Duplicate files waste precious space on your computer’s hard drive — especially if you have an SSD — and make your computer’s backups bigger for no good reason. Here’s how you can free up some disk space.
Every program we recommend here comes with a clean installer that won’t try to install toolbars and other junkware on your system. We hate that, too, so we spent time finding the good programs.
dupeGuru is a great application for this. It’s completely free and comes in three flavors: dupeGuru, dupeGuru Music Edition, and dupeGuru Pictures Edition. The music and pictures editions are specialized for finding similar music files and pictures. For example, the music edition will find the same song, even if they’re in different MP3 files encoded at different bitrates. Or the pictures edition will find copies of the same photo even if they’ve been resized, rotated, or slightly edited. This utility uses a “fuzzy match” algorithm and can find files that are very similar and not just completely identical.
dupeGuru is completely open-source. The installer won’t attempt to drag any toolbars or other junk onto your system, and it isn’t even trying to upsell you to anything.
The interface is simple, but easy to use — open it, add a few folders or drives you want to scan, and click Scan. You’ll see a list of duplicate files, and you can easily select and delete the files you want to remove. Double-click a file in the list to open and examine it.
Note: use the “non-CNET” download link.
Digital Volcano’s Duplicate Cleaner is another good option. They sell a paid version of this application, but the free version provides the basic duplicate-scanning features with a nice interface. The installer redirects you through Download.com, but it didn’t try to install any junkware on our system when we installed it. DigitalVolcano is trying to make money the old-fashioned way — by providing a good product and hoping people buy the upgraded paid version with more features.
Duplicate Cleaner provides a pretty interface that will scan your computer and any connected external drives for duplicate files. The pro version also scans for very-similar images and music files that are slightly different, but the free version has the basic duplicate-file-finding features.
This application’s advantage over dupeGuru is its prettier interface. It holds your hand a bit more than dupeGuru does.
Use VisiPics to scan for image files that are very similar, even if they aren’t completely identical. For example, VisiPics will find resized, rotated, edited, and otherwise-modified image files and flag them as duplicates. You may not need these multiple similar copies of photos and other images, so VisiPics can help you here.
dupeGuru and other duplicate-file-removing applications can also do this, but VisiPics has an interface designed with photos in mind. If you have a large collection of digital photos, VisiPics is probably the application to use. It will provide a more visual interface for looking at those photos and clearing our your duplicates.
VisiPics is free — donationware, technically — and won’t try to install any junk on your system. Read our guide to cleaning up your duplicate photos with VisiPics for more instructions.
Duplicate File Finder is another barebones-yet-functional open-source application with a no-frills interface. It actually has a different approach from other applications. It looks for files that have the exact same size and only then compares them to see if they’re duplicates of each other.
This means you won’t get the almost-but-not-quite-exact matching features other applications provide. However, it also means that Duplicate File Finder should be even faster at scanning through a larger set of files. if you only care about files that are completely identical and not just almost identical, you can save time with Duplicate File Finder. It doesn’t have the prettiest interface, but it definitely works.
This isn’t a complete list of all the duplicate-file-finding utilities for Windows out there. There are many other ones, often with installers packed full of junkware and toolbars. The above utilities should do the job without messing with your system or demanding money.
Remember, don’t delete duplicate files in system folders — for example, under C:\Program Files or C:\Windows. Programs may depend on having duplicate copies of certain files in specific places. Leave system files alone and only clean up your own personal data files — documents, images, music files, videos, and everything else you might have a duplicate copy of.