Over time it’s quite normal for your Windows PC to build up a stockpile of redundant files, many of which are often duplicates. This could be from accidentally downloading something twice, multiple copies of documents in different folders, or a host of other reasons.
Getting rid of them can seem like a time-consuming, arduous task, but with the right software it can be achieved in minutes. We show you the fast way to rid your PC’s hard drive of duplicate files.
For more tips on keeping your PC running at its best, here are 5 free ways to clean up Windows.
Remove duplicate files with CCleaner Free
CCleaner is a great tool for keeping Windows ship-shape. The Pro version has advanced features like file recovery, automatically clearing your browser history, and junk file removal, all for the sum of £19.95 / US$24.95. Thankfully there’s also a free version so you can rid yourself of duplicate files without spending a penny.
CCleaner does offer a trial version of Pro which you could use to check out everything the package has to offer, but we’ll be using the free version for the purposes of this feature.
Go to the CCleaner website and download the trial version. When this is done, install the software on your PC.
When the installation is finished, click on the Run CCleaner box to get things started.
The CCleaner interface features a number of sections in the left hand column, which are Cleaner, Registry, Tools, Options, and Upgrade. Click on Tools and then select Duplicate finder.
In the main panel you’ll see various tickboxes that allow you to refine your search for the doppelgangers. These give you the option to match by name, date, size, or content; all useful approaches.
Note that CCleaner doesn't check the contents of files, so if you have two files in different folders with the same name but containing different data (say a photo or a Word document) it will delete one even though they are not actually duplicates. To avoid this, don't use the 'Name' option but instead choose 'Size'.
However, there is still a chance two different files could have the same name and size, so use a different utility such as Easy Duplicate Finder which does check the contents.
The centre section is where the exemptions are defined. Make sure that System files and Hidden files are ticked, as you don’t want to delete any important data that Windows needs to function properly. This section is generally ticked already, so if that’s the case just leave it as it is.
The last section gives you the option to define which drives CCleaner will search for duplicates. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure any backup drives are not included, as by definition they will be copies.
As always, we’d recommend running a full backup of your data before beginning anything that deletes data. If you don’t have a routine already in place, then we recommend reading our How to back up Windows 10 guide.
With all of that sorted out, all that’s left to do is click the Search button at the bottom of the screen.
The app will now scan through your hard drive and return any multiples it discovers. For safety reasons the files are not ticked, so you’ll need to go through the list manually and select which ones to remove.
When you’ve ticked all the duplicates you want to delete, click the Delete Selected button and CCleaner will promptly assign them to the ether.
That’s it. You’ve now cleared yourself some space and reduced the clutter on your PC. Of course, should you find you’ve made a terrible mistake and removed something you shouldn’t have, read our How to recover deleted files for free to see if it can bring back what was once lost.