Users\<your user name>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files. This folder contains some, but not nearly all, of the cached content used by the browser.

The trick to getting to the rest of the cached content is to navigate to a hidden folder. Even though we have told Windows to display hidden files and folders, the Temporary Internet Files folder contains a hidden folder that Windows will not reveal. Even though this folder is invisible, you can still access it. To do so, go to the address bar and press the backslash key after Temporary Internet Files and then add Content.IE5. The full path is C:\Users\<your user name>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5. Once you arrive at this path, you will see a series of folders that contain the cached files.

The easiest way to find the files that you want to download is to clear the browser cache (by using the Safety | Delete Browsing History commands in Internet Explorer) and then go to the page containing the video that you want to download. Clearing the browser cache first will help to get rid of some of the clutter, making the video file easier to spot once you start browsing the cache directories (there are several of them). Another trick that you can use is to open a Command Prompt window, navigate to the path listed above, and then enter the following command:

DIR *.mp4 /s /p

This command will show you the exact name and location of any MP4 files in your Internet Explorer cache.

That's all there is to it. Once you locate the video file, you can copy it to another folder or to a mobile device. Of course in the interest of keeping the lawyers happy, I have to ask you to please refrain from using this technique for any illegal purposes. That said -- have fun!

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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