The great Facebook outage of 2021 is over (for now), but in the DNS snafu that took down the popular yet controversial social network, there was collateral damage. Namely, other services owned by Facebook, including WhatsApp and Instagram, also went dark, and along with them, your digital memories. That’s why it’s smart to occasionally back up your social accounts, even if they’re already in the cloud—such as all your Insta-pics. We’ll show you how.
But what about memories you’ve seen posted by others? As on Facebook or YouTube, there are copyright and revenue-earning reasons not to grab someone else’s video. But we know you’ll only use our instructions on how to download photos and videos from Instagram for good.
Download Your Instagram Content
The steps to do this couldn’t be simpler. On the desktop, navigate to instagram.com, click your avatar icon at the upper right and select Settings > Privacy and Security. Click the link under Data Download that says Request Download.
In the mobile app, the steps are slightly different. Go to your Profile (the icon at the lower right), then click the 3-line menu at the upper right to select Settings > Security > Download Data.
You’ll see a Get a Copy of Your Information page. On the desktop, you get two choices—either download it in an easy-to-navigate HTML format or get it as a JSON data file that you can import into other services. Pick one and click Next. You’ll then have to re-enter your Instagram password and click Request Download.
On the mobile app, you don’t get the choice. You just click Request Download.
Instagram promises to have a link to you within at least 48 hours, as it might take that long if you have a lot of data saved to your account. I got mine in less than a minute. You can see it here, with a warning that the link in the email will stop working after four days because “it may contain personal information.”
To download on the desktop, enter your password (and if you have two-factor authentication on, the second authentication code), and you’ll again be taken to Instagram.com, where you can grab the compressed file (in ZIP format). I’m not the biggest Instagrammer by any means, and my file was 105MB, so expect a hefty amount of data if you’ve been uploading for years.
Once you extract the data, if you got the HTML version, just click the index.html file to get started navigating it all. It’ll include comments, contacts, account info, and a lot more. For the important stuff, scroll down the page to Content to find Posts, Profile Photos, and Stories. (Yes, all those “ephemeral” Stories you posted that disappeared to others after 24 hours are there.) If you want the actual video and image files, look in the downloads under for a Media folder.
Download Others’ Video and Pics from Instagram
Saving images and videos from Instagram isn’t easy. You can’t just long-press a finger on a posted pic in the app for a save option, nor even right-click to save on one in the desktop browser. That goes double for video.
The only way to get a third-party’s Instagram content saved to your device is with a third-party tool. One of the most versatile is ad-supported Toolzu. It will let you download a person’s profile pic, videos, photos, even vids in Stories or in IGTV (now Instagram Video). It won’t do Reels, the Instagram version of a TikTok clip. All you need is the exact URL to get a specific photo or video.
However, if you use the Profile downloader on Toolzu, you only need to enter the person’s Instagram user name, and it brings up the last 12 of the posts for easy downloading as a JPG for stills or an MP4 for videos. For anything older than those 12 posts, you need the URL. Toolzu works like a charm on mobile, too.
Grabbing a specific link from Instagram isn’t always easy. While on a desktop you can usually right-click to Copy Link Address, but it doesn’t always work in all areas. In Stories, for example, even with a desktop browser you’ll have to pause the video and copy the URL in the address bar; on mobile, as a Story video plays, you can click the 3-dot menu and select Copy Link.
Toolzu is far from the only tool that can handle Instagram downloads. Desktop tools like our favorite for YouTube downloads, 4K Video Downloader, can handle most of the chores (but it seems to choke on Instagram Reels). One that worked well in tests was an ad-supported, multi-lingual website helper called iGram—it even supports Reels, if you can get the specific URL of a video. It doesn’t have the batch ability that Toolzu offers.
You’ve now got the tools and info you need to put almost all of Instagram on your own hard drive. Use your powers only for good.