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18.06.09 | Tips & Tricks: Using Firefox to download flash movies without any extra plugins
Filed under: Computer — Tags: , , — Dr. Ivan @ 17:14 — Comments (27)

So, this is in a way by far the most simplistic way of downloading videos off of youtube, viddler, blip.tv etc on Linux, not requiring any kind of programs (besides the browser itself), add-ons or scripts.

(This has been tested on several versions of Firefox and Konqueror with nspluginviewer and the official 32-bit plugin from Adobe® on a 64bit machine, several distros)

Many have probably figured this nifty trick out by now, as it has indeed existed for ages. But still – if there is anyone out there not aware of this method, here it is:

1) Open a page with a movie you want to download

2) Wait for it to cache fully

3) While the page is still displayed (do NOT close the window or tab containing it – it will delete the movie file), go to the /tmp directory

4) Here you will find one (or more, depending on how many flash movies you are working) files which do not have any extension but have the prefix “Flash” with a hash at the end (just several jumbled letters and numbers), like so: “FlashGjqRPZ”

5) This actually is the precise file you are looking for, copy it to another location, rename it and if you wish, you can also add the correct extension: These files are usually either .flv or .mp4 (on youtube for example, the former are the low quality videos, while the latter are high-quality or HD-movies)

6) Now you can close the tab/window of your browser which contained the web page with the movie – without the fear of getting the cached file deleted

7) Well, and that’s really it! Play the movie in your favorite media player (vlc, mplayer…)

This method has however its limitations:

  • It does not work for all sites which serve movies using flash.
  • This is not a good way of downloading more than a few files, so if you want to download f.ex. a whole playlist from youtube, you will still need to utilize something like the youtube-dl script
  • If the caching was interrupted by an nspluginviewer crash, you will NOT be able to resume – with any method; you will only be able to watch the part of the movie which has been saved locally in the /tmp dir.

I find that this method comes in handy after the (all too frequent) nspluginviewer crashes on the x86-64 platform. It usually happens when you either close or open a page containing some flash contents. The crash does not only take down the instance of nspluginviewer which caused it, but all its other of its threads as well. So if you had some other movies caching in another tab, you would have been unable to watch it due to this nuisance. But fortunately the cached movie files are still found in /tmp and might be watched separately.

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  1. avatar

    also don’t forget the plugtmp directories, and the firefox Cache ~/.mozilla/firefox/[profile]/Cache – if there are more 1 profile, you can see which is default in profiles.ini (Path)
    the cache is also great for some music sites as well

    Comment by kumyco — 18/06/2009 @ 21:51

  2. avatar

    The alternative method:

    1. install clive program using apt-get or yum
    2. open a terminal
    3. cd to_directory_where_you_want_to_save_mp4_files
    4. clive URL_of_the_move_website
    5. That’s it.

    Comment by ac — 18/06/2009 @ 21:52

  3. avatar

    @kumyco: Thanks, I was not aware of that… I should definitely check it out – could come in handy some time!

    @ac: Indeed, but then again I believe clive supports fewer sites than the method outlined above. Besides, copying the cached video file from /tmp does have the advantage that you avoid downloading the movie twice, which is undoubtedly a plus if you are viewing some monstrosity weighing in at 300-500 MB (from for example blip.tv which supports files up to 1GB) – especially if you are one of those poor souls with restricted bandwidth.

    edit: Of course, both clive and the youtube-dl script are very nice tools (clive has even a GUI frontend – for people who like that sort of thing; AFAIK it’s called abby). Also, as mentioned in the article, the latter lets you download a whole playlist off of youtube – which has been very useful for me at least.

    Nonetheless, thank you both for commenting :)

    Comment by Dr. Ivan — 18/06/2009 @ 22:02

  4. avatar

    @ac: That works just great! Thank you for posting this.

    Comment by mso — 18/06/2009 @ 22:09

  5. avatar

    Unknown video codec (7)

    Comment by Unknown — 19/06/2009 @ 00:02

  6. avatar

    @Unknown:It would be great if you could provide a little more information about your problem: But as it seems from the error message, you are missing a video codec needed to play back the file.

    Here is what you can do (should in theory work on any distro):
    # sudo su
    # mkdir /usr/lib/win32
    # wget http://www.mplayerhq.hu/MPlayer/releases/codecs/all-20071007.tar.bz2
    # tar -xjf all-20071007.tar.bz2 -C /usr/lib/win32
    # rm all-20071007.tar.bz2

    If you are against manual installation, though:
    In case you are using Ubuntu or any derivative, you could perhaps try to install the codecs package (called w32codecs, or w64codecs if you run on a 64-bit system) from medibuntu repo (look here or here on how to set it up).

    Otherwise you could perhaps search for “codecs” package with the tools provided by your distro (yum, pacman, or whatever) or just google the subject.

    Try and let me know if you have any problems!

    Comment by Dr. Ivan — 19/06/2009 @ 00:30

  7. avatar

    There’s also an firefox add-on, called downloadhelper. Works for embedded video as well.
    Check it out.

    Comment by Demian — 19/06/2009 @ 01:15

  8. avatar

    the “alpha” adobe flash for 64 bit Linux (which does not require nspluginwrapper) works rock solid in Ubuntu 8.10 and 9.04. don’t know why they list it as alpha, but its very solid in Firefox 3 and Ubuntu.

    Comment by Spanky Tarrel — 19/06/2009 @ 01:22

  9. avatar

    Great tip! For sites that don’t put the flash files in /tmp, is there some other, predictable place to look?

    Comment by Cibbuano — 19/06/2009 @ 01:51

  10. avatar

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    Pingback by How to Get Flash Videos from Websites in Linux without Installing Any Additional Software | Mixedsite — 19/06/2009 @ 02:54

  11. avatar

    I’ve been doing that for years with my Opera browser,

    the FLV file is in the ‘cache4′ dir on opera 9 and earlier, or ‘cache’ on Opera 10 Beta, you may need to add the .flv to the end of the file *after* it’s done downloading, depending on your system, I don’t need to, so I can start watching the video while it’s still downloading .

    if you use a file manager like midnight commader or Krusader, you can sort the cache by modified time so the video file will be always at the bottom of the list :D

    Comment by Joe — 19/06/2009 @ 04:46

  12. avatar

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  13. avatar

    Thank all for your comments!

    @Demian: Thanks, I’ll check it out!

    @Spanky Tarrel: I haven’t gotten around to trying it – but by the sound of it I definitely should. nspluginviewer does really get tiresome in the long run :)

    @Cibbuano: Well, not as I am aware of – although someone else could perhaps chime in on this one? Also, you could try to look into FF’s the cache folder, like kumyco suggested. This folder is rather chaotic though – there may be many files and pinpointing the correct file is easier to do like Joe suggested: Sorting files by their time stamp.

    @Joe: It’s great to hear it works with Opera as well! I think whether you need to add the extension or not depends on the movie player you choose – if it can guess codecs for the file, you are good. Or perhaps I could be wrong. But for me at least both VLC and (g)mplayer have worked flawlessly.

    Comment by Dr. Ivan — 19/06/2009 @ 06:30

  14. avatar

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  15. avatar

    perhaps a bit off topic, but relevant
    @ Spanky Tarrel – I also have been using the 64bit flash for some time and have NEVER had a crash.
    Uninstall the 32bit one first.
    I download the 64bit libflashplayer.so file from Adobe and keep a copy in my home folder with symlinks to /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins and /usr/lib/firefox-addons/plugins
    When Adobe releases updates I just update the one file in my home folder and all the programs that need it can use it. Works with Ubuntu and Debian Squeeze/Sid and I am sure it will work with all distros.

    The tmp file trick will probably still work as well.

    Comment by GregE — 19/06/2009 @ 07:34

  16. avatar

    Just tried it and it works with the 64bit plugin as expected.

    http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/flashplayer10.html to get the plugin.

    Comment by GregE — 19/06/2009 @ 07:38

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  18. avatar

    What I do is while the Flashxxxxxx file is loading: go to /tmp
    and make a link to the Flashxxxxxx file. Like
    ln Flashxxxxxxx MyFile.swf. This way it does not disappear when
    closing the session.

    Comment by Kees — 19/06/2009 @ 10:26

  19. avatar

    @GregE: Thanks for testing and sharing!

    @Kees: Actually, you are absolutely correct: You can hard-link the file to prevent it from disappearing!

    But just to clarify for folks out there. We are talking about hard links (i.e. “ln file1 file2″). The otherwise often used soft links (i.e. “ln -s file1 file2″) will not work in this case.

    Thanks for the tip, Kees!

    Comment by Dr. Ivan — 19/06/2009 @ 16:38

  20. avatar

    Dr. Ivan, Just wanted to say this is a brilliant and simply hack! There are many more than one way to do things and this is one of those that are beautiful just because of it’s simplicity. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by joe — 19/06/2009 @ 19:07

  21. avatar

    @joe: Thank you for your very kind words, joe! It is wonderful to hear that you found this article useful. Knowing that at least some of the little knowledge I have could help people out there is a great motivation for me!

    Comment by Dr. Ivan — 19/06/2009 @ 19:18

  22. avatar

    Another thing I’ll like to do with this is create a hard link while it’s caching.

    ln /tmp/Flash123abc /movie.flv

    This is limited to the same device as /tmp, but it means should you accidentally close that page after it’s finished downloading it’ll still be at /movie.flv

    Make sure not to use a symlink though otherwise it’ll be gone :)



    Comment by Alan Jones — 20/06/2009 @ 00:15

  23. avatar

    I bookmarked this page. Thank you for given this useful post…

    Comment by Flv Player — 01/07/2009 @ 12:23

  24. avatar


    I just wanted to note on the contribution of this community here. It’s second to none.

    I want to contribute my part to this forum as well

    There is a site that has been exceedingly helpful to myself and some associates of mine. That site is OnlineComputerHelpers.com and they offer online computer repair

    I hope that my input has been substantial and you also are able to use their services just as I have.

    Comment by lemnaltdryday — 02/07/2009 @ 23:37

  25. avatar


    Comment by Uritiozy — 05/07/2009 @ 08:53

  26. avatar


    enter url of youtube video on this site, and you can download them as either flv or mp4. Simple as that.

    Comment by Daniel — 21/07/2009 @ 13:39

  27. avatar


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