Tool to compare folders of files?

Related question…

Does anyone know a good GUI way to check a folder of files are the same across two Macs?

I haven’t found a good way of doing this. Is there a built-in solution or a better third-party one (eg. I have Setapp, if that helps on tool ideas).

If you have hundreds of files in a folder, manually comparing isn’t an option. And then you have those pesky hidden “DS_Store” files that need to be compared too!

e.g. Say I have a folder called “Whatever” on Mac1 and want to know if all the same files (including hidden ones) in this folder are appearing in the same “Whatever” folder on Mac2.

[split from: Cloudy with a Chance of Insanity: Unsticking iCloud Drive.]

Well any syncing tool that will let you run trial syncs would do it, wouldn’t it? Fairly sure I recall SetApp having the lite version of ChronoSync; that would work. Just set up a task, but instead of syncing you run a trial run and get to see the actual differences. There’s even a nice analysis mode for viewing the results.

Setapp has “ChronoSync Express”, if that’s what you mean:

Does it do trial syncs like this… I thought it was sync only? Maybe I was wrong in that assumption. :person_shrugging:

  • Does that show hidden files as well?

  • Is File Sharing the best/fastest way to show the second Mac’s folder directory for doing this type of thing on whatever method one uses? (Comparisons take time, so the fastest method is preferable.)

I would check out Path Finder which does folder comparisons. Theres a 30 day trial.

The premier app for this is Kaleidoscope, pricey and overkill for what you outline.

Path Finder is in Setapp too; tried it, but really rather slow on medium/large folders, unfortunately.

Yeah, I think I remember hearing about Kaleidoscope. But as you say, subscription-ware for such a simple usage is overkill. But many thanks.

(NB: Admin - Setapp links weirdly revert to /de/ versions; adding /en/ works!)

Gah, another one falls into subscription. I own a prior version, hadn’t picked up on this.

Yeah, that’s what I mean.

See this FAQ entry on the difference between Express and the full-fat version:

It does, with the limitations imposed by the Express version (essentially, that it’s an entirely unprivileged user process that runs as an app).

It will if you ask it to, yes. In general the massive array of options available for syncing also applies to the trial sync, so if your comparison criteria are suitable, you can get it to display all the changes important to you and do so as quick as possible.

Well, if you believe Econ Technologies, then no, absolutely not. For that you have to buy their ChronoAgent which is the server side of the equation. But, even if speed is of the essence, and I’ll agree that the agent does provide a measurable improvement because SMB simply has a much bigger overhead, it seems a strange thing to go to SetApp for options, only to spend money on a single task. Naturally as a happy owner of both ChronoSync and ChronoAgent I’d say put down the (extremely reasonable!) cost and, if nothing else, you’ll have a wonderful sync and backup utility, which I can honestly say has had real uses for me both locally and remotely over the years, and although not a replacement for rsync in all cases, is absolutely my recommended choice for an all-in-one file sync, backup and cloning tool. But SMB is absolutely fine for one-off jobs, or if your volume is not too great, so if you have some patience, ChronoSync Express will work diligently with just the Mac’s SMB implementation, a bit more slowly but just as thoroughly. The choice is yours. The free trial of ChronoSync didn’t require a credit card IIRC, just download and try.

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Amen to that.


I haven’t spent much time with it yet, but Nektony’s Duplicate File Finder has a “Compare Folders” function that might be worth exploring.

I have used ChronoSync’s “trial sync” mode many times to find differences. Incredibly useful. ChronoSync has never charged an upgrade fee. Buy it once–Good forever. From their website:


I use VisualDiffer. It works very well.


Some ideas include…

I have a license for Beyond Compare, so that’s what I use. The GUI is kind of clunky on Macs, but it works.

Note: The acid test for a file sync/compare product is whether it can detect changes in resource forks, especially when the only change is in the resource fork.

It is possible to test this using Terminal commands.

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I was going to suggest Kaleidoscope, but I see it has been already mentioned.

Panic’s Transmit has a synch function with a dry-run so that could be a workaround for you.

Of if you’re really looking to avoid any expense at all, use the command line to capture a recursive list of each directory, then diff the lists.

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I use BeyondCompare for this purpose.

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ChronoSync is worth every penny of its modest cost. It will let you archive files that are in the target folder but no longer present in the source folder from which you ae copying files, which would let you know what differences exist. It is more robust than Finder for transferring/backing up large sources.

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There are a couple of tools I use for this.

FreeFileSync will compare, and then copy files to make the two folders match.
ForkLift (Finder substitute) does the same thing as the above.
Transmit (from Panic) has been mentioned, and can copy/update files to match.

If all you want to know is, “Do these folders match or not?” you can use Checkpoint from Hedge. I can’t find it on their website, but it’s a fantastic hashing tool. It creates an MHL (media hash list) file in the top level of the folder you’re checking. Then when you copy the folder, double-clicking the copied MHL will open Checkpoint to verify that the files in the second location are all there, and that each file exactly matches the original. It’s checksumming/hashing but much easier to use than a command with many parameters in Terminal!

I have used a Mac app called Sync Folders which is available in the App store as either a no cost limited version or a Pro version $10.00 one off.
I have been using it for several years and it compares and sync’s folders very well.
Lots of options to control the Sync, especially with the Pro version.

Works very well for me.


Another app named Kaleidoscope? I loved the classic Kaleidoscope back in OS 7 and 8 days.

Original Kaleidoscope

And here’s another:

Kaleidoscope Pro

To sync document folders across my various Macs, Linux and Windows boxes, I use Unison. It is free/open source software and fast. Github download. There is both a GUI and command line tool. Docs are found in the dmg download on GitHub.

As to duplicate cleaning, I’ve been using dupeGuru for a number of years. It is also free and open source. website & download on github I’ve used it to find duplicates on a drives with several hundreds of GB of files and it has worked well. It has an intuitive GUI. My kids have used it to clean up their Document folders since they had a habit of saving files all over the place.

If speed is a real concern, the command line dupe tools are faster. I realize you weren’t interested in those but should speed become an issue, I’m happy to share what I’ve tried.

I use FreeFileSync and/or SyncTwoFolders.
I also have DFF and DupeGuru for dupe purposes.