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Bill Bennett


Preparing for legal digital music: Duplicates

Going straight with my digital music collection is anything but trivial.

The first problem is dealing with the sheer number of tracks stored on my computer and iPod. At the start of the project there were more than 15,000 songs on my computer. According to iTunes that’s 38 days of continuous music.

Many tracks are rubbish. Some are poorly recorded. Some are filler songs found at the end of CDs. There are live tracks, bootlegs and duplicates. Oh so many duplicates.

Apple’s iTunes is not the greatest music software application – especially on Windows – but it does have a useful tool for finding duplicates.

itunes duplicate

To find the tool you need to open iTunes, then make sure you can see the menu bar. Show Duplicate Items is under the View menu. Finding duplicates works best when you select songs from the main bar across the top of the screen.

If your menu bar is hidden, go to the icon in the top left corner, pull down its menu and select Show Menu Bar.

You can return to the normal view by going back to the view menu, the item that was Show Duplicate Items is now Show All Items. 

Take care with those duplicates

ITunes’ show duplicates feature is fairly crude. It shows everything that might be a duplicate: songs with similar names or different versions of the same song will show up. If you have a song on a normal album and on a compilation, the software treats them as potential duplicates.

If you have a big library, there will still be a huge number of items to wade through. When I first tried this on my 15,000 song collection, show duplicates found almost 9000 items.

Help comes in the shape of a hidden command: Show Exact Duplicate Items. This gives a shorter list of identical songs. In my case this reduced the list to around 3000 songs.

To get Show Exact Duplicate Items on a Windows PC, use the Shift key before opening the View menu. On a Mac you need to use the Option key.




6 thoughts on “Preparing for legal digital music: Duplicates

  1. Media Monkey is your best friend for managing libraries. Use it to clean your library and update tags before importing your library into your music player.

    The main problem I have with duplicates is having the same song appear in several albums. So it might be a bonus track on one album, but makes it as a proper track on their next album, then it’s on the greatest hits album and also that soundtrack from that movie… I have some songs with 4 or 5 versions all sitting in different places and they’re not duplicates per se.

    1. It’s easy to deal with when the duplicate song is a totally identical – it stays in place on the original album and gets culled everywhere else. I generally don’t buy compilations and I’m rarely interested in the so-called ‘bonus tracks’ so that’s rarely a tough decision. It gets harder when it is a live version or a re-mix.

  2. I’m probably a bit of a dreamer, but in my world a duplicate finder would compare optimised FFT analyses of two or more files to see how similar they are. That would leave out album/single/live false positives but instead it would catch dupes that have unique names. Can’t always trust the metadata.

    1. You’re right, you can always trust the metadata. My next job is to clean that up 🙂

      In my case I also check the folder (I’m mildly anal about storing music files in organised directories) that’s usually a strong clue. But if in doubt, I listen to the tracks.

  3. How do you manage duplicate CDs and vinyl when you see something at the local fair Bill? I used to have a paper based system 30 years ago but didn’t keep it up.

    1. I’ve more or less given up too. My memory is pretty good for these things, but if I make a mistake it’s usually not going to cost more than a few dollars. 2nd hand music generally costs the price of a coffee or two.

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