Find and Delete Duplicate Files in iTunes

Organize your iTunes library by removing duplicated songs and albums

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One of the problems with building up a music library in iTunes or any software media player for that matter is that you inevitably wind up with duplicates of songs in your collection. This happens over time and is something that you rarely notice right away. You may, for example, forget that you have already bought a particular song from a non-iTunes music service and then go and buy it again from Apple. You can end have the same song in two different formats—MP3 and AAC. You may have ripped your physical music CDs or copied archived music from external storage and ended up with duplicates.

Although you can download software to deal with duplicates in iTunes, iTunes has its own built-in option for identifying duplications.

Before You Delete Duplicate Songs

It's easy to get carried away and start deleting duplicates, but before you get started, it's wise to back up your music first—in case something unexpected happens. If you make a mistake, you can restore your iTunes library from a backup location.

Viewing the Duplicate Songs in Your iTunes Library

To see all the songs in your music library, you'll need to be in the right viewing mode.

  1. Launch iTunes.
  2. Click the drop-down menu near the top left corner of the screen and choose the Music option from the list.
  3. Select Songs from the options under the Music selection to see a list of the songs in your iTunes library.
  4. Click View on the menu bar and select All Music.
  5. Select File on the menu bar and then Library > Show Duplicate Items.

You should now see a list of tracks that iTunes has identified as duplicates—even if they are remixes or part of a complete album or "best of" compilation—or covers by one artist of another artist's song. You can delete the ones you don't need.

Finding Exact Duplicates

If you have a large library, you may want exact results. Lurking in iTunes is a hidden option to search for exact duplicates of songs. This exact feature is better to use if you have a large music library and want to make sure that you aren't deleting songs that are the same but differ in certain ways—such as a live recorded version and an acoustic version of the same song. This way, you'll ensure that any compilation albums that contain duplicates remain intact. From the same Songs view in iTunes:

  • For the Mac version of iTunes, hold down the Option key and click on File on the menu bar and then Library > Show Exact Duplicate Items.
  • In the Windows version of iTunes, hold down the SHIFT key and then click the View menu tab. You should see the option to Show Exact Duplicate Items. Click on this to proceed.