Duplicate Cleaner: a powerful toolbox for cleaning up duplicate files


Duplicate Cleaner is a free program that identifies duplicate files in user-specified folder by matching file content (i.e. calculating the unique CRC32 value for files), file name, date, size, or any combination thereof.

It also provides a range of sophisticated tools to select and/or view the resulting file list and to move, delete, or clone (hardlink) the duplicate files.

There’s no way to avoid creating duplicate files: it will happen invisibly when you build up a music or media collection, when you create copies of your files for whatever reason and then lose track of the originals or the copies, or when you download programs or media files from the internet, etc.

Which is why you need a program like Duplicate Cleaner.

Two programs in one: it is worth noting that Duplicate Cleaner is really two different programs rolled into one; on the one hand it is a generic duplicates scanner that works on any file type; on the other hand it is an audio file duplicates scanner that will identify audio file dupes based on the information in the audio file tags (assuming that the tag data is accurate in the first place).

There are three main reasons why I like this program:

  1. Different methods: lets you search for duplicates using a number of different methods. It can look at the file content (by calculating its unique CRC value), looking at file names, file size, file date, or any combination of these (e.g. matching both file name and size).
  2. Reads audio tags: the program is able to detect music file duplicates by reading audio tags.
  3. Managing the results list: offers a number of excellent options for what to do with the results after they are found, including smart criteria for selecting and deleting dupes (including user-defined patterns), viewing or opening any file in the results list, exporting and importing results, the option to create hard links, etc. In fact it is the versatility of what you can do after you get your list of dupes that attracts me to this folder

Here are more notes on this program:

  • What to search for: you can specify which filetypes to scan for (for example entering *.zip;*.exe will look for zip files and executables only; note that a semicolon not a comma is used in the syntax). The program provides 6 presets: image/picture files, music data, movies, text files, office documents, and “everything”. You can also specify filters for minimum and maximum file sizes to take into consideration.
  • The user interface: is one of the nicer things about this program. It employs a tabbed interface and is generally very intuitive. Aside from the main search tab and the “Duplicate Files” tab which contains the dupe file results, a “Zero Size Files” tab lists all dupes with zero size, and an “All Files Scanned” tab will display all files scanned for reference. You can click on the column headers for any list of files in order to sort by the contents of that column. The program will identify each group of duplicate files by a group number, useful for keeping track of which files are duplicates of which.
  • Music search: search by (a) same artist, (b) same title, and (c) same album, or any combination of the above. Will scan mp3, wma, flac, ape, and ogg audio formats.
  • The results list: right clicking on any file displays a context menu with options that include opening the file in explorer, executing it, and previewing it in the case of image files. Or you can run the “Selection Assistant”, to manage file selections in bulk (see below). You are also able to export results to CSV and import them later on when you are ready to work with them, which is another great feature.
  • Duplicate Cleaner Selection AssistantThe selection Assistant: allows you to process a large list of results to select duplicates while leaving a single original untouched. It can select the oldest/newest/largest or smallest files in each duplicate group, or otherwise use the order in your list to select all but the first entry for each group of duplicates. Alternately you can select using a pattern in the filename or the path (the latter being useful if you know that all the dupes are in a certain folder structure).
  • Action options: once you have your files selected, you can either delete them to the recycle bin or move them to a specific directory (with the interesting option to re-create the directory structure of the moved files when transferred to the new directory). You also have the very unique interesting option to create hard links for the duplicate files. More on this below.
  • Creating hard links: this is an option if you are running Windows 2000, XP, or Vista on an NTFS file system. Also termed “cloned files”, this is where you have two different files in the file system that actually point to the same data (such that they do not occupy space twice on the hard drive, and changing one of them actually changes both). I am not sure if this option is ready for prime time, though, as hard links created with Duplicate Cleaner have no way of being distinguished from normal files in explorer, which is a problem that the developer promises to address; moreover the program will detect hardlinked files as dupes in subsequent scans, which is also not ideal. (See Link Shell Extension for a fantastic program to create and manage hard links).
  • Performance: will depend on many factors (e.g. the your hardware specs, the size of the data you are scanning and number of files as well as the filters you set); however I will say that after using this program for a while, and from a purely subjective perspective, it offers excellent speed (Audio tag searches are a tad slower).
  • Protection for system files: system files are protected and not scanned by default. You can change this if you want these files included, but this is generally not recommended unless you know what you’re doing.

Wish list:

  • To specify “or” in the search criteria: currently, you can require results to meet multiple search criteria (e.g. same size and same name both); it would be nice to be able to specify “or” criteria (e.g. same size ro same name).
  • To specify “excluding” in the user-defined selection assistant: e.g. select dupes in all folders except for the following. Currently, you are only able to set the path to select dupes from.

The verdict: there are a number of free programs that detect duplicate files, but they mostly seem to focus on getting reliable and/or quick results and lag behind in terms of the tools to manage results after your get them.Where I think this program really distinguishes itself is in what you can do with your duplicate results and its general ease of use and user-friendly interface. I recommend it highly.

Version Tested: 1.2.0

Compatibility: Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 1.7 megs).