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How to save BBC iplayer downloads

Updated April 17, 2017

In today’s busy world, people can’t always find time to watch a favourite TV show as it is transmitted. Major broadcasters, including the BBC, have developed online players that allow licence payers to view programmes at a more convenient time. The BBC launched iPlayer on Christmas Day 2007. Today, users either stream programmes on demand or download them for offline viewing. The BBC iPlayer Desktop, installed on a PC or Intel-based Mac, saves downloaded files for up to 30 days.

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Install iPlayer Desktop

  1. open an Internet browser and navigate to the BBC iPlayer Desktop installation page. Skip this section if the iPlayer Desktop is already installed on your computer.

  2. Click the “Install BBC iPlayer Desktop” button to start the installation. Initially, Adobe AIR will load as it is required for iPlayer Desktop to run. The Adobe installer will prompt you to “Press yes to continue”. Click the “Yes” button.

  3. Wait for the Adobe AIR installation to complete. This may take several minutes.

  4. Click the “Install” button when you see the installer prompt “Are you sure you want to install this application to your computer?” This confirms that you wish to install iPlayer Desktop.

  5. Open the file “bbc_iplayer_desktop.air” by clicking the “Open” button or save it. However, the installer may open the file automatically.

  6. Accept Adobe’s Terms & Conditions if prompted to do so. Tick the “I accept” check box and click the “Continue” button.

  7. Select your installation preferences when prompted. Choose whether to tick or clear the check boxes. Accept the default installation location for the programme unless you need to install it elsewhere. Click the “Continue” button and wait for the installation to complete. This may take several minutes.

Download Files

  1. Open an Internet browser and navigate to the iPlayer home page. Find a TV programme to download.

  2. Select your chosen programme. Open the iPlayer interface by clicking the programme link in the relevant listing.

  3. Look for the Download Options button just below the iPlayer viewing area. Check that the button highlights when you hover your mouse pointer over it. Some programmes are only available for streaming on demand and if the button does not highlight then you will not be able to download the programme.

  4. Click the “Download Options” drop-down menu. Click the “For iPlayer Desktop” option to open the iPlayer Desktop, displaying the Downloads interface.

  5. Click the “Coming Soon” tab on the iPlayer Desktop. This will display a list of programmes that are downloading. Click on a programme from the list to display details of the download. (You can also cancel a download if you have selected the wrong programme.) Wait until the download has completed. This may take some time, depending on the speed of your Internet connection.

  6. Click on the “Available Now” tab on the iPlayer Desktop. You will see your programme listed here, ready to play. You have now saved the download to the hard drive on your computer.

  7. Tip

    You can decide where on your computer downloaded files are saved. Click the “Preferences” tab on the iPlayer Desktop and clear the “Allow BBC iPlayer to manage …” check box in the Download Settings section. You can now choose an alternative to the default location. Remember to save any changes before closing the tab.

    If you are not in the UK and you want to watch a programme that you downloaded in the UK, then you need to disconnect from the Internet before starting to view. If you are connected, the iPlayer Desktop will prevent the programme from playing.


    Your downloaded programmes will be deleted if you do not view them within the allowable time window. You have up to 30 days after downloading to start viewing a programme, and seven days to watch it from the day you start to view.

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About the Author

Mike Bailey

Based in Reading, England, Mike Bailey has been writing since 2008. He covers topics such as business, travel and technology for numerous online publications. Bailey holds a Bachelor of Arts in engineering from the University of Cambridge.

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