Merge Folders Keeping Latest Files

The Merge function in Sierra's Finder will allow you to merge two folders, keeping the latest versions of each file. The trick is to arrange the folders so they have the same name and use a temporary folder to place them both into.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Merge Folders Keeping Latest Files.

Let's say you want to merge the contents of two folders. You have two folders that have identical files in them except some files have been updated in one folder and some files have been updated in another. You basically want to merge them keeping only the newest file.

Let's look at these folders here. Folder 1 and Folder 2. Go to List View and since I've opened each one up I can see there are three files in each. They look to be the same. They have the same names. If I use Quick Look here, I'm going to select this one, hit the spacebar so you can see the contents, that's file number one. That's the text inside of it. Then there's File number 2. File number 3, and notice I've added the text Newer version there indicating that I've updated this file. Now if I go to File 1 in the second folder, it's the same. File 2 though is a newer version and file 3 is the original.

So if I merge these two folders together I should get the latest file 2 and the latest file 3. It doesn't really matter for file 1 because they are both identical. So how I do that in the Finder. It's not really obvious. If I were to drag all of these files to here I would just be replacing all these files with these. So actually the one I'm dragging would be the ones that would be left there not the latest version of them. If I were to drag the Folder on top of this one it just puts the folder inside there. So exactly how do I do this.

So let's go back to icon view here. Here are the folders. The first thing I want to do is I want to create a new folder for these both to go in. So I'm going to call this the Merge Folder. The next thing I want to do is I want to name these folders something identical because in order for the Finder to realize what I'm trying to do is merge the two folders they should be the same name. However I can't do that because they are both here. I can't name a folder the same thing if they're both here.

So what I'm going to do is drag Folder 1 into the Merge Folder. Then I'm going to take Folder 2 and I'm going to change it's name so that it's exactly the same. So now if we try to drop one on to the other it should realize that we want to merge them. This is how we do it.

I'm going to drag this folder into the Merge Folder. It will open up and there's Folder 1. I'm going to drop it next to it. But I'm going to hold down the Option key. That's key here because otherwise I'm just trying to replace that old folder 1 with this new one. Hold down the Option key and release you will get a special dialogue that won't appear normally. You can see it says Merge will combine the two folders, preserving all the newer items such as File 2.txt.

So I'll hit Merge. Now you can see the dragged folder disappears. There is only this Folder 1. If I go into Folder 1, I look at File 1, I hit the spacebar and you can see it's got file number 1 written in it. File number 2 has Newer Version and File number 3 also has Newer Version. So I've successfully merged all the files in these two folders in this one folder now. All that's left for me is to clean up here.

So I'm going to switch to Column View so I can see this pretty clearly here that I've got the original folder 1. I'm going to get rid of that now. I don't need that anymore. Under Merged Folder I've got the new Folder 1 that has everything in it that was successfully merged. I'll move that up a level. Then this merged folder that I had created as a place to hold those two folders so I could properly name them the same, I can just delete that. That's empty. I end up with my Merged Folder 1 with the three files in it. Each one with the latest version.

Comments: 4 Responses to “Merge Folders Keeping Latest Files”

    2 years ago

    What happens if the folders you’re trying to merge contain subfolders? Do the subfolders get merged as well?

    2 years ago

    Phil: Good question. Create some sample files (TextEdit documents will do) and try it to see. Report back.

    Mary Travis
    2 years ago

    I tried following your instructions to merge two folders, however I did not get the box stating they will merge. Instead I got a box which said it would replace (and it did). No merge resulted.

    2 years ago

    Mary: First, are you using Sierra? Second, are you doing it the same exact way? If you simply try to drag and drop files into a folder, it won’t work. You have to move one folder into the same location as the other just as I do in the video. Watch it closely. Also, if there is nothing to merge (no additional files) then replace is the same as merge.

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