How To

How to Find and Remove Duplicate Files with Mac Washing Machine (Part 2)

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how to find and remove duplicate files

In part one of this series of articles looking at the new and improved Washing Machine, we examined the Organize cycle, and saw how it could make accessing things on your Mac quicker, by tidying up your Desktop, spiffing up your Dock and organizing Smart Folders. Today, we’ll be looking at how to get a better grasp of what’s on your Mac (and saving a ton of disk space) by removing duplicate files.

It’s a bad thing to leave lots of junk lying around your computer. But it’s a fact of life; it’s just how computers operate, to some extent. Downloading files can create duplicates, there could be copies of files you may have accidentally created with an accidental drag and drop, or files you’ve put in the trash and you just never bothered to empty. Apple’s OS X makes it really easy to copy folders when you think you might be moving them and you can easily end up with sensitive information that you forget exists. Washing Machine makes it really easy to clear this stuff out by helping you find those duplicates, emptying the trash and clearing out downloads.

Many applications create local copies or caches of information on your Mac, so that it is available later for quick retrieval. But who knows what information is stored in these caches. Washing Machine makes it easy to clean up these caches, freeing up disk space on your Mac and maybe deleting some private information you didn’t know was lying around.

Find Duplicates the Right Way

Use the Duplicates tab in Mac Washing Machine to find and delete all duplicate files

The Duplicates cycle helps you locate multiple copies of files and folders on your Mac. Removing duplicate files is a good way to free up disk space.

When you click the Duplicates tab in the top left corner, you will be presented with a list of categories to scan. These categories are folders, archives, movies, documents, music and pictures. By hovering your arrow curser (mouse) over any slider button, you will now see a new information icon. Click this, and you can get additional information about what each specific category scans for.

Washing Machine can help you find and remove duplicate files in the following areas on your Mac:

  • Folders
  • Archives
  • Movies
  • Documents
  • Music
  • Pictures

NOTE: You can choose which of these areas you’d like to search, depending on how thorough you would like the scan to be. Keep in mind that doing all this at once can take a pretty long time. You can always do it a bit at a time, as your time and attention-span allows.

Click the Scan button when ready, and Washing Machine will begin analyzing your files and display a list of the duplicates that it finds. Once the scan is complete, you will see a list of all the duplicate files that were found on your computer. You can navigate through this list and see the different files.

As you can see, the left window shows you the categories where the duplicates were found, the middle window shows a list of all the duplicates for that category, and the right window shows details for the file you selected from the middle window. Hovering your arrow curser over any of the files will show the full file path. You can use this to help you determine which files you want to keep and which files you wish to delete.

NOTE: The cool thing is, it’s the content of the file that identifies something as a duplicate. So you could have two files in different folders with the same names and totally different content, and it won’t see that as a copy. But if you have two files with different names and the same content, those will be identified and you can choose which to keep.

You can also use the Auto Select button and choose to keep the earliest files, keep all files on your Macintosh hard drive, or just to keep all files on your computer. Click the Clean button when you are ready, and you will see a new window that shows exactly what files are going to be deleted, and how much disk space you will recover. You will also see a confirmation window showing that the files have been successfully deleted.

MORE: Take a look at this video we put together to help guide you through the process of finding and removing duplicate files with Mac Washing Machine

On my Mac, Washing Machine caught a whole ton of duplicate message files, which I wouldn’t have thought to look for. That’s not the sort of thing I need several copies of floating around my computer!


In part three of this series, we’ll look at the Reclaim section in Washing Machine, which will show you how to get back even more disk space by getting rid of the extra stuff that comes by default with all Macs (that almost no one ever uses), and getting rid of all those temporary files that programs create to store data.