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Jeroen W. Pluimers on .NET, C#, Delphi, databases, and personal interests

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Mac OS X – Spotlight not finding many files: force a rescan solved it

Posted by jpluimers on 2016/09/23

I was looking for some PDF files that I knew for sure were on my SSD but Spotlight would not find them. Looking for more obvious files I noticed Spotlight was returning hardly any files at all: somehow the index was messed up.

Years ago I also had Spotlight issues; then it would find nothing (now it did find some files) which was solved by a reboot: Spotlight refuses to be enabled on Lion: reboot helped.

Screenshot 2016-06-29 12.57.34

Screenshot 2016-06-29 12.57.34

Now this was right after a reboot, and because Spotlight did find some files I know Spotlight was turned on (no need for mdutil tricks mentioned in After restoring fresh HDD from Time Machine Backup: No results from Spotlight).

So I dug a bit deeper and decided to try [WayBack] Rebuild the Spotlight index on your Mac – Apple Support with these steps:

  1. Search for something that returns few results (in my case Xyzzy)
  2. Click Spotlight Preferences...
  3. Go to the Privacy tab
  4. From the Finder, drag your disk(s) to the Prevent Spotlight from searching these locations list.
  5. Remove your disk(s) from that lists using the minus (-) button.
  6. Wait for re-indexing to complete

That worked like a charm to refresh the index: it started indexing again which took about one hour.

After a few minutes though, I found back the 32pfl7404h_12_dfu_nld.pdf I was looking for.

A second time, it had lost the index to iTunes, and found it back in about 2 hours (as the SSD was much more full).

A third time, this trick from [WayBack/] Re-Index Spotlight from the Terminal, Re-Gain Valuable Time for Life [OS X Tips] | Cult of Mac worked:

sudo mdutil -E /

This basically re-indexes from the root (/) folder.

I find it easier than the above 6 steps (which are also on [WayBack/] Make Spotlight Work Again [OS X Tips] | Cult of Mac).


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