Over time, our computers get cluttered with lots of files we have downloaded or created over the years. Many times we don't need those files anymore but don't want to sort through them all to clean them out. Other times, there are duplicate files that can be easily discarded. Thankfully, there are tools to help you remove that type of clutter.
A duplicate file finder is a software program that will search your hard drive for duplicate files. Whether it's because you've downloaded the same file multiple times over the years or for some other reason, duplicate files can accumulate over time and take up unnecessary space. Duplicate file finders are even intelligent enough to know, for example, that you have the same image in multiple different sizes. These software products will then alert you to the duplicate files that you have on your system and give you the option to clean them up.
Duplicate file finders are often part of a larger software package, such as a tool to help you find and remove a temporary file that is no longer needed or as part of a general file management solution like WinZip. When packaged this way, they provide added value to their parent software, although there are some standalone duplicate file finders as well.
You may have noticed that your computers get slower as time goes on. This may be due in part to increased system requirements of the software, but it is also a side effect of a computer that has a cluttered drive. Having too many files on your drive makes it harder for your computer to do its job and slows everything down. This costs you valuable time and can be a frustrating experience.
Having duplicates of too many files can also lower your file browsing experience. If you are looking for a particular file, there are already going to be lots of files that aren't the one you are looking for. Having the same wrong file pop up over and over again makes the process even more annoying. A similar situation can occur when you are consuming media. While browsing photos, you don't want to keep seeing the same one over and over again, nor do you want the same song to keep playing when you are listening to your music collection.
Having duplicate files can be more than a minor annoyance as well. Imagine you accidentally have two versions of the same file, and you begin editing the wrong one. Of course, at this point, they are no longer identical. But you've now got two different files that are supposed to be one and the same. Sorting through the changes made to both of them and merging them correctly can be a nightmare. This is especially problematic if you don't realize that you've edited the wrong file and you send it off to its destination with many of the changes you thought were in there missing.
As we mentioned earlier, most duplicate file finders come as part of larger packages. Finding the one that comes with the type of package you'll get the most use out of is a good start. When using duplicate file finders, it's important to note that it isn't safe to delete every instance of a duplicate file. Windows system directories and many program files require duplicates to exist in order to function properly. A good duplicate file finder will either exclude those types of directories by default or give you the option to so no mistakes are made that break your computer's functionality.
You can't always afford to get a new computer, but you can always afford to keep the one you have running in top shape and as free from clutter as a new one is. Using a duplicate file finder makes for a great part of regular computer maintenance to help extend the life and utility of your machine. Just exercise caution when deleting duplicate files, so you don't delete anything your computer needs.