Duplicates Waste Space
So you suspect you have duplicate files? Here is what we do to find the files. Some of these tools are a bit technical, but if you have mid-level skills with computers you’d likely be able to use them.
A big warning, if you are about to use any of this to clean up your duplicates, BACK UP YOUR DATA FIRST.
These tools can be used to visualize the files on your computer. It ends up giving you a colored map of your computer, with each file being a small square represented in a picture. The bigger the square, the larger the file. You can use these tools to literally see repeating patterns, like when an entire folder is accidentally duplicated. It takes a while to understand the chart, but this tool becomes increasingly useful as you become more able to understand the visualization.
Popular File Visualization tools
Linux: k4dirstat, baobab
Simply doing a search for files is sometimes enough to find large duplicate files. There are methods to do this for Mac, Windows and Linux, but we will focus on the Windows solution we prefer.
Search Everything is a small and free program that allows us to search all of the files on our computer by name, similar to a web search but for our files. We could identify duplicate files with Everything by entering “.pdf” into the search prompt. This will display all pdf files, and if we select the column titled “size” then we can sort by size. We would then be able to see all of our PDFs sorted by size, which would show duplicates near each other. If you see a ton of files with the same name and size, you probably found some duplicates.
Duplicate File Finder
This is a tough category because every duplicate manager has its shortcomings and some are paid while others are free or partially free. It’s hard to know which is actually free this day in age, so we are hesitant to recommend any specific program for doing this. The general idea though, is that these programs scan the files on your computer and compare them to find duplicates. Once it does, it displays them to you and asks which version of the duplicate file you want to keep. This is supposed to be an easy way to remove duplicates, but we have mixed results ranging from catastrophic to excellent, so use this as a last resort.
Careful Removing Data
Normally we put the recap of the topics here, but in this case we just want to give a reminder. If you are removing parts or all of your data you really need backups. Operating with a safety net will save you from catastrophic losses in a lot of cases. Be safe, have fun.