How to Remove Google Photos Duplicates in 2021

Cleaning up your Google Photos account might seem challenging, but we have the steps to help you remove Google Photos duplicates in no time, freeing up precious space for more memories.

Robin Barber
By Robin Barber (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-07-12T13:57:54+00:00 Facts checked by: Andrea Babic

Google Photos is one of the best services for uploading pictures to the cloud, and it’s an easy way to sync multiple devices. However, your drive can quickly fill up with identical photos, especially after you’ve uploaded and edited thousands of images. In this article, we’ll go through the best ways to delete Google Photos duplicates.

The fastest way to clean up your Google Drive is with software that can automatically scan for similar photos. Although the built-in “duplicate detection” system will help you avoid direct copies during an upload, a third-party duplicate finder is the best way to spot any edited files or close matches that you may want to remove.

However, if you want to delete duplicate photos from Google Drive, your most effective choice is to simply do it yourself. You’ll be free to keep certain duplicates or remove old pictures you no longer want, and it can be done on any computer or mobile device, through either the Google Photos app or the website.

  • Exact duplicates should be deleted automatically by Google, and third-party software can find any nearly identical photos. However, you should delete duplicate photos manually to get the most control over your storage space.

  • The best way to clean up your drive is to find and remove duplicates from Google Photos. Simply scroll through a photo album and delete any picture that has an identical copy. This will free up some space, especially if you regularly edit photos.

  • In the “preferences” option for the “backup & sync” feature, you can change what Google does when you delete files from your drive. You can either remove both the local and cloud versions at once, keep the one you didn’t select or set it to ask every time. Then you can delete a photo without removing it from your computer.

The Issue: Google Photo Duplicates 

Finding duplicates in Google Photos isn’t a rare occurrence, especially if you’re storing a lot of images. However, most people don’t want a duplicate photo of every event taking up their limited cloud storage. Luckily, there is a way to delete duplicate files, even if you’ve edited them and there are too many to search manually. 

Some Reasons for Duplicate Photos 

The biggest cause of duplicate photos is that the user uploaded them twice. This is often because you didn’t realize the picture was already uploaded. You can also accidentally create copies when you edit a photo, and depending on the changes, the new file can be almost identical to the original.

Bugs and glitches can also create duplicate photos in your Google Drive. Sometimes, when you add a new device to your Google Photos or enable the “backup & sync” feature, it will upload a file that is already in the cloud because the two pictures have slightly different metadata.

1. Use Identical Duplicate Detection With Google Photos

Google does try to prevent exact duplicates with an “identical duplicate detection” feature. This will scan the contents and metadata of any image you upload to the cloud and check to make sure you haven’t already uploaded it.

This is really simple to use as it’s automatically enabled and will delete duplicates without any user input. However, it does have limitations as to what it will delete, and there are some steps you can follow to improve the effectiveness of this feature.

  1. Use Google Photos, Not Google Drive

    It’s possible to upload image files to either your main Google Drive or Google Photos. However, you should use only the latter, since duplicate detection can’t compare between different apps in Google Workspace, and Google Photos can detect identical pictures with different names.

    google photos duplicate detection across drives
  2. Check That the Duplicate Detection Is Working on Your Device

    Choose a picture that has been uploaded to your account and try uploading it again. You’ll see an “item uploaded” popup in the bottom-right corner, but Google Drive won’t add it to your folder or album. If it does appear, you will have to talk to the Google customer support, as you can’t toggle duplicate detection manually.

    google photos duplicate detection working

2. Use Third-Party Apps to Remove Duplicates in Google Photos

Despite Google’s own detection being rather mediocre, there are free third-party solutions to help remove duplicates from your cloud storage. Although you can find many programs on the web that can do this, such as “Duplicate File Finder, Cleaner for Drive” or “Duplicate Photo Cleaner,” they all follow a similar process.

  1. Download the Program

    Regardless of the app you choose, the first step is to download and install it. Make sure you get it from a trusted source and you have a good antivirus to keep your computer safe.

    google photos third party download page
  2. Give the Program Access to Your Photos

    Depending on the program you’re using, either give it access to your Google account or upload your Google Photos folder into the app.

    google photos third party add pictures
  3. Check Your Photos for Duplicates

    Search your photo folder for duplicates. The program should come up with any identical pictures it finds, but you may need to decrease the similarity threshold to delete everything.

    google photos third party find duplicates
  4. Delete the Duplicates

    To prevent the program from accidentally deleting pictures you want to keep, it will ask you to delete the duplicates that it finds. Make sure to check all of them to prevent accidental deletion of a picture that isn’t a duplicate.

    google photos third party delete files

3. The Worst Case: How to Manually Remove Duplicate Photos From Google 

If you find that neither the built-in software nor the third-party apps are capable of removing all of your duplicates, then your best option is to just go through and manually delete them. This will take some time, but you shouldn’t have to do it very often.

  1. Find Duplicate Images

    Go through all of your photos and look for an identical pair. As Google sorts them by date, they’re most likely to be next to each other, and you shouldn’t need to move back and forth much.

    google photos manually find duplicates
  2. Open the Photo and Find the Trash Icon

    You can click on the image to see it in more detail and get various options. In the top-right corner, there’ll be a trash can icon, which you need to select to delete the image.

    google photos manually open duplicates
  3. Delete the Duplicates

    Click the “move to trash” button to delete the image. The picture will stay in your trash folder for 60 days in case you remove the wrong one, but after this period it will be irretrievable.

    google photos manually delete duplicates

How to Avoid Google Photos Duplicates 

The quickest, easiest and most reliable way to avoid having duplicates is to prevent them from being made in the first place. The best way to do this is by keeping all of your pictures on a single Google account — or link them through MultCloud — which increases the chance that the built-in detection will delete your duplicates.

You should also make sure to remove the original file if you’ve edited it. Creating regular copies when editing is a great way to prevent a mistake that could destroy your picture, but it’ll also quickly fill up your storage.

Another option is to disable features like “backup & sync” and instead manually upload photos to your Google account. This will let you control the pictures that get moved from your hard drive to your cloud storage, and you can protect them while they’re on your computer with any good online backup provider.

However, if you care less about the existence of duplicates and simply want the space back, you should switch from “original” to “high quality.” This will give you access to unlimited picture storage at the cost of a decrease in quality to 16MP.

Final Thoughts 

Although cleaning up your Google Photos account can be slow, if you want to save space on your drive without relying on a computer to hold your excess data, it is possible. With the help of a free third-party app or add-on, you can upload, sync and edit files without using up all of your time or storage.

However, Google Photos isn’t the only cloud storage for pictures. Other services — such as Flickr and Amazon Drive — have different ways to find and delete photos that you may have uploaded twice. You may even find that these work better than the Google Drive and Google Photos options (check out our list of the best Google Photos alternatives).

Do you have pictures saved to the cloud? Have you tried to delete the duplicates in Google Photos with these methods? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.