How do I use the --cookies option to youtube-dl to download a Youtube video? Can anyone provide a worked example of how to obtain the relevant cookies for Youtube and put it in the appropriate format for youtube-dl?

Context: I want to download a private Youtube video. For various reasons, the method of logging into my Google account is complicated and involves two-factor authentication and not supported by youtube-dl's existing command-line options. Therefore, it seems the best way is to log in manually in my browser, obtain the authentication cookies somehow, and use the --cookies option -- but I can't find a worked example of how to do this.

  • 1
    Did you try generating an app password in your google account dashboard and using that when providing your credentials to YouTube-dl? Jan 27 '19 at 0:54
  • a fresh version of youtube-dl (from their just reinstated GitHub repo) works for me with Google's 2FA (put the app-specific password you can generate on the command line, as -2 XXXXXXXXX) Nov 30 '20 at 12:39

Once you get the cookies, you only need to run youtube-dl --cookies /pathtocookiefile

If you use Chrome and accept third-party plugins to read your cookies.
Just try this cookie.txt,open the youtube then click cookie.txt plugin.
One more click ,you can download the cookie file for one tab or all. enter image description here

If you want do it manual in Chrome. F12 > Application > Storage > Cookies.
You need convert cookie list to Netscape format cookies file

#domain          HTTP/Secure    Expires      Name Value  
.youtube.com     TRUE/FALSE    1548523767    GPS    1
  • 8
    The linked extension was removed. There's another one with similar functionality: Get cookies.txt
    – Athari
    Jan 8 at 11:38

While this may not work for YouTube specifically, I wanted to highlight an easier approach that works well for youtube-dl to download from a site that requires login (and uses cookies to track the session).

Edit: Unfortunately YouTube is dependent on cookies set across multiple domains, so this approach probably will not work there.

youtube-dl has an option called --add-header:

--add-header FIELD:VALUE         Specify a custom HTTP header and its value, separated by a colon ':'. You can use this option
                                 multiple times

Cookies are ultimately just submitted to the server as HTTP headers, so all you have to do is set the Cookie header on the request. This method is also quite a bit easier than extracting a cookie jar from a modern browser, especially since those tend to be encrypted and people often turn to questionable 3rd party tools to extract that data.

Here is a usage example:

youtube-dl --add-header "Cookie:COOKIE_STRING_EXTRACTED_FROM_BROWSER" "https://website-that-hosts.example/the-video-you-want"

To extract the value of the cookie header:

  1. Open the website you wish to download from
  2. Log in
  3. Open your browser's network inspector
  4. Reload the page
  5. Find the very first request made to that website and click on it, then view the headers for the request
  6. Copy the entire string value of the Cookie header, highlighted in this image:

    Extracting the Cookie header from Google Chrome

  7. Paste that value into the example command above to replace COOKIE_STRING_EXTRACTED_FROM_BROWSER (inside the quotes)

This works well to download full episodes from sites that require cable provider login.


This approach doesn't require installing any browser extension, which could pose a security risk, as @bgentry also pointed out.

It requires a terminal window, Node.js, and this open-source script I published.

  1. Download the script (or clone the repo if you prefer)
  2. In an editor, open a new blank file
  3. In Chrome/Chromium, launch Developer Tools (F12)
  4. Navigate to the site you need cookies from, e.g. YouTube, and log in.
  5. Go to Application -> Storage -> Cookies
  6. For each URL under Cookies (e.g. https://www.youtube.com), copy the table of cookies into the clipboard, then paste it at the end of the file you've opened in step 2. Chrome cookies
  7. Save the file with a name like file-with-cookies-copy-pasted-from-Chrome.txt
  8. Run the script:

    node convert-cookies.js file-with-cookies-copy-pasted-from-Chrome.txt > netscape-cookies.txt

Now, netscape-cookies.txt will contain cookies ready to be used by any application that reads cookies in Netscape format (e.g. yotube-dl or curl).

  • Note: the input txt file must be encoded in UTF-8, weird results if Unicode
    – hymced
    May 1 '20 at 9:50
  • @dan-dascalescu When the "Copy" item does not appear in the right-clik menu, just press the "shift" key BEFORE right-click to open the context menu.
    – SebMa
    Mar 16 at 13:38
  • @dan-dascalescu One can also use this command to convert the cookies to the Nescape jar cookies format : curl -o /dev/null -s --cookie file-with-cookies-copy-pasted-from-Chrome.txt --cookie-jar netscape-cookies.txt https://www.youtube.com
    – SebMa
    Mar 16 at 13:39

This answer doesn't require an extension and is mostly automatic.

  1. Press Ctrl+Shift+I to open Web Developer Tools
  2. Select the Console tab at the top of the Web Developer Tools window
  3. Copy this code into the console input and press Enter
(function() {
  let S = '# Netscape HTTP Cookie File\n';
  for (raw_cookie of document.cookie.split(';')) {
    let cookie = raw_cookie.trim();
    let separator = cookie.indexOf('=');
    let name = cookie.substring(0, separator);
    let value = cookie.substring(separator + 1);

    let domain = window.location.hostname;
    // hopefully this will convert domains like `www.test.com` and `test.com` into `.test.com`
    domain = domain.replace('www.', '.');
    if (domain[0] !== '.') {
        domain = '.' + domain;

    // netscape cookie file format:
    // # domain  HTTP PATH SECURE timestamp name  value
    // .test.com TRUE /    FALSE  123456789 token 1234abcdef
    S += `${domain}\tTRUE\t/\tTRUE\t0\t${name}\t${value}\n`

  1. Right-click on output and select Copy Message
  2. Create cookies.txt and paste output there
  3. I also had to delete the last line which said something like this: debugger eval code:21:11

I've tested this method with Firefox on twitch.tv and successfully used the resulting file with youtube-dl 2021.06.06

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