Is Spotlight being a little wonky on your Mac? Is it constantly indexing your drive, or become corrupted so it can’t search? With just a few quick steps, you can rebuild your Spotlight index and put your search woes to rest.

Spotlight is great for finding stuff on your Mac, and once your learn how to use it, can quickly make short work of any search. But there are a lot of things that can make it go wonky. In such a case, the first thing you should do is reindex your hard drive, which means deleting the old index so Spotlight can crawl through your hard drive and re-catalog everything on it.

RELATED: How to Use macOS' Spotlight Like a Champ

There are a few reasons you may need to rebuild your Spotlight index. These include:

  • Search results simply aren’t working, such as if search results disappear as you type in a name.
  • Search results aren’t appearing even though you know for sure the files exist on your system.
  • You’re getting duplicate results and you’re certain you only have one instance of a file.
  • You get conflicting data on how much hard drive space is being used and how much is available.
  • When you search for items and you get different results each time, using the same search query.

If any or all of these things are happening, then it might be time to dump your old Spotlight index and start fresh. Like we said, this is really easy and shouldn’t take too long though that will depend entirely upon the speed of your system and the number of files.

To begin, first open the System Preferences and click on Spotlight, or open it from the Apple menu.

In the Spotlight preferences, click on the “Privacy” tab. You may already have items here, but as you see in the following screenshot, ours is empty. Now, drag your hard drive onto the Privacy window.

Alternatively, if you want to simply reindex a folder or another volume, you can drag that over instead. For our purposes, however, we’re going to reindex our entire main system drive.

When you attempt to add your system drive (or any other folder or volume), you’ll receive the following prompt. Go ahead and click “OK”.

Now that your system drive is added to Spotlight’s Privacy window, it won’t be allowed to show you results from it and should remove them from the index. The next thing you then need to do is click the “-” at the bottom of the Privacy tab.

Doing this will cause Spotlight to reindex your entire drive and you should now hopefully start receiving accurate search results.

If this doesn’t work, you can try spurring it to reindex manually. First open a Terminal window from the Applications > Utilities folder and type in the following command.

sudo mdutil -E /

You will be prompted to enter your system password. Once you do so, hit “Enter” and Spotlight should be reindexed.

Hopefully once done, Spotlight will start to return accurate results and your search woes will be a thing of the past.

Profile Photo for Matt Klein Matt Klein
Matt Klein has nearly two decades of technical writing experience. He's covered Windows, Android, macOS, Microsoft Office, and everything in between. He's even written a book, The How-To Geek Guide to Windows 8.
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