Clearing out Duplicate Photos on a Mac

As a result of several rounds of hard drive crashes with delays before recovery, and compressing the contents of multiple machines into one, somehow I ended up with massive numbers (tens of thousands) of photographs, many of which are duplicates, stored in no particular order. I’ve been working for some time now to identify duplicates and get the rest filed into some sort of orderly folders.

The problem is worse because in previous rounds of trying this, I unfortunately did some things like re-name files before I’d identified if there were any duplicates of that file. So now it’s not possible to find all duplicates just by looking for duplicate names. Further pitfalls include the existence of various thumbnails which might appear to be duplicates, but are obviously not full quality so they’re not the image you want to keep.

So the rough outline of my strategy is as follows:

  1. Find and eliminate any duplicates that have the same name.
  2. Then rename all files so that their creation date, with year first, is the first part of their filename. Then I should be able to find and eliminate any duplicates that had different names.
  3. Sort the files into my folder hierarchy, which breaks it down by year and event or type of photo within the year.
  4. It has just occurred to me that once I determine that a file is not a duplicate and is filed correctly, I could tweak its name to start with something like zz and it would now shift to the end of any folder that’s displaying photos by name. Once all the files are so tweaked, they should then sort by creation date because the next thing in the name would be the date.

To achieve this, I’m using a “smart” finder window, set to show all images on the Mac whose kind is “image”, sorted by name. The view is set to large thumbnails so I can easily see probable duplicates. Then I work through files whose names are NOT currently starting with dates, and work on eliminating duplicates.

So that’s the current strategy. Perhaps there are better ways to do this; I’m open to suggestions!

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