We think iTunes is a fantastic music manager, and it has become much faster, cleaner and more interesting to use in recent years. However, one problem persists: that of duplicated music and other audio files. Sometimes iTunes ends up with multiple copies of the same song, or even two copies of an entire album.

Duplicated files in iTunes are annoying because they waste space and make searching more complicated, and sometimes you end up playing the same song repeatedly. In this feature, we show how to delete unwanted extra copies of songs and albums and keep your iTunes music library fresh and clean.

For more general deletion advice, take a look at How to find and delete duplicate files on Mac.

How to find and remove duplicates on iTunes

How to remove & delete duplicate songs in iTunes: Show duplicates

The present version of iTunes makes it harder to find duplicate files in iTunes. (In previous versions such files were easily found via View > Show Duplicates.) Here are the steps to finding and removing duplicate files in iTunes 12:

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Click on File > Library > Show Duplicate Items.
  3. Click on 'All' to view the duplicate track listing; click 'Same Album' to show duplicated songs from a specific album.
  4. It's a good idea to arrange the iTunes music columns so you can view Name, Artist and Album By Artist. You can ensure that these columns are displayed by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on the columns. Ensure that Album and Artist have a tick next to them (Name constantly appears in iTunes).
  5. Click on the Name column in iTunes: this ensures that duplicate files appear next to each other.

The iTunes display will now only show duplicated tracks. It uses matches based on the same Song and Artist, although you will see multiple versions of the same song from different albums. So if you have a studio and a live version of the track you may end up looking at different versions of the same song.

Go through the tracks and remove any duplicates you don't want. Highlight the unwanted file, press Delete on the keyboard (or choose Edit > Delete) and select Move To Trash. If you choose Keep File, it is removed from iTunes, but the file remains on your hard drive. The Keep File option cleans up iTunes but doesn't free up any space on the Mac.

How to remove & delete duplicate songs in iTunes: Displaying duplicates

When you've finished, click Done in the top-righthand corner to return to your normal iTunes view mode. You will now see your entire iTunes library (hopefully) free from duplicated tracks.

How to prevent iTunes 12 from importing duplicated music

iTunes no longer imports duplicate files if you drag-and-drop audio files to the iTunes library (you can force it to add the duplicate file by holding down the Option key while dragging the file). So you should no longer need to adjust anything.

However, it is a good idea to double-check that iTunes is managing your music files correctly.

  1. Click on iTunes > Preferences.
  2. Click Advanced.
  3. Ensure that the 'Keep iTunes Media folder organised' box has a tick in it.
  4. Ensure that the 'Copy files to iTunes Media Folder when adding to library' also has a tick in it.
  5. Click the button next to 'Reset all dialogue warnings'.
  6. Click OK.

iTunes should now be set up to keep your music folder organised.