Full Guide on How to Delete Duplicate Files on Mac

Full Guide on How to Delete Duplicate Files on Mac

guide to deleting duplicates


You and I – and the rest of the world – have become almost scarily computer dependent. We need that trusty Mac we rely on so much to move at the speed of light and do everything from answer emails to create amazing graphics to play video games to streamline live streams to complete work-related tasks.

It’s our workhouse, entertainment center and best friend – until it slows down or threatens to run out of storage space. Before panic sets in and you head out to purchase a brand spanking new Mac, take the steps I took to clean up duplicate files and get your Mac running quickly and efficiently again. You’ll save that new computer money by rehabbing the Mac you already own, know, and love. Keep reading!

Why Duplicate Files Are Bad For Computers

I don’t know about you, but one of the most frustrating things about having duplicate files on my Mac is the level of confusion it can create. Imagine plugging away working on a file, shutting down your Mac for the night, and coming back to it to resume work the next day – only to find that you have multiple copies of that file (all with the same name, of course) on your Mac.

duplicate filesNow imagine the frustration of having to open and peruse each of those files to find the one with all the new work in it. As if that’s not frustrating enough, duplicate files can wreak all sorts of havoc, like eating up valuable storage space, creating desktop confusion, and slowing down your Mac. Most duplicate files hide out in your photo library, desktop, and download folders.

Ruthless file and content reviews, similar files, unnecessary utility files, and long-forgotten screenshots can make our Mac run slow enough to drive you crazy.

In this guide, you’ll learn a few simple tricks for getting rid of duplicate files and uncovering lots of clean space to work in, and filtering out memory gobbling files you really don’t need.

Why You Needed That Information

Because you may not have been aware of all the places duplicate files hide in plain sight, all the ways duplicate files slow down your productivity, and all the ways duplicate files slow down your Mac’s functions, cause it to drag, or inhibit the way you work and your overall functionality. Now that you know why I cleaned duplicate files off my Mac, you have a clear understanding of why you need to do the same thing. Let’s get started.

How To Delete Duplicate Document and Other Files

My Mac helped me find duplicate content with its Finder and yours can, too. Follow these steps and you’ll be twin-file-less sooner than you think.

  • Open a new Finder window
  • Insert the asterisk symbol
  • Make sure both Size and Kind columns are shown

(This will list only your systems identical files and list them by size and name.)

  • Quickly select and delete files you know you won’t need.

delete files on finder

Once you’ve completed the steps above, then take a little time to open and check out files you aren’t sure about. Once you’ve done that, delete the ones you don’t need. Do not skip this step because you’ll be an unhappy camper if you delete critical files. It may take a little more time, but it’s worth it to make sure you get rid of only what you want to get rid of.

On the other hand, don’t be bashful, either. If it’s truly a duplicate, trash it. If you’re a hanger-on and simply can’t bring yourself to delete those pesky duplicates, at the very least, you should stash them in the cloud. They’ll be out of your way, but not completely gone. I don’t recommend that step, though, because all you’re really doing is creating a problem you have to solve at a late date. The point of my guide, after all, is to rid those duplicate files from your life. Biting the bullet and deleting them is a good idea. Go ahead. You can do it.

Why You Took This Step

Because you’re tired of running out of space, scrounging through multiple files of the same name to find the one you want, and because your workhorse computer will greatly benefit from a thorough cleansing of duplicate files that eat up valuable work space and slow down production.

How Not To Delete Files You May Need

The easiest way to make sure you don’t accidentally delete a file you need is to open and read each and every file before you delete it. That’s an important step because it can be easier than you think to delete files with similar, but not exact names – or files you inadvertently assigned the same name, but stored in different locations.

keep the files you needFor instance, you might have two files named Amazing Barbecue. One might have your favorite brick and mortar locations and one might have your favorite barbecue recipes. It also happens because some files may have names and functions you don’t immediately recognize or understand. Review files carefully before you delete them because once they’re gone – they’re truly gone.

Why You Took This Step

You took the time to carefully review document and system function files before you deleted them because you don’t want to cry over your barbecue later when you realize you accidentally deleted a file you need or deleted a system function file you didn’t even realize you needed.

Remove Duplicate Music Files

I love good music, too, and, like you, I might listen to the same songs over and over. That doesn’t mean I need the same song on my Mac numerous times. Find duplicate music files by following these simple directions:

  • Make sure iTunes is running the latest version
  • Open iTunes
  • Click Library
  • Click Songs

Navigate your way to the menu bar (it’s at the top of your screen) and follow this path:

  • File > Library > Show Duplicate Items

itunes duplicates

Choose one version of any duplicated songs to keep and delete all the rest. Before you do that, make sure you delete exact duplicates only. I have live versions, concert versions, and commercially recorded versions of the same song on my Mac. Do you?  Those don’t count as duplicates – unless you want them to. Still wanna listen to the same song over and over? Institute the repeat function.

Why You Took This Step

You got rid of duplicate music files because you suddenly realized how awesome the repeat feature is and because you needed space for new music.

Delete Duplicate Photos and Video Files

Photos and graphics are typically the biggest space eaters on my Mac – and probably on yours, too. No one wants to delete pics of family, friends, and major events, so be careful not to delete the only copy you have. That said, you don’t need to keep multiple copies of the same photo. Here’s how you can get rid of those space gobbling duplicates and still preserve your memories. Make sure all your photos are stored in this location. Doing so will give you one place to look for photos and prevent you from running all over your Mac looking for photos when you want them.

  • Launch the iPhoto app and try not to get lost going down memory lane
  • Delete pictures that are obvious duplicates right on sight

Click option + command + delete

delete completely

Sadly, Apple does not provide an in-app method for identifying and mass deleting duplicates. I you want to go that route, I’d recommend downloading one of the duplicate-finding-and-deleting apps you’ll find all over the web. You’ll find other helpful duplicate removal tools at the end of this guide.

Why You Took This Step

You got rid of extra pics because one pic of your second cousin’s uncle’s BFF is probably more than enough. You also took this step to free up storage space on your Mac by putting all photos in one location instead of having the same pic in downloads, on your desktop, and in your iPhoto stash. 


This is one of the easier places to find and delete duplicate files because it’s much easier to spot duplicate images when they’re right in front of your face.

Simply, open the iTunes folder and select display duplicates. iTunes will wonderfully, helpfully display any duplicate media files and you can quickly decide which ones to trash.

  • First things first, backup your library
    Seriously – back it up
  • Follow this path: View > Show Duplicate Items
  • Just in case you have songs and other media with the same name, but different versions, click on Show Exact Duplicate Items


show exact duplicates

Delete the duplicates you don’t need and you’re all done.

Why You Took This Step

You did this because its super easy, super quick, and really, how many copies of the same graphic do you really need? You made your Mac faster and more streamlined by getting rid of unnecessary duplicates.

Tools That Can Delete Duplicates

Want to save yourself some time and take the lazy guy’s way out? Well…not exactly lazy, you’ll still have to put a little work into deleting duplicate files. The following software downloads and applications can give you a jump start. Some can even do the bulk of the work for you. Check ‘em out:tools

  • Duplicate File Finder – this one is especially useful if you’re merging multiple external drives and want a clean, sleek starting point with no unnecessary software duplicates.
  • Disk Drill – this tool analyzes your Mac, easily identifies duplicates and guides you through removing them.
  • Easy Duplicate Finder – find duplicates in iTunes and iPhoto with this easy-to-use interface that offers easy, one-click duplicate removal.
  • DupeGuru – you’ll easily find and be able to delete documents, images, graphics, music, and more with this handy dandy tool.

Why You Took This Step

You took this step because sometimes we all need to get by with a little help from a friend.

The Almost Final Step

The files in your Trash Bin are still eating up space until you take the trash out. So, the final step is the empty your Trash Bin. Once you’ve done that, simply restart your Mac and you’re all set.

Why You Took This Step

You took out the trash because you wanted to be absolutely sure you completely purged your Mac with one final action that thoroughly clears duplicate files and apps and speeds up your Mac computer.

The Final Step

The final step in cleaning up your Mac is backing it up. Take out the trash before you back up your Mac so you don’t waste time backing up garbage files. Backing up your Mac is a simple, but very important step. You absolutely must do it now, but should also schedule regular backups to preserve information and avoid losing work. Here’s how a simple backup is done in three easy steps:

  1. Purchase an external hard drive and connect it to your Mac
  2. Turn on the Time Machine and choose your external drive as the backup destination
  3. Choose (or exclude) the files you want preserved in your backup

Be on the safe side and back up everything.

back up files

That’s really all there is to it. Let the Time Machine work its magic in the background. Once it’s finished, take a few minutes right now to schedule regular backups using the Time Machine.

Why You Took This Step

You took this important step in order to save all the info you use to do what you do in the unfortunate case of a crash, accidental spill, or other computer disaster.

Schedule Automatic Backups

Make backups automatic with Mac’s built-in software. The Time Machine can be connected to an external hard drive you purchase separately. It’s a smart move in case you spill coffee on your Mac or accidentally drop it. Choose hourly, daily, or weekly backups. Your files will be safe and secure and you won’t lose any important information. Of course, you’ll need to purchase a new computer if you accidentally ruin yours, but you’ll have a much easier time restoring files and apps from that external drive than you would trying to start over and recreate everything from scratch.

Why You Took This Step

Because, if you’re like me – a regular Joe with a lot going on – you’ll appreciate the ability to use set it and forget it technology to back up your system without having to find time to do it manually every day, week, or month.

Your Mac might have duplicate files for a variety of reasons. You might have inadvertently downloaded the same software twice or duplicated an image or video folder without even realizing it. No matter what the reason, deleting those duplicate files and cleaning up your system will restore memory space you need and get your Mac back to running like the well-oiled machine it is.

So, that's it, delete your duplicates!

© 2019 EsquireMac