How can I remove all folder hierarchy and clean up the mess on my Mac?

Slava September 24, 2011

The conceptual equivalent to the approach to cleaning one’s bedroom which involves taking a white sheet, putting it in the middle of the room, and placing everything messy on top of it.

Things to clean up include so much random file structure that contains a lot of duplicates (backups, iTunes, photos).

Tips on ways to do this? Thanks.

  1. Mike
    September 25, 2011 at 4:06 am

    I heard starting all over is a good approach - but I guess you do want to keep some of the files and folders... 

    one way to start is using a duplicate finder like dupeGuru 
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    another great tool is Tidy Up! but it is shareware 
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    something like Onyx to delete all kinds of trash and fix various system "parameters" 

    and maybe give CCleaner for Mac a try 
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    My personal approach usually is to backup the entire user folder and then simply create a new a user. This way my account is totally clean I can get any file I really need from the backup.

    • Slava
      September 26, 2011 at 12:51 am

      Hi Mike, 

      Hm. Maybe I was - and am - not clear enough about what I want to do. You wrote "I guess you do want to keep some of the files and folders..." Sure, some files yes, no folders at all. It's just a timewasting trip down memory lane, an archeological dig. 

      I thought dupe eliminators were the way to go, but they didn't seem to speed up the process. Maybe the ones you've mentioned are different. 

      I started with GrupaDupa and then went on to Dupin, hoping to use the Dupin/TuneUp combo I'd been recommended. 

      GrupaDupa is a nice free program with a cute mascot. It's useful, but not on the scale on which I want to do things (about 100 gigs of music, many dupes). The thing is, the music was (a) not organized by me; (b) organized by me a long time ago - my categories no longer apply; (c) organized by iTunes - even less of a fit here.

      To take GrupaDupa as the example I'm familiar with, it will tells me that I have "Do you like good music.mp3" in these 3 places. Great: so I can erase 2 of them (not counting the time to open them in the original FOLDERS they were in to check which collection I want to purge from.) But say I keep on going like this thru the 812 dupes it has shown up - this is not counting my external harddrive - how will I have a nice Otis Redding album at the end of this? I won't. I'll have Otis still chunked up in I don't know how many different subfolders. 

      I just hit on something in Dupin - if you're familiar with Dupin, maybe you can walk through this with me. Same problem there... unless I actually do import EVERYTHING into iTunes, which I've been carefully avoiding doing - because I don't *want* iTunes' file architecture. It sounds like Dupin has more finesse, though, yet I think I'll still have the same problem as with GrupaDupa at the end.

      The key seems to me to get everything into the SAME folder and then run a dupe eliminator. 

      This is the stage I'm at: looking for a program to strip off the file architecture off EVERYTHING!

      Thank you! :-)=

      • Mike
        September 26, 2011 at 10:36 am

        Cleaning up never really is a fully automated process. Especially for duplicates and music it is a time consuming process simply because a file having the same name and same size (even the same ID3 Tags) doesn't necessarily mean it has the same content - only a Checksum comparison is able to tell this.

        I have no experience with other tools but dupeGuru is definitely a good tool and it also comes in a Picture and Music edition which are optimized for this type of data. It also has settings to either move or delete files if you want to.
        In terms of music another good tool is MusicBrainz Picard. Basically it will compare a fingerprint of each song with it's online database and make sure all tags and everything is correct. At the same time it will also try to "create complete albums". [Broken Link Removed] this is no automated process you WILL have to look over it manually but once you are finished your library should be all clean. Picard does offer to move all files into either a specific folder or a specific hierarchy.As for your problem of having a huge mess of folders and subfolders there is a application called "Big Mean Folder machine" which basically offers the option to move all files from various (sub)directories into a single folder. Unfortunately it is shareware and I'm not sure about the limitations without a licence.

        From personal experience: I once had a 10GB music archive without any structure, file naming convention or complete tags. I spend almost 3 days (as in full weekend days, not the little freetime after work) with Picard organizing everything. Once finished I took the radical approach of deleting all files that Picard wasn't able to identify - 3GB of music I never missed probably because I never knew I had them.

        • Slava
          September 27, 2011 at 12:55 am

          Thanks Mike. I think the Mean Folder Machine is exactly what I'm looking for. It looks good. 
          I'll keep you posted. 
          Thanks again,

  2. Jeffery Fabish
    September 24, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    If your literacy is any sign of your intellect, I would have suspected this to be an easy task for you. However, I always over-estimate the competence of Mac users. 

    Solution: Go to your home folder and create several folders. One for Media (and a few subsidiary folders such as "photos", "videos", "movies", etc.), documents, backups, etc. Then go through your folder hierarchy and put them into the corresponding folder in your home directory. So instead of your photos being in several directories, they are now in MediaPhotos2011 or something like that.

    • Slava
      September 26, 2011 at 12:17 am

      No no no. *I* don't want to have to go thru my folder hierarchy, that's the 'whole' point. 

      Sure, I can do what you suggest afterwards, but I'd like to do what I asked in my question, which is start with "all the messy stuff on a white sheet in the middle of the room", and not on shelves, inside drawers, inside jewelry boxes which are chinese boxes which are themselves inside drawers, etc. I want the whole Shabang! out there where I can *see* it in the middle of the room, and move the items with dramatically improved efficiency from ONE folder to, as you say, 3 or 4 folders. Right now, it's from all these different organizing systems at different periods of my life on 80 gigs of external harddrive, (Also, one of my commitments, incidentally, is to not buy more memory... I don't need ALL this stuff, I just need to clean it up.)


      • Anonymous
        October 15, 2011 at 2:30 am

        Curious to finding out how (and if) you managed to make progress with this. I have the same problem. Insane recursive mile deep folder hierarchies that go on endlessly like fractals, and tons of duplicate files buried in them. And spread over many external drives.

        I have that folder machine, and it's a great tool, but it doesn't really supply a strategy for accomplishing what you want. I think.

        Report your progress, if you could.

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