A new computer or hard drive operates at its best when you first use it. Over time though, your computer and hard drives slow down as you install and save more and more things and fill up your storage. Realistically, part of this space is almost always taken up by duplicate files. Even if you’re super careful with your user files, many applications include duplicate files in their installation process.
Tip: Unfortunately, programs generally need all of the files they install, even if they are duplicates, so you shouldn’t delete any duplicate files in software install directories.
To help reclaim some of the used space on your hard drive and potentially improve your system performance, you may want to remove files that you have duplicates of. The process of identifying duplicate files manually though is incredibly daunting given the huge number of files on a computer. Thankfully, there are tools that can automatically find and then delete duplicate files for you. One such tool is called Exact Duplicate Finder, available for free here.
How to find and delete duplicate files
Exact Duplicate Finder’s main window consists of two parts. The left column is the folder view, where you can select the folders to be searched. The right box is the list of currently selected folders. To add a folder, simply browse to it in the left column, then click the circle next to it. When the circle is filled in, and the folder appears in the right box, then the folder has been selected.
You select as many or as few folders as you want. If you only select one folder, it and all of its sub-folders will be searched for duplicate files. If you select multiple folders, they and all their sub-folders will all be searched for duplicate files.
Tip: It is highly recommended that you leave “Skip system” ticked in the bottom bar. This prevents Exact Duplicate Finder from searching and then being allowed to delete system files as that could cause system stability issues. Unfortunately, the detection for “System files” appears to be a bit overzealous and may incorrectly restrict access to some folders.
To start a search, click the big “Search” button in the center at the top. Depending on the number of files it has to search through, and how fast your hard drive is, the search process could take some time.
The search results view looks roughly the same as the main window, except it has four boxes. The left column shows a list of all duplicate files found, listing a count and the combined file size. The bottom box lists the folders in which the selected duplicate file was found. The centre box shows the duplicate files found in the selected folder. The right box shows a preview of the file, if possible, so you can review them before choosing to delete them.
Review the files detected as duplicates, then delete the ones you don’t want to keep, assuming they’re not important. To delete a file, right-click and select “Delete file sin selected locations”, this will delete the currently highlighted copy of the file. Alternatively, you can right-click on the copy you want to keep and select “Delete files in unselected locations”, which will remove all copies of the file, except the one you right-clicked on.