The duplicate file is one or several copies of a particular file, be it video, audio, photo, document, mail, etc. Usually, they emerge due to user's actions (like multiple downloads or copying) operating system peculiarities (like automatic backups or synchronization). In most cases, a user is not aware of their existence. Generally, duplicates do not harm the OS or the computer directly. But since they occupy the space on the hard drive, sooner or later a user will have hard times finding the free space to save necessary data. In the worst-case scenario, the operating system's performance may drop, as well as lags and freezes may happen because of the lack of the free space on the disk. We decided to have a look at how the main rivals in the world of operating systems – Microsoft Windows and Apple's macOS – deal with the duplicates issue.

windows vs mac duplicates

Is Less More?

Well, the answer to the question which OS produces more duplicate files is a difficult call. Yet, it is generally considered that macOS hold the 'leadership' in this regard.

The reason behind this belief is the virtue of the way and the manner macOS is designed and the way it heavily relies on Apple's cloud services and synchronization.

Downloading same files several times (in many cases, automatically) or syncing the content of your Mac with cloud storage or other devices is one of the major ways of getting files and folders duplicated in macOS. If you do the same thing on the Windows OS, you will get a prompt that tells you that you have existing files that share the same name as the new file you are downloading or about to store on your PC, especially, if it is the same folder. Then, it gives you the option of replacing the existing file or folder or saving it as it were. This feature helps to minimize duplicates on Windows OS on the contrary to macOS that remains silent on these issues.

detect mac duplicates

Also, duplicates on macOS are not that easy to detect because they are often stored in places hidden from the user's sight. Some of these places are supposed to be cleaned automatically, and some – aren't. Thus, a lot of duplicates are stored and secured in a deep-rooted location on the Apple computer that a user may not be able to search manually (or it is quite complicated).

Vivid Examples

One of the most spectacular reasons why macOS produces more duplicates than Windows stems from the Mail app operation principles. Every time you open an attachment in Mail on your Mac, the system automatically saves it in the Mail Download folder regardless of the fact that this attachment may already be there. On the one hand, it is some form of backup that prevents data loss if you, say, mistakenly delete it from your computer. On the other hand, this way you can generate dozens of duplicate attachments in a matter of days.

Also, when you are transferring documents and media files from your external devices and backing them up on your Mac (for example, adding audio files, photos, and movies from your iPad or iPhone to your iTunes, iPhoto and Movies folder respectively), and you do this multiple times, in the end you will have both original files and their duplicated saved on your computer in different locations. The same does not go for the Windows OS, as it uses the automatic merging system, which merges your documents upon saving and gives a prompt to replace existing files and also gives the room to save duplicates in case it is deliberate.

Therefore, the number of duplicates produced by macOS is technically more than generated by Windows OS. Hence, it is important to check your Mac for duplicate files and clear them out more often than you would do on Windows. For a Windows PC, all you need might just be a free version of CCleaner, and you are good to go in organizing, cleaning, removing duplicates, and performing the essential maintenance processes on your PC. In the case of a Mac, it’s a bit more technical, as many files are hidden or secured, which makes them difficult to detect.

Fighting duplicates manually is a herculean and very time-consuming task, considering the volume of duplicates to be cleared. However, if you do not do this, you risk finding yourself in the situation when you run out of free space on the hard drive. This, in turn, leads to macOS glitches and slowdowns as it often uses hard drive space to expand RAM by utilizing virtual memory.

Fortunately, there are third-party professional Mac applications that can identify and remove duplicate items (for example, iPhoto or iTunes duplicate remover). They usually let you preview the detected files so you could be 100% sure which ones have to go and which should stay. In addition, some of the top-notch anti-duplicate software can even identify similar items – the ones that are not identical but are very alike.

For example, these could be photos taken fractions of second apart.

At the same time, suchlike tools would be quite useful to Windows users too, as having fewer duplicates doesn't mean not having them at all.