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How To Find And Delete Duplicate Files In Linux

By sk
Published: Last Updated on 10.9K views

I always backup the configuration files or any old files to somewhere in my hard disk before edit or modify them, so I can restore them from the backup if I accidentally did something wrong. But the problem is I forgot to clean up those files and my hard disk is filled with a lot of duplicate files after a certain period of time. I feel either too lazy to clean the old files or afraid that I may delete an important files. If you're anything like me and overwhelming with multiple copies of same files in different backup directories, you can find and delete duplicate files using the tools given below in Unix-like operating systems.

A word of caution:

Please be careful while deleting duplicate files. If you're not careful, it will lead you to accidental data loss. I advice you to pay extra attention while using these tools.

Find And Delete Duplicate Files In Linux

For the purpose of this guide, I am going to discuss about three utilities namely,

  1. Rdfind,
  2. Fdupes,
  3. FSlint.

These three utilities are free, open source and works on most Unix-like operating systems.

1. Rdfind

Rdfind, stands for redundant data find, is a free and open source utility to find duplicate files across and/or within directories and sub-directories. It compares files based on their content, not on their file names. Rdfind uses ranking algorithm to classify original and duplicate files. If you have two or more equal files, Rdfind is smart enough to find which is original file, and consider the rest of the files as duplicates. Once it found the duplicates, it will report them to you. You can decide to either delete them or replace them with hard links or symbolic (soft) links.

Installing Rdfind

Rdfind is available in AUR. So, you can install it in Arch-based systems using any AUR helper program like Yay as shown below.

$ yay -S rdfind

On Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint:

$ sudo apt-get install rdfind

On Fedora:

$ sudo dnf install rdfind

On RHEL, CentOS:

$ sudo yum install epel-release
$ sudo yum install rdfind


Once installed, simply run Rdfind command along with the directory path to scan for the duplicate files.

$ rdfind ~/Downloads
rdfind 1

Scan a directory with Rdfind

As you see in the above screenshot, Rdfind command will scan ~/Downloads directory and save the results in a file named results.txt in the current working directory. You can view the name of the possible duplicate files in results.txt file.

$ cat results.txt 
# Automatically generated
# duptype id depth size device inode priority name
DUPTYPE_FIRST_OCCURRENCE 1469 8 9 2050 15864884 1 /home/sk/Downloads/tor-browser_en-US/Browser/TorBrowser/Tor/PluggableTransports/fte/tests/dfas/test5.regex
DUPTYPE_WITHIN_SAME_TREE -1469 8 9 2050 15864886 1 /home/sk/Downloads/tor-browser_en-US/Browser/TorBrowser/Tor/PluggableTransports/fte/tests/dfas/test6.regex
DUPTYPE_FIRST_OCCURRENCE 13 0 403635 2050 15740257 1 /home/sk/Downloads/Hyperledger(1).pdf
DUPTYPE_WITHIN_SAME_TREE -13 0 403635 2050 15741071 1 /home/sk/Downloads/Hyperledger.pdf
# end of file

By reviewing the results.txt file, you can easily find the duplicates. You can remove the duplicates manually if you want to.

Also, you can -dryrun option to find all duplicates in a given directory without changing anything and output the summary in your Terminal:

$ rdfind -dryrun true ~/Downloads

Once you found the duplicates, you can replace them with either hardlinks or symlinks.

To replace all duplicates with hardlinks, run:

$ rdfind -makehardlinks true ~/Downloads

To replace all duplicates with symlinks/soft links, run:

$ rdfind -makesymlinks true ~/Downloads

You may have some empty files in a directory and want to ignore them. If so, use -ignoreempty option like below.

$ rdfind -ignoreempty true ~/Downloads

If you don't want the old files anymore, just delete duplicate files instead of replacing them with hard or soft links.

To delete all duplicates, simply run:

$ rdfind -deleteduplicates true ~/Downloads

If you do not want to ignore empty files and delete them along with all duplicates, run:

$ rdfind -deleteduplicates true -ignoreempty false ~/Downloads

For more details, refer the help section:

$ rdfind --help

And, the manual pages:

$ man rdfind

Suggested read:

2. Fdupes

Fdupes is yet another command line utility to identify and remove the duplicate files within specified directories and the sub-directories.  It is free, open source utility written in C programming language. Fdupes identifies the duplicates by comparing file sizes, partial MD5 signatures, full MD5 signatures, and finally performing a byte-by-byte comparison for verification.

Similar to Rdfind utility, Fdupes comes with quite handful of options to perform operations, such as:

  • Recursively search duplicate files in directories and sub-directories
  • Exclude empty files and hidden files from consideration
  • Show the size of the duplicates
  • Delete duplicates immediately as they encountered
  • Exclude files with different owner/group or permission bits as duplicates
  • And a lot more.

Installing Fdupes

Fdupes is available in the default repositories of most Linux distributions.

On Arch Linux and its variants like Antergos, Manjaro Linux, install it using Pacman like below.

$ sudo pacman -S fdupes

On Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint:

$ sudo apt-get install fdupes

On Fedora:

$ sudo dnf install fdupes

On RHEL, CentOS:

$ sudo yum install epel-release
$ sudo yum install fdupes


Fdupes usage is pretty simple. Just run the following command to find out the duplicate files in a directory, for example ~/Downloads.

$ fdupes ~/Downloads

Sample output from my system:


As you can see, I have a duplicate file in /home/sk/Downloads/ directory. It shows the duplicates from the parent directory only. How to view the duplicates from sub-directories? Just use -r option like below.

$ fdupes -r ~/Downloads

Now you will see the duplicates from /home/sk/Downloads/ directory and its sub-directories as well.

Fdupes can also be able to find duplicates from multiple directories at once.

$ fdupes ~/Downloads ~/Documents/ostechnix

You can even search multiple directories, one recursively like below:

$ fdupes ~/Downloads -r ~/Documents/ostechnix

The above commands searches for duplicates in "~/Downloads" directory and "~/Documents/ostechnix" directory and its sub-directories.

Sometimes, you might want to know the size of the duplicates in a directory. If so, use -S option like below.

$ fdupes -S ~/Downloads
403635 bytes each: 

Similarly, to view the size of the duplicates in parent and child directories, use -Sr option.

We can exclude empty and hidden files from consideration using -n and -A respectively.

$ fdupes -n ~/Downloads
$ fdupes -A ~/Downloads

The first command will exclude zero-length files from consideration and the latter will exclude hidden files from consideration while searching for duplicates in the specified directory.

To summarize duplicate files information, use -m option.

$ fdupes -m ~/Downloads
1 duplicate files (in 1 sets), occupying 403.6 kilobytes

To delete all duplicates, use -d option.

$ fdupes -d ~/Downloads

Sample output:

[1] /home/sk/Downloads/Hyperledger Fabric Installation.pdf
[2] /home/sk/Downloads/Hyperledger Fabric Installation(1).pdf

Set 1 of 1, preserve files [1 - 2, all]:

This command will prompt you for files to preserve and delete all other duplicates. Just enter any number to preserve the corresponding file and delete the remaining files. Pay more attention while using this option. You might delete original files if you're not be careful.

If you want to preserve the first file in each set of duplicates and delete the others without prompting each time, use -dN option (not recommended).

$ fdupes -dN ~/Downloads

To delete duplicates as they are encountered, use -I flag.

$ fdupes -I ~/Downloads

For more details about Fdupes, view the help section and man pages.

$ fdupes --help
$ man fdupes

Also read:

3. FSlint

FSlint is yet another duplicate file finder utility that I use from time to time to get rid of the unnecessary duplicate files and free up the disk space in my Linux system. Unlike the other two utilities, FSlint has both GUI and CLI modes. So, it is more user-friendly tool for newbies. FSlint not just finds the duplicates, but also bad symlinks, bad names, temp files, bad IDS, empty directories, and non stripped binaries etc.

Installing FSlint

FSlint is available in AUR, so you can install it using any AUR helpers.

$ yay -S fslint

On Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint:

$ sudo apt-get install fslint

On Fedora:

$ sudo dnf install fslint

On RHEL, CentOS:

$ sudo yum install epel-release
$ sudo yum install fslint

Once it is installed, launch it from menu or application launcher.

This is how FSlint GUI looks like.

fslint 1

FSlint interface

As you can see, the interface of FSlint is user-friendly and self-explanatory. In the Search path tab, add the path of the directory you want to scan and click Find button on the lower left corner to find the duplicates. Check the recurse option to recursively search for duplicates in directories and sub-directories. The FSlint will quickly scan the given directory and list out them.

fslint 2

fslint GUI

From the list, choose the duplicates you want to clean and select any one of them given actions like Save, Delete, Merge and Symlink.

In the Advanced search parameters tab, you can specify the paths to exclude while searching for duplicates.

fslint 3

fslint advanced search

FSlint command line options

FSlint provides a collection of the following CLI utilities to find duplicates in your filesystem:

  • findup -- find DUPlicate files
  • findnl -- find Name Lint (problems with filenames)
  • findu8 -- find filenames with invalid utf8 encoding
  • findbl -- find Bad Links (various problems with symlinks)
  • findsn -- find Same Name (problems with clashing names)
  • finded -- find Empty Directories
  • findid -- find files with dead user IDs
  • findns -- find Non Stripped executables
  • findrs -- find Redundant Whitespace in files
  • findtf -- find Temporary Files
  • findul -- find possibly Unused Libraries
  • zipdir -- Reclaim wasted space in ext2 directory entries

All of these utilities are available under /usr/share/fslint/fslint/fslint location.

For example, to find duplicates in a given directory, do:

$ /usr/share/fslint/fslint/findup ~/Downloads/

Similarly, to find empty directories, the command would be:

$ /usr/share/fslint/fslint/finded ~/Downloads/

To get more details on each utility, for example findup, run:

$ /usr/share/fslint/fslint/findup --help

For more details about FSlint, refer the help section and man pages.

$ /usr/share/fslint/fslint/fslint --help
$ man fslint


You know now about three tools to find and delete unwanted duplicate files in Linux. Among these three tools, I often use Rdfind. It doesn't mean that the other two utilities are not efficient, but I am just happy with Rdfind so far. Well, it's your turn. Which is your favorite tool and why? Let us know them in the comment section below.


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Giulio September 28, 2018 - 12:41 pm

dupeguru imho is easier.

sk September 28, 2018 - 4:56 pm

Thanks for reminding me. I completely forgot about this tool. I will add it in the list soon.

Bert van der Genugten February 20, 2019 - 11:42 pm

Thank you for sharing this.

What I’m looking for is a tool to identify whole directories which are duplicate (recursive). So it would match two folders if their contents are the same. This way it would be a lot less work (compared to removing each individual file by hand). Do you know of such a tool? Or are any of the ones you listed capable of this feature?


sk February 21, 2019 - 1:15 pm

Have you tried “diff” command? I guess it is what you’re looking for. diff command comes pre-installed on most Linux distros.

jdc March 8, 2019 - 10:03 pm

If you want GUI for directory comparison, maybe look at “FreeFileSync.” Not sure your exact need, but it came to mind first. It was in the repository of one distro I use, but not others, but it is opensource and you can download and compile. Other GUI-driven solutions I also use are Meld and Kdiff3 but I tend to use them for single-layer directory comparison (not recursive searching, though they can do that) and use FreeFileSync for looking at whole “tree.”

The above **ARE** GUI tools. I do like CLI and use it quite a bit, but with large directories with multiple subdirectories on my personal system/ home network, I like the graphical approach. If CLI is your thing, “diff” as per sk’s comment, is good too. Good luck!

Alex March 11, 2020 - 12:51 am

OK. Good job! Thanks.


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