How to re-index and fix Spotlight search issues on Mac OS X

Spotlight is an innovative search technology built into Mac OS X that makes an index of pretty much everything on your storage devices connected to your computer – including videos, audios, pictures, contacts, email messages, and even calendar events – and then uses this index to search and get information from your storage devices. The Spotlight search tool has been improved significantly over the past few years, and it appears to improve with each and every version of OS X, with Yosemite it got much better. Now it can perform unit conversions, calculations and even search for movie information for you.

The reason that Spotlight works very quickly and effectively, it creates a certain database called the Spotlight Index and use it to find files fast. Sometimes issues may occur with search results getting through this tool. You might find out that there are some directories and files that spotlight taking a long time to find or can’t find at all. The reason that spotlight search not working because of corrupted search index. If this tool doesn’t come up with search results what you’re expecting, maybe it’s time to rebuild the search index. Rebuilding search index will fix all search issues while speeding up the search.

How to rebuild spotlight index via System Preference

Following below steps will stop indexing the hard drive and force the Mac to create a new index, repair any problems with current spotlight search index.

Step 1: Click on Apple() menu, and choose System Preference from the drop down menu that appears.

Step 2: When System preference window appears, click on spotlight icon.

system-preference mac os x

Step 3: Select privacy tab at the panel top and drag and drop the drive that you would like to re-index into the window or you can use the ‘+’ button to add the drive for re-indexing.


Using this method you can even re-index folders and external volumes as well. Keep in mind that the process may take minutes or hours, strictly depends on the number of files you have on the drive. To check on the indexing status, just click the spotlight icon shown in the top right hand corner of the menu bar.


How to rebuild the Spotlight Index via Terminal app

You can also use the terminal to re-index spotlight search, but you must be really cautious while using terminal on Mac OS. Follow the instruction carefully:

Step 1: Go to Applications > utilities, and start the terminal app.

Step 2: Type in this command:

sudo mdutil -E/

Step 3: Enter your administrator password when prompted. Now a message shows up indicating that the index will be rebuilt.


Just like I said earlier before, you can keep tabs on re-indexing progress by clicking the spotlight icon in the menu bar.

How to re-index External Drives

To re-index any external device connected to the Mac, type in the following command (substitute ‘[DriveName]’ with the name of drive you want to get indexed).

sudo mdutil -E /Volumes/[DriveName]

If you are not sure about drive name or path, there is an easier way out.

Type in the first part of the terminal command:

sudo mdutil -E /

Then drag and drop the drive right into the terminal from the Finder window.


This action will paste in the drive path automatically. Now all you have to do is Press Enter to execute the command, and the re-indexing will start in a while.

Once the index is successfully rebuilt, your Spotlight results on your Mac would be accurate and way faster than ever before.

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