Search doesn’t work on Mac: how to rebuild Spotlight index on macOS


Spotlight on macOS is a system application for finding other programs, documents, contacts, bookmarks, emails, third-party application items, and more from one central location on your Mac. For optimal performance, Spotlight uses an indexed database of all drives and files on your system, unless they have been explicitly excluded from the search.

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How to rebuild Spotlight indexes on Mac if search doesn’t work correctly

While Spotlight is running, searching on your Mac may not produce the expected results. If this happens, then rebuilding Spotlight indexes will help in solving the problem.

Here’s how to speed up reindexing your Mac boot disk.

1. Open “System Settings” macOS

2. Go to the section Spotlight and select the tab “Confidentiality”.

How to rebuild Spotlight indexes on Mac if search doesn't work correctly

3. In the window that appears, drag the folder or disk that requires reindexing into the field “Confidentiality” section Spotlight.

How to rebuild Spotlight indexes on Mac if search doesn't work correctly

4. Click OKto confirm the operation.

How to rebuild Spotlight indexes on Mac if search doesn't work correctly

If the drive icon is not available on the macOS desktop, open the Finder settings, go to the tab The main and check the box next to “Hard disks”.

How to rebuild Spotlight indexes on Mac if search doesn't work correctly

Tip: You can also use the button to select items to add. “+”located in the lower right corner of the window.

To add a folder or disk to this window, you will need the owner rights of this item.

How to rebuild Spotlight indexes on Mac if search doesn't work correctly

5. Now delete the newly added drive by highlighting it on the tab “Confidentiality”. To do this, click “-“ in the lower left corner. This will remove the selected item from the exclusion list. Spotlight.

How to rebuild Spotlight indexes on Mac if search doesn't work correctly

6. Close the window “System Settings”.

Adding and removing a boot disk in a tab “Confidentiality” Spotlight and then exit System settings will allow you to start scanning and reindexing the contents of the entire disk. Depending on its size and the files stored on it, this can take from several minutes to several hours. During this reindexing process, the Mac may run more slowly.

To see if indexing is finished Spotlight, open the program search window. If you see a progress bar and a message in it “Indexing…”then wait for the process to complete.

How to rebuild Spotlight indexes on Mac if search doesn't work correctly

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How to rebuild Spotlight indexes in Terminal

You can manually re-index your disk or folder, open the Terminal application (Programs → Utilities) and paste the command in the window that opens:

sudo mdutil -i on /

click Enterto execute this command. It will cause the hidden Spotlight process to begin reindexing the boot volume. Remember that to run this command you will need to enter an administrator password.

How to rebuild Spotlight indexes in Terminal

Apple claims that excluding the boot disk from Spotlight will prevent the system from notifying you of pending updates to any Mac App Store applications installed on your computer.

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How to Disable Spotlight Indexing on Mac

The other side of the issue is that you don’t use the Spotlight service at all and would like to turn it off in order to increase the battery life of the laptop, reduce the load on the SSD-drive, free up the processing power of the processor, etc.

Then, without further ado, turn off the entire indexing mechanism, ordering Spotlight to “fall asleep.” If you need it, turn it back on according to the instructions above.

Disabling indexing is done by the command

sudo mdutil -i off /

How to Disable Spotlight Indexing on Mac

Another situation – Spotlight we need from time to time, but search accuracy can be sacrificed for the sake of coveted system resources. Let’s say on the desktop there is a certain folder for drafts and other garbage, a directory for Dropbox or a folder “Downloads”, where files constantly appear and disappear and we know for sure that there is nothing to look for.

So, go to System Settings → SpotlightConfidentiality and here we add the desired folders to the exclusion list, thereby instructing the service not to index their contents. The method is fully functional and especially recommended for fans of Torrent networks, with their frequent updating of hash sums during active loading and distribution of content.

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Other Spotlight Features

The default keyboard shortcut for launching Spotlight is Command (⌘) + Space. To set your own keyboard shortcut, click “Keyboard shortcuts …” at the bottom of the tab Spotlight.

spotlight features

spotlight features

Spotlight also allows you to get definitions, results of calculations and unit conversions, TV shows, weather and nearby locations, search by file type and its location, and much more.

spotlight features

spotlight features

Spotlight for Mac was announced at the World Developers Conference in June 2004 and appeared on Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger in April 2005. A similar feature for iOS 3.0 with the same name was announced on March 17, 2009. Starting with iOS 11, the function became simply called “Search”.

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