How Much Data Do YouTube Videos Use?

According to YouTube’s own data, there are over a billion users (approximately one-third of the Internet users) who watch millions of hours of videos and generate billions of views on its website every day.

There is a huge chance that you might be one of those users and like me, have often wondered just how much data does a YouTube consumer use up on average.

Well, here’s a complete breakdown of it.

No Simple Formula

In truth, there is no simple method through which users can find out the data usage since often times, even videos that run in a low resolution mode can still end up consuming a lot of data.

However, if we take the following two factors into account, we can come up with a general idea of how much data has been used up during your binge-watching session approximately:

  1. Different video resolution
  2. Length of the video
  3. Automatic streaming of video when page is loaded

Discussing the first factor, normally there are different resolutions a video can played in. These include:

  • 144p,
  • 240p,
  • 360p,
  • 480p,
  • 720p and,
  • 1080p.

The higher the number is, the better the video quality will be and respectively, it will end up consuming more data.

The other issue while assessing how much data YouTube videos consumes is that they are automatically streamed once the user clicks on the video. The speed at which the video is loaded is dependant on the users’ connection speed, implying that video will consume data long before you have even finished watching the video.

Video Data Usage

To determine how much data is consumed by Youtube videos, we are going to look at the example of the most viewed video at the video sharing site.

Can you take a guess which video that is? Hint: it has been viewed around 2.8 billion times on Youtube.

Yes, it’s the Korean superstar PSY’s Gangham Style, which is available in all resolutions, from 144p to 1080p.

To conduct the experiment, we use firewall and data monitoring software called Glasswire.

Initially when we load any video on YouTube, it has to load the audio track as well. Due to this reason it takes extra time for the video to load and the size of the file is larger. Once the audio track is cached (in the memory), changing the resolution will then only load the video bits. That way, the file size is relatively smaller and takes lesser time to load.

Keeping that in mind, we loaded the video and then changed the resolution to 480p (with all add-ons disabled). The Gangham Style video is exactly 4 minutes and 12 seconds long and according to the source, the audio bitrate is about 128kpbs – which is, 4MB for a 4 minute long video.

Here is what Glasswire showed us in terms of data consumption:

On 480p resolution, the video takes 27.7MB (including the 4MB audio track)

Here’s a complete breakdown of the data consumed at different resolutions:

  • 1080p video   :    74.5MB
  • 720p video     :    45.4MB
  • 480p video     :     27.7MB
  • 360p video     :     16.3MB
  • 240p video     :     9.9MB
  • 144p video      :     7.1MB

Let’s Derive A Formula For Approximation

If we know the bitrate and the length of the video then we can derive a formula which can roughly estimate the total volume consumed by YouTube.

Here is the correlation between the Resolution and the Bitrate of a video:

We can see that each resolution has its own bitrate:

  • 2160p video    :     20000 kbps
  • 1440p  video   :     8913 kbps
  • 1080p video    :     3774 kbps
  • 720p  video     :     3000 kbps
  • 480p video      :     1000 kbps
  • 360p video      :     721 kbps
  • 240p video      :     377 kbps
  • 144p  video      :     80 kbps

As far as the Resolution-Datasize comparison is concerned, here’s how it looks like:

We can use all the information at hand and deliver a formula which can determine the amount of data a video can end up using.

Here’s how the formula looks like: Bitrate x Seconds x Minutes / Bits / MBs

  • 2160p video   :  (20000 *60*10)/8/1024   :    1465 MB
  • 1440p  video  :  (8913 *60*10)/8/1024       :    653 MB
  • 1080p video  :   (3774*60*10)/8/1024        :    277 MB
  • 720p  video   :    (3000*60*10)/8/1024      :    220 MB
  • 480p video    :   (1000*60*10)/8/1024       :    73 MB
  • 360p video    :   (721*60*10)/8/1024          :    53 MB
  • 240p video    :   (377*60*10)/8/1024          :    27.6 MB
  • 144p  video    :   (80*60*10)/8/1024           :    5.8 MB

Please note that these are just some general findings and that your mileage may vary based on network quality, variable video streaming quality, etc. Nonetheless, they do give you a good idea of how data consumption comes into play when you are voraciously consuming online video content at your favorite video streaming service.

Zarar looks after Sports & Auto at ProPakistani.


  • KMQ

    Good Share, @Syed Zarrar do you know any way/option we can restrict our YouTube app to always start streaming in the lower resolution or the resolution we set as default? Also is there anyway we can stop app or youtube site to not start streaming directly we open the video? Any settings for that?

    • Syed Zarar

      I haven’t came across any default setting for either of those things, if I am being honest.

      However, if you use Chrome then there is an extension called “Magic Action for Youtube”. It allows you to manually start the video when you open it.

      On Firefox, you can use Flashstopper extension. It’s not Youtube specific. It will stop all Flash and HTML5 videos from autoloading.

      Hope that helps.

      • KMQ

        Thanks for the plugins. With chrome on PC its not an issue because when you select a quality next time it autmatically selects that quality. But with YouTube App if you select quality it would load same quality if you see any other video of same uploader, but once you see a video from any other uploader it shifts to auto.

        My issue is that I am using zong mbb and it works great at my place and once I open a video it most of the times starts with 720 or 1080 quality. I always have to go to quality and select a lower quality but by the time you get to that option its already done downloading a chunk of video in superior quality.

        • Usama Ali

          Bro you can do settings of which video quality should load’s intially there is a little gear in youtube player check there…!!!

        • the workaround you are asking involves rooting your android phone, using xposed framework and installing youtube+ app.

          • KMQ

            Ahan, I guess apko meri baat sahi se samajh aai hai and you solution make sense :-)

    • abobobilly

      EDIT: I didn’t know YouTube has removed this feature, for whatever reason :S Because i can’t find it anywhere now. Sad.

    • There is a way, you can set a resolution while watching a video and next video will never go above that but can go below it if your connection goes slow.

      For example you are watching a video on youtube, you set the resolution to 720p for current video, now all videos after this (even watched next day or next month) will play on 720p or lower resolution. Will never go above unless you change the resolution again. It will always try to play it on 720p and than depending on connection speed it may shift to lower for that specific video.

      One more good thing i have recently noticed, for bigger videos, youtube do not load the video all the way through, it only loads next about 2.5 minutes so that if you close the video, you do not unnecessarily lose the data (the one loaded and never seen).

      • KMQ

        Does this works in YouTube app? I know this works great with PC but with YouTube app it only works if you are watching the video from the same uploader any video from another uploader and the quality will start from auto and depending on connection will select the best quality. Please correct me if I am wrong or missing something.

  • Daniyal Ahmed

    You could have used internet download manager menu. It shows up upon opening video and you can view various qualities with sizes listed. Pick whichever you want and download.

    • Shahid Saleem

      I was going to suggest “youtube-dl” for the same purpose.

      And I think the author is wrong about sound quality. youtube-dl shows me different audio options.

      [info] Available formats for 9bZkp7q19f0:
      format code extension resolution note
      249 webm audio only DASH audio 53k , opus @ 50k, 1.51MiB
      250 webm audio only DASH audio 70k , opus @ 70k, 1.97MiB
      140 m4a audio only DASH audio 127k , m4a_dash container, [email protected], 3.82MiB
      171 webm audio only DASH audio 128k , [email protected], 3.49MiB
      251 webm audio only DASH audio 134k , opus @160k, 3.83MiB
      160 mp4 256×144 144p 153k , avc1.4d400c, 24fps, video only, 3.18MiB
      278 webm 256×144 144p 153k , webm container, vp9, 12fps, video only, 2.82MiB
      133 mp4 426×240 240p 312k , avc1.4d4015, 24fps, video only, 7.04MiB
      242 webm 426×240 240p 329k , vp9, 24fps, video only, 6.65MiB
      243 webm 640×360 360p 616k , vp9, 24fps, video only, 12.32MiB
      134 mp4 640×360 360p 638k , avc1.4d401e, 24fps, video only, 16.19MiB
      244 webm 854×480 480p 1172k , vp9, 24fps, video only, 22.40MiB
      135 mp4 854×480 480p 1173k , avc1.4d401e, 24fps, video only, 30.20MiB
      247 webm 1280×720 720p 2295k , vp9, 24fps, video only, 43.80MiB
      136 mp4 1280×720 720p 2338k , avc1.4d401f, 24fps, video only, 56.96MiB
      248 webm 1920×1080 1080p 4094k , vp9, 24fps, video only, 78.63MiB
      137 mp4 1920×1080 1080p 4395k , avc1.640028, 24fps, video only, 106.48MiB
      17 3gp 176×144 small , mp4v.20.3, [email protected] 24k
      36 3gp 320×180 small , mp4v.20.3, mp4a.40.2
      43 webm 640×360 medium , vp8.0, [email protected]
      18 mp4 640×360 medium , avc1.42001E, [email protected] 96k
      22 mp4 1280×720 hd720 , avc1.64001F, [email protected] (best)

  • Faheem Ahmed

    hardwoek

  • Kashif

    Different video resolutions are stored in single file on youtube server in streaming media format. So it is hard to find how Much Data Do YouTube Videos Use on their servers.

  • Your numbers for average bitrate at each resolution are slightly off and they vary depending on the codec that would be used for playback. For instance, highest quality 4k (2160p60) encodes on YouTube in VP9 or H.264 both exceed 30,000 kbps. While audio is usually negligible in this scenario (since it is usually encoded at 128k to 164k depending on m4a or Opus), it still adds to the overall bitrate, so 4K videos at the highest quality are usually over 30 Mbps.

    • Syed Zarar

      Hmm. Fair enough. Thanks for the information, though. It was an approximate anyway.

  • Mudassir Hussein

    streaming vs offline method
    I found less data consumption if u watch video on Offline method instead of watching online at Youtube. correct me if I m wrong