“Delete All Duplicate Files” Means Just That

Over the years, I’ve moved my music collection from computer to computer, and with the ever-larger hard disk sizes I confess I’ve been a bit lazy about checking for duplicate files. After my recent finding I had five copies of some songs, I figured it was time to do something about it. I found a handy little duplicate file finder application for Mac OS and it found a ridiculous amount of duplicate files: Over 16,000. I was tired, it was late, I hit the “Delete All Duplicate Files” button. The next day, I figured out what that meant: If there was one copy of a file, it deleted ALL identical versions of that file, including the original. Ooops. This caused me all kinds of trouble, as it deleted Omnifocus data files, some Firefox cache and config files, and of course, music files. I’ve been slowly crawling through my iTunes library bit-by-bit identifying “missing” files and using Apple’s Time Machine (glad I was using that regularly!) to restore the missing files.

At first, I didn’t see the pattern in what files were missing, as they seemed random. I’d look in a folder where iTunes has my music folder organized (by artist, then album) and wonder why two or four out of twelve files were missing. After a few file restores, I began to realize a lot of the missing songs were some of my favorites–those most likely to be copied in multiple places. Ah, naturally, the favorite songs would be the ones to get deleted. I’ve temporarily disabled my Time Machine backups so my music files don’t roll off the back end of the monthly snapshots. Hopefully I’ll be done here in a few more evenings. It’s good mindless unwinding work if nothing else.

Update (4 July 2009): I finally finished the laborious restore process last night. Many good lessons were learned.