How to Download Flash Video on a Mac

By Contributing Writer

Updated July 21, 2017

Flash video is everywhere, embedded on websites from YouTube to CNN. While it's nice to have access to streaming video online, there are times you want to download a specific clip and use it on your Macintosh or portable video player. There are both pay and shareware programs that do this, but with a little patience, it's easy enough to accomplish with the tools included on your Macintosh.

Navigate to the page where the Flash video you want to download can be found, using Safari. Be sure that you have the latest version of the embedded Flash Player installed for your browser.

While in Safari, press this key combination "Option," "Command" and "A." This combination will open the Activity Window for your browser, a list of all elements from the website that the browser is currently downloading.

If you have several browser windows open, scroll down to the window that has the Flash video you want to download. If the browser page elements are not expanded, click the triangle next to the page title to expand all of the elements.

The Activity Window

Find the video file that's embedded on the web page in the activity window. Look at the Status column and scan the list for larger file sizes. Typically, the video file will be the largest file on the page, from 3 to 10 megabytes in size. For hour-long programs, or video in high definition, the file may be 500 megabytes or larger. You may have to scroll down in the window in order to find it. The name of the file may not be recognizable to you; that's okay.

Downloading Video

Double-click on the video file in the Activity Window. This will download the selected file to your computer. Your Downloads window should open, and a file should begin to download. This file may have the name "video.flv." The file will download to the folder you've indicated in Safari preferences. This may take some time, depending on how large a file it is and how fast your Internet connection is.

Open the downloaded Flash video file in QuickTime, using the Perian plug-in. Please note that QuickTime does not natively support Flash video files. You need to download and install the Perian plug-in, which expands QuickTime's ability to recognize most common video formats. To find the latest version of Perian, visit their site, as indicated below.

The downloaded video file will not automatically open with QuickTime. To force it to open with QuickTime, do either of the following:

Open QuickTime first, then drag the downloaded video file to the QuickTime dock icon, or;

Right-click the downloaded video file and wait for the contextual menu to appear. Select "Open With" and find "QuickTime Player."

Save the downloaded Flash video file to a new format. Select "Save As" from the Quicktime File menu, and select what kind of file you want to save it as.


Many Flash video files are protected by copyright. Be careful downloading media you do not own.

If you have trouble finding the video file on the web page, there are shareware options available to assist, such as Flash Video Downloader (see link in "Resources," below). This is a plug-in for Firefox that will allow you to download video straight from the browser.

Items you will need

  • Macintosh computer

  • Internet Connection

  • Safari

  • Quicktime (with free Perian plugin installed)