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How to Remove Duplicate Files From Your Mac: 5 Quick Ways

Delete duplicate files from your Mac to quickly free up space.

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Last updated: December 9, 2023

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TL;DR

To remove duplicate files from your Mac, follow one of these methods:

  1. Use MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder to find and delete duplicate files in just a few clicks.
  2. Use search filters in Smart Folders to locate duplicates and save search results for future reference.
  3. Identify and remove duplicate photos stored in the Photos app.
  4. Clean up the hidden Mail Downloads folder to remove duplicated email attachments​.
  5. Use a Terminal command to find duplicates on your Mac.

Using your Mac regularly often leads to a pile-up of duplicate files. You can easily end up with multiple copies of photos, documents, or songs, and before you know it, they’re taking up too much space. I was on a duplicate file cleaning spree just the other day and I thought I should share some quick and easy ways to remove duplicate files from your Mac. So, let’s get started.

Before We Begin

If you’re looking for a fast and reliable solution to get rid of duplicates on your Mac, download MacKeeper. Its Duplicates Finder can help you quickly and easily identify and delete duplicate files on your Mac in a few clicks.

How to Remove Duplicate Files From Your Mac

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Wondering how to remove duplicate files on Mac? I’ve got four easiest and most practical methods to find and remove duplicate files from your Mac. Check them out below.

1. Delete Duplicate Files on Mac In One Click With MacKeeper

I’ve always found Mac’s built-in methods for finding duplicate files to be pretty accurate but incredibly tedious. I just don’t have the patience to search through folder after folder manually. That’s why I turned to MacKeeper. Its Duplicates Finder feature is quick, easy, and super effective. It helped me free up a ton of space on my Mac in literally one click.

Here’s how to remove duplicate files from your Mac using MacKeeper:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper on your Mac and click Duplicates Finder in the left sidebar.
click duplicates finder in mackeeper under cleaning
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in duplicates finder
  1. Select a folder in the left menu to review duplicate files before deletion.
click a folder in duplicates finder
  1. Alternatively, click Check All and tap the Remove Selected button to remove all duplicate files at once.
click check all and tap remove selected
  1. Tap the Remove button on the pop-up to confirm the deletion.
click remove on the pop up window in duplicates finder
  1. This will remove the selected files, and you’ll get a Removal Completed message. Click Finish to end the process.
click finish in duplicates finder to complete the process

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides removing duplicate files on Mac, MacKeeper offers many other valuable optimization tools to clear the cache, uninstall unwanted apps, and optimize your Mac’s storage. Learn more about its features in my detailed Mackeeper review.

2. Find and Remove Duplicate Files With Smart Folders

While this method is free, it can be time-consuming and may not be as accurate as third-party apps.

If you prefer a built-in solution for managing duplicate files on your Mac, Smart Folders are a great tool. They make it easy to find duplicates by letting you filter files by type, name, or last opened date. Just set your criteria, and Smart Folders will sort for you. Plus, you can save these settings, and the folder will automatically update with any new matching files.

Here’s how to use Smart Folders on your Mac to find and remove duplicate files:

  1. Open Finder on your Mac, click the File menu, and select New Smart Folder.
click file in the menu bar and select new smart folder
  1. Click the + icon in the upper-right corner of the New Smart Folder window.
click the icon in the upper right corner of the new smart folder window
  1. Set the search parameters for finding duplicate files. For instance, select Kind as the first condition, Image as the second, and PNG as the third if you want to access duplicate image files on your Mac.
  2. Click the + sign again, select Name, choose is, and type in copy.
  3. Click Save to save the search results as a Smart Folder.
set search parameters and click save
  1. Specify a name and location for your Smart Folder and tap the Save button.
specify a name and location for your smart folder and tap save
  1. Review the search results and delete the duplicate files.

Using Smart Folders is quicker than searching your entire hard drive for duplicates, but it still needs patience. Manually reviewing each file, even after narrowing them down, takes time. So, I suggest you focus on particular folders, file types, or file sizes. Here’s how:

How to Find Duplicate Files in Specific Folders

To locate duplicate files within certain folders, here’s how to create a Smart Folder for a targeted search:

  1. Open Finder and navigate to the folder you wish to search.
  2. Choose File > New Smart Folder from the menu.
click file in the menu bar and select new smart folder
  1. At the top of the window, in the Search bar, select the folder name.
click the folder name in the search bar
  1. Click the + icon in the top-right corner.

click the icon in the upper right corner of the new smart folder window

  1. Specify your search parameters and hit Save.
set search parameters and click save
  1. Give your Smart Folder a name and decide on its save location.
  2. Arrange your files by name, size, or creation date to easily spot duplicates.
  3. For removal, drag the duplicates to your Bin.

How to Find Duplicates of Specific File Types

To locate duplicates of certain file types, use Smart Folders with customized search criteria. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to File > New Smart Folder.
click file in the menu bar and select new smart folder
  1. Click the + in the top-right corner.

click the icon in the upper right corner of the new smart folder window

  1. In the first drop-down menu, choose Kind.
  2. Select Image from the second drop-down menu and choose a specific file extension in the third drop-down menu.
  3. Click Save.
select kind image and a file extension and click save
  1. Name your Smart Folder and select a save location.
  2. Once saved, select the duplicate files, right-click, and choose Move to Bin.

How to Find Duplicates by File Sizes

To search for duplicates based on file size, particularly useful for removing larger duplicates, follow these steps:

  1. Open a Finder window and click the + in the top right corner.

click the icon in the upper right corner of the new smart folder window

  1. In the first drop-down, select File Size. If it’s not visible, choose Other…, search for File Size, and add it to the menu.
  2. Specify your file size criteria.
  3. Click Save, name your folder, and choose its save location.
select file size set the criteria and click save
  1. After creating your Smart Folder, select the duplicates, right-click, and select Move to Bin.

3. Delete Duplicate Photos Using the Photos App

The Photos app on your Mac stores your photos by default. But I’ve noticed that if I import photos from other folders on my Mac into the Photos app, it creates duplicate copies. This happens because the system doesn’t move the original photos but instead makes copies in the Photos library.

So, it’s best to delete duplicate photos on your Mac by following these steps:

  1. Open the Photos app by searching for Photos in Spotlight search (Command ⌘ + Space).
type photos in spotlight search
  1. In the Photos app, navigate to the Duplicates tab in the sidebar to see all your pictures.
click the duplicates tab in the photos app
  1. Select the duplicate photos you wish to delete. You can pick photos from a single row or multiple rows to delete them all at once.
  2. Then, click Merge Photos.
  3. By doing so, your Mac will retain the original image and remove the duplicates.

4. Remove Duplicates in Apple Mail Downloads

I discovered something interesting while using Apple Mail on my Mac. There’s this hidden folder called Mail Downloads tucked away in the Library > Containers directory. It automatically saves every document and files attached to emails in the Mail app. But every time I click an attachment to save it to my Mac, I end up creating a duplicate.

So, if you don’t want to clutter up your system with mail downloads duplicates, remove duplicate files from your Mac Mail Downloads folder. Here’s how:

  1. Open Finder, click Go in the menu bar, and select Go to Folder.
click go in the menu bar and select go to folder
  1. Type the following path in the empty field and press Enter:
~/Library/Containers/com.apple.MailCacheDelete/
type library containers com apple mailcachedelete in go to folder dialog box
  1. Open the Data folder in MailCacheDelete directory.
open the data folder in mailcachedelete directory
  1. In the Data folder, open Library and go to Mail Downloads.
in the data folder go to library and click mail downloads folder
  1. Here, you’ll see the duplicate mail downloads. Right-click the files and folders you want to remove and select Move to Bin.

5. Find Duplicate Files With Terminal

Before using Terminal, it’s important to do so only if you’re comfortable and familiar with it. Terminal is a powerful tool and can cause significant issues if used incorrectly. I’ve tested the steps below without issues, but it’s crucial to be cautious and double-check all commands you input.

To search for duplicate files using Terminal, follow these steps:

  1. Open Terminal by going to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
launch terminal from utilities
  1. Navigate to the desired folder using the cd command. For instance, for Downloads, type cd ~/Downloads and press Enter.
  2. Enter the following command to find duplicates and press Enter:
find ./ -type f -exec md5 {} \; | awk -F '=' '{print $2 "\t" $1}' | sort | tee duplicates.txt

This creates a text file listing duplicates in the specified folder. However, it might miss some duplicates. You’ll need to review and differentiate the duplicates from the originals manually. Plus, files with slightly different names may not be flagged as duplicates.

Why Are There So Many Duplicate Files on My Mac?

Now, you might be wondering how these duplicates ended up on your Mac in the first place. Well, there are several reasons. Maybe you accidentally copied a file to another location or downloaded the same file twice.

Here are the most common reasons for duplicates appearing on your Mac:

  1. 🚫 Accidental Duplication: You might have accidentally copied or duplicated files while organizing or backing up your data on Mac.
  2. 📁 File Synchronization: If you use cloud storage or synchronization services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud, you may have unintentionally created duplicates of your files.
  3. 🐛 Software Bugs: Software bugs can sometimes create duplicates, especially if you use programs that manipulate files or media.
  4. 📝 File Format Conversions: When you convert files from one format to another, such as converting a PDF file to a Word document, it’s possible to create duplicate copies of the original file.
  5. 💾 Manual Backups: If you manually back up your data to external hard drives or other storage devices, creating duplicates is possible.

How to Prevent Duplicate Files on Your Mac

While it’s important to know how to remove duplicate files, it’s equally crucial to understand how to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Let me share some strategies I’ve developed to keep my Mac’s files organized, significantly reducing duplicates.

  • 📂Organize Your Files Regularly: I’ve found that a consistent system for naming and organizing files works wonders. I use clear, descriptive file names and sort them into labeled folders.
  • 🧹 Regular Cleanups: Set a schedule for regular file organization. I set aside time every month to declutter my Mac. You can do it weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on your usage.
  • ☁️ Sync Smarts: If you use cloud services like iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive, ensure your sync settings are correctly configured to avoid creating duplicates across devices.
  • 📥 Carefully Download and Save Files: Before downloading a file, check to see if you already have it. Plus, if you create a different document version, rename it clearly to differentiate it from the original.
  • 📑 Avoid Multiple Copies: I keep a single copy of each file, rather than scattering them across different folders.
  • ➡️ Transfer with Care: Whenever I transfer files from external devices, I do a quick check to ensure I’m not importing duplicates. It’s a small step that goes a long way.
  • 🗂️ Use File Management Tools: Consider using file management tools to help you organize and find files more efficiently.

Delete All Duplicate Files on Your Mac

Now that you know how to delete duplicate files on Mac, you may want to optimize its performance further and free up space on your Mac. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is my Mac duplicating files?

    Your Mac may duplicate files due to syncing issues with cloud services, software glitches, or incorrect settings in file management applications. Ensure your syncing settings are correct, and update your software to the latest version to prevent this issue.

  2. How do I find and delete duplicate files on my Mac?

    You can find and delete duplicate files on your Mac using Finder or a third-party app like MacKeeper. These tools scan your drive, identify duplicates, and allow you to review them before deletion.

  3. Can duplicate files cause any harm to my Mac?

    No, duplicate files cannot cause any harm to your Mac, but they can cause performance issues over time. These files take up valuable storage space, making your Mac run out of space. Plus, having multiple copies of the same file can slow down your Mac and make it harder to stay organized.

  4. Can I recover a file I accidentally deleted while removing duplicate files on my Mac?

    Yes, you can recover a file you accidentally deleted while removing duplicate files on your Mac. You can drag the file back to your desired location if it is still in the Bin. You can also retrieve the deleted file from a backup if you have a backup system. If these options don’t work, use data recovery tools to restore the deleted file.

  5. How often should I remove duplicate files from my Mac?

    You should remove duplicate files from your Mac at least once every few weeks to keep your system running smoothly. However, the frequency of removing duplicate files from your Mac depends on your usage and storage habits.

  6. Will removing duplicate files speed up my slow Mac?

    Removing duplicate files will speed up your slow Mac to some extent by freeing up disk space. This can improve overall system performance, especially if your storage is nearly full. However, for significant speed improvements, consider other optimization options.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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