How to Delete Duplicate Songs in iTunes, iPhone & iPod

delete duplicates in iTunes and iphone
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When you have a big iTunes library it can be easy to accidentally end up with duplicate copies of the same song. It can also be hard to find those duplicates. This is especially true if you have multiple versions of a song (say one from the CD, another from a live concert). Luckily, iTunes has a built-in feature that lets you easily identify duplicates.

How to View & Delete iTunes Duplicates

The View Duplicates feature of iTunes shows all of your songs that have the song name and artist name. Here's how to use it:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Click the View menu (on Windows, you may need to press the Control and B keys to reveal the menu first)
  3. Click Show Duplicate Items
  4. iTunes shows a list of just the songs it thinks are duplicates. The default view is All. You can also view the list grouped by album by clicking the Same Album button beneath the playback window at the top
  5. You can then sort the songs by clicking the top of each column (Name, Artist, Date Added, etc.) 
  6. When you find a song you want to delete, use the technique you prefer to delete songs from iTunes
  7. When you're finished, click Done in the top right corner to return to the normal view of iTunes.

If you remove a duplicate file that's part of a playlist, it is removed from the playlist and isn't automatically replaced by the original file. You'll need to add the original file to the playlist manually.

View & Delete Exact Duplicates

Display Duplicates can be useful, but it's not always completely accurate. It only matches songs based on their name and artist. This means that it can show songs that are similar but aren't exactly the same. If an artist records the same song at different times in their career, Display Duplicates thinks the songs are the same even though they're not and you'll probably want to keep both versions.

In this case, you need a more accurate way to view duplicates. You need Display Exact Duplicate Items. This displays a list of songs that have the same song name, artist, and album. Since it's unlikely that more than one song on the same album has the same name, you can feel more confident that these are true duplicates. Here's how to use it:

  1. Open iTunes (if you're on Windows, press the Control and B keys first)
  2. Hold down the Option key (Mac) or Shift key (Windows)
  3. Click the View menu
  4. Click Display Exact Duplicate Items
  5. iTunes then shows only exact duplicates. You can sort the results in the same ways as in the last section
  6. Delete songs as you want
  7. Click Done to return to the standard iTunes view.

When You Shouldn't Delete Exact Duplicates

Sometimes the songs that Display Exact Duplicate Items shows aren't truly exact. Though they may have the same name, artist, and album, they are different kinds of files or saved at different quality settings.

For instance, two songs might be in different formats (say, AAC and FLAC) intentionally, if you want one for high-quality playback and the other for the small size to use on an iPod or iPhone. Check for differences between the files by getting more info about them. With that, you can decide whether you want to keep both or remove one.

What To Do If You Accidentally Delete a File You Want

The danger of viewing duplicate files is that you may accidentally delete a song you wanted to keep. If you've done that, you have a few options for getting that song back:

How to Delete Duplicates on iPhone and iPod

Since storage space is more important on the iPhone and iPod than on a computer, you should be sure that you don't have duplicate songs there. There's no feature built into the iPhone or iPod that lets you delete duplicate songs. Instead, you identify duplicates in iTunes and then sync the changes to your device:

  1. Follow the instructions for finding duplicates from earlier in this article
  2. Choose what you want to do: either delete the duplicate song or keep the song in iTunes but remove it from your device
  3. When you're finished making changes in iTunes, sync your iPhone or iPod and the changes will appear on the device.