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Find and Delete Duplicate Files in iTunes 11

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 inevitably you will have duplicates of songs in your collection. This happens over time and is something that you rarely see straight away. You may for example forget that you have already purchased a particular song from a non-iTunes music service (like Amazon MP3) and then go and buy it again from Apple. You now have the same song in two different formats -- MP3 and AAC. However, copies of songs can also be added to your library if you have used other digital music sources such as: ripping your physical music CDs or copying archived music from external storage (hard drives, flash memory, etc.)

So, without regular maintenance your iTunes library can get overloaded with copies of songs that needlessly hog space on your hard drive. There are of course plenty of duplicate file finding programs out there that you can download for this very task, but not all of them give good results. However, iTunes 11 has a built-in option for identifying duplications and so is the perfect tool for whipping your music collection back into shape.

In this tutorial, we'll show you two ways to find duplicated songs using iTunes 11.

Before You Delete Duplicate Songs

It's easy to get carried away and just start deleting duplicates, but before doing so it's wise to backup first -- just in case something unexpected happens. If you're not sure how to do this, then read our iTunes library backup guide. If you do make a mistake, then you can easily restore your iTunes library from a backup location.

Viewing the Songs in Your iTunes Library

To see all the songs in your music library you'll need to be in the right viewing mode. If you know how to switch to the song view screen then you can skip this step.
  1. If you aren't already in music view mode, click the the button near the top left-hand corner of the screen and choose the Music option from the list. If using the sidebar in iTunes, then you'll find this option in the Library section.
  2. To see a complete list of the songs in your iTunes library, ensure that the Songs tab is selected near the top of the screen.

Finding Duplicate Songs

There's a handy tool built into iTunes 11 that makes it easy to see duplicate songs without having to rely on any third-party software tools. However, to the uneducated eye it's not that obvious.
  • To see songs in your library that iTunes regards as duplicates, click the View menu tab near the top of the screen and then select the Show Duplicate Items option.
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 / 'best of' compilation.

But, what if you have a large library and want more exact results?

Using the Hidden Option to Find Exact Song Matches

Lurking in iTunes is a hidden option to search for exact duplicates of songs. This feature can be better to use if you have a large music library or want to make sure that you aren't going to delete songs that maybe the same, but differ in certain ways -- such as a live recorded version or a remix. You'll also want to ensure that any compilation albums that contain duplicates remain intact.
  1. To switch to this more accurate mode 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.
  2. For the Mac version of iTunes, hold down the [Option Key] and click on the View menu tab. From the list of options, click on Show Exact Duplicate Items.
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