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How to Rebuild Spotlight's Index

Spotlight is the revolutionary search technology built into OS X that creates an index of practically everything on your hard drive — including email messages, contacts, and even calendar events — and then uses this index to search your hard drive. OS X is supposed to update this index in real time when you create or modify files or folders, but problems occasionally crop up. Spotlight won’t work correctly if this index is incomplete or corrupted. When search results don’t appear as expected, it’s probably time to manually rebuild Spotlight’s index.

Here's how to rebuild Spotlight's index:

  1. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences.

  2. Select Spotlight.

  3. Click Privacy. The window shown below appears.

  4. Rebuild Spotlight Index

  5. Click the + button.

  6. Select a hard disk or volume.

  7. Select the hard disk or volume you just added, and then click the - button. Spotlight rebuilds the index of the selected hard disk or volume — a process that can take between 30 minutes and a couple of hours, depending on how many files you have.

  8. Select the Spotlight menu to verify that the index is being rebuilt, as shown below.

  9. Rebuild Spotlight Index

That's it! Your searches should be more accurate after Spotlight rebuilds the index.

Rebuilding the Spotlight Index Using the Command Line

You can also use the command line to rebuild Spotlight’s index. Open the Terminal application and enter the following command:

sudo mdutil -E /

Authenticate with your administrator password, and a message appears indicating that the index will be rebuilt. Spotlight rebuilds the index of your hard disk. You can track the rebuilding progress by clicking the Spotlight menu.

Meet Your Macinstructor

Matt Cone, the author of Master Your Mac, has been a Mac user for over 20 years. A former ghost writer for some of Apple's most notable instructors, Cone founded Macinstruct in 1999, a site with OS X tutorials that boasts hundreds of thousands of unique visitors per month. You can email him at: [email protected].


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