Nobody likes having multiple copies of the same thing on their computer, yet we all end up filling our Macs with duplicates at some point. If you are using your Mac on the daily, then stocking up on dupes (intentionally or accidentally) is inevitable.

Why It Sucks to Have Duplicates on a Mac

Some of you own an Apple computer with 1TB drives and you most probably couldn’t care less about a few gigs of file copies, however, those of you with 128GB (or even 256GB these days) base models need to take storage management seriously. Not only that duplicates take precious space on Apple’s notoriously small SSDs, they also tend to slow down your workflow. With multiple copies of the same files and folders, finding the right and most recent copy can become MacBook user’s living nightmare. It gives frustration a whole new definition when you are in a hurry and accidentally send an outdated file copy to your colleague, or attach an unedited picture just because you have managed to save the edited copy by the same name in a different folder. Not to mention your backups take longer to run with all those additional files that take extra time and space on your Time Machine drive. Needless to say, that regularly removing such files from your computer is a must, if storage management is important to you (which it most probably is if you are reading this article).

Most Don’t Realize That Duplicates Exist on Their Macs

Let’s put this straight, you will accumulate duplicates. There is no avoiding it. It is just inevasible, regardless, whether you are using your Mac for work, study, or browsing cute cat pictures on Facebook. Duplicate documents, archives, media files (music, photos, videos) is something you will end up having to deal with one way or the other. It is only a matter of time and your drive’s capacity until the alarm bell goes off and you are backed into a corner having to cope with the lack of space on your computer.

Casually using your Mac, you will sometimes be downloading multiple copies of the same thing from the Internet, your Dropbox, or email inbox (that attachment you are downloading because you can’t remember where you saved it). Relatable, isn’t it? Been there, done that. What you most likely don’t know is that some built-in macOS apps tend to create additional copies of their own. If Photos (Aperture and iPhoto for those of you who stick to OS X Yosemite) is your go-to app for storing and viewing images, then you might be surprised to find out that every time you import images to the app it creates a copy and stores it in a dedicated folder. To remove Photos duplicates, not only that you will have to move or delete the source image used for import, but also be watchful of the new pictures you import to avoid creating unneeded copies within the app. The same goes for iTunes. However the process of cleaning iTunes from duplicate music is slightly different as it offers a somewhat handy tool to help deal with the problem.

Apple’s Mail app works in a similar manner. All attachments that you receive are downloaded and cached by the app. This means that people who receive a lot of emails most likely have a ton of files (along with duplicates) stored on their Mac’s disk drive.

To rid your Mac of duplicates manually you will need some time and dedication. Quite a bit of time and dedication, to be honest. Organizing your files well in the first place, remembering most common app cache locations, running terminal commands, and overall playing space management game wisely is a tough act to follow. It is not the best way to deal with duplicates as the process is rather tedious. You will have to go over folders and manually check up on your files looking for duplicated copies. Fortunately, there are a few handy tricks that should help you cut some corners.

Use Terminal Commands to Find Duplicated Files

Terminal can be intimidating, especially if you do not know what you are doing, as you can easily mess things up with it. Carefully follow these steps to generate a .txt file with a list of duplicates within a folder of your choice.

  • Step 1. Open Terminal
  • Step 2. Navigate to the folder you want to scan for duplicates with a cd ~ command (e.g. cd ~/Documents) and hit ‘Enter’
  • Step 3. Copy & Paste the following command in the Terminal window: find . -size 20 \! -type d -exec cksum {} \; | sort | tee /tmp/f.tmp | cut -f 1,2 -d ‘ ‘ | uniq -d | grep -hif – /tmp/f.tmp > duplicate.txt
  • Step 4. Find duplicate.txt file that was created in the folder with the list of duplicates.

Note, that running this command will not remove the duplicates, but it will at least let you know what to look for, thus, speeding things up.

How to Get a List of Duplicates Using Finder

Performing scans for duplicates using Terminal commands is, perhaps, not something everyone is comfortable with. There is yet another way to get an overview of duplicated files on your Mac.

  • Step 1. Open a new Finder window
  • Step 2. Enter the asterisk (*) symbol in the Search menu
  • Step 3. Display search results by list and make sure Size and Kind columns are enabled
  • Step 4. Filter the list of files by Kind to make comparing files easier

Once you done going through the steps, all you are left to do is look through the list of results and delete unwanted copies of your files. It can take some time though.

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Only a few people would be willing to spend hour after hour removing duplicates. The process is not only time consuming but often not rewarding. Using Terminal or Finder to locate duplicates is only good for finding files with the same size and name, which, in most cases, does not make deleting photos, videos, and music tracks any quicker. This makes digging through media libraries, drives, folders (both locally on Mac and Dropbox) the same as looking for a needle in a haystack (more like a needle in a stack of needles). The truth is, you are better off with a ‘metal detector’ if you want to get it over with quickly. Keeping your Mac’s disk drive clean is not supposed to take this much time and effort, especially when apps like MacFly Pro exist. MacFly Pro makes finding and deleting duplicates a matter of a few clicks. Not only that it finds duplicated documents, but also images, music tracks, videos, looks for matching archives etc. It uses algorithms that will match identical files by content regardless of the file’s name.

Note: in order for MacFly Pro to remove duplicates in your Dropbox, you will have to exclude it from the default ignore list before scanning (Step 1.1)

  • Step 1. Open MacFly Pro
    • Step 1.1. Go to Preferences > Ignore list > Choose ‘dropbox’ > Hit ‘-‘ to exclude the Dropbox folder from ignore list
  • Step 2. Go to Tools tab
  • Step 3. Hit ‘Scan’ under Duplicates, choose a folder and Start Scanning
  • Step 4. Wait for the scan to complete, Select and Delete duplicates

In addition, MacFly Pro can help clean up redundant system and user logs, temporary files, remove apps and much more. You can download MacFly Pro and enjoy a free 7-day trial, which basically lets you remove duplicates from your Mac for free at least once. Using a dedicated app to clean duplicates is by far the fastest and easiest way to keep your Mac clean.