After a while, I can’t remember whether or not I’ve already downloaded something. I must have three WordPress installs buried away in my hard drive. You can find files and directories that you think may be the same, but how do you know that they’re truly duplicates?
If you’re anything like me, rather than risk losing something important, you file away everything. Maybe you zip them all up and archive them. Maybe you back up everything to a big huge external hard drive for safekeeping. Ideally, it would be a lot better if you could chop down the number of files you are trying to manage by identifying true duplicates so that you can delete them.
We’ve covered a few tools at MUO for dealing with duplicate files, such as as the five utilities that Saikat covered, or the Auslogics finder that he also reviewed. An even more functional and effective tool that you can use to clean up duplicates is a freeware application is called Duplicate Cleaner.
Track Down Space-Wasting Duplicates
When it comes to identifying duplicates, Duplicate Cleaner takes all of the guess work out of the equation. It sorts through volumes of files for you, identifies every single duplicate file, and then returns a list with every last duplicate group.
The first step is to add all of the directories that you want to search through. In my own situation, it’s my laptop that’s the problem. I keep downloading lots of images and files to the Documents and Pictures folders. Just select each folder, one at a time, and click the blue arrow to add those directories into the “Search Paths” column. On the right side of the screen you can fine-tune the search criteria.
An alternative search is the “Audio Search” for audio files only – this is particularly useful if you have an insanely huge music file collection that’s a completely mess. Find duplicate music files within select directories, or you could even search your entire computer.
In my case, I’ve added the three folders where I always download files – downloads, pictures and documents. The next step is to let the software do its magic. It took Duplicate Cleaner just over 14 minutes to scan the entire three directories. I was astonished to learn that in two years I’ve accumulated over 35,000 files. The duplicate files represent 547.28 MB of wasted disk space.
The software splits up the resulting listings into two tabs – all searched files and the duplicate results.
Managing Your Duplicate Files
At first, I doubted that the software was really identifying duplicates. I had a lot of image files that had completely different file names, yet the software claimed they were duplicates. Luckily, all you have to do is right click on any file to open it. Sure enough, the images were exactly the same.
The software performs this same comparison with music files, video files and even executibles using what’s called the “MD5 Hash Algorithm”. The software comes with its own file preview utility, so even if you run it on a PC without any image app, you can view the images right inside Duplicate Cleaner.
Along with the file name, the results display the source path of the file, the file size, when it was last modified, and the group number. One clear giveaway that should tell you the software is working correctly is when the duplicate files always have identical file sizes.
The real question, once you’ve identified all of these problem files consuming your precious hard drive space, is what to do with them? You can select all of the duplicates that you want to delete, and when you click on “Remove Selected,” you will be provided with different options – delete the files, move them to a new folder, or, better yet, if you don’t really want to remove the duplicate file at its source location, you can create a “hard link” that is linked to the original file, and the duplicate is still deleted.
You can also fine tune exactly which duplicates are automatically chosen for deletion based on things like the age of the file, or in the case of audio – the one with the highest sample or bit rates.
Even if you don’t think you need such an application, you should give it a shot. I really didn’t think I had much wasted space, so I was shocked to find over 13,000 duplicate files in just three directories. Just imagine if you search your entire computer.
Do you have your own technique to prevent the duplicate file mess? How do you clean up your hard drive from this kind of wasted space? Share your own techniques in the comments section below.