How to find and remove duplicates in iTunes

As the owner of an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, you most likely fall into the large percentage of users that utilizes your iOS devices as an MP3 player. Central to your music experience is iTunes, which can be a beast when managing your files. In our continuing series, we’ll help you manage, organize and get the most from your music library. Today we’ll help you find and remove duplicates in iTunes using built-in tools and third party applications.

As with previous versions, iTunes 11 has a feature that allows you to search for duplicates. What’s more, there is a very neat feature that finds ‘Exact Duplicates’. For example, using the standard Find Duplicates option on my iTunes library would find Iron Maiden’s 2 Minutes to Midnight six times over. It finds duplicates based upon track title. Upon further inspection when using this find, these are drastically different versions, with a number of different live shows included. If I were to start deleting those items simply because iTunes picked them out as duplicates, I’d be missing out on some great versions of that song.

remove duplicates from iTunes

Tip: When you are in this mode, you’ll see a note at the bottom that lets you know you are currently Displaying Duplicates with a button that allows you to revert to Show All Items.

This could be time consuming to weed out duplicates, but what if you could find only exact duplicates. If we repeat the process above, but when hold the Option key (shift key on PC) when accessing the View menu it will reveal an option to Show Exact Duplicates. This will result in a much shorter list. On my Mac, I went from 1311 duplicate songs to just 52. That’s a big difference and much easier to manage the removal of dupes.

Exact duplicates

Using Third Party Applications
The built-in duplicate tools in iTunes are certainly capable enough to deal with smaller libraries or those with a small amount of dupes. There are third party applications, although of the paid variety, that expand upon iTunes functionality. One such tool is Dupin (free trial available, $15 or Dupin Lite $7.99 on Mac App Store ).

Dupin allows you to set criteria for matching a duplicate. The more criteria you’ve checked, the more hurdles for a track to be considered a duplicate. Using my 2 Minutes to Midnight example above, by checking Album, Dupin will immediately set these songs as not duplicates.


One useful criteria can be the amount of time for a track. For example, let’s say that you have Van Halen’s stupendous 5150 album and also have some Best Of albums from VH. Unless these are remastered songs, you’ll find Dreams on all three. Do you need three versions of the same song? If not, this criteria will help you sort these out in no time flat. I will say that while this criteria is useful, it can produce false positives depending upon your settings. The time criteria is set to a default of +/- 2 seconds, but this can be adjusted.

Another advanced feature when cleaning up your iTunes music library are filter controls. When Dupin returns duplicates, placing a checkmark next to a song designates it as a keeper. Using Dupin’s assorted filter controls, you can set your preference for quick setting your keepers. For example, set it to default keep your highest bit rate tracks.

Dupin filters

For PC users, there is a script called DeDuper. As the author puts it, this script will find and remove type 1 and type 2 duplicates which he defines as:

Type 1: Multiple library entries for the same physical file
These can occur if your media location is temporarily unavailable, e.g. due to a disconnected external drive, iTunes becomes aware and marks the tracks as missing, you then reconnect the drive and add the media again. iTunes won’t recognize that the files are already in the library and will create duplicate entries.

Type 2: Multiple copies of the same physical file
This can happen if you have “Copy to iTunes media folder when adding to library” enabled and accidentally add the same folders from outside of the iTunes Media folder into your library.

Tip: It’s recommended that you utilize this script with caution and it is best used a pre-existing list created by Apple’s exact duplicate finder.

Bonus Tip: As with anything related to deleting of files, it’s important that you have backups of your data should things go terribly wrong.

Managing and organizing your iTunes library takes time, but it’s something you’ll carry with you to each new iPhone, iPad or iOS device. Using the tricks, tools and software outlined above, you can easily find and remove duplicates from your iTunes library. The result being a streamlined library that will produce a more efficient shuffle and allow you to break through the clutter when making playlists, browsing or listening to your music.

  • Greg

    Would like to filter and delete by mp3 to apple audio. When you are converting apple audio to mp3 you can end up with duplicates, (at least I could and did). What a mess.