Rebuild the Spotlight Index

Rebuild the Spotlight Index

Jan 17, 2012 - 5 Comments

Rebuild the Spotlight Index
Do you need to rebuild the entire Spotlight index on a Mac? It’s easy to do, but can take a while. Here’s how to start the reindexing process of an entire drive using the Spotlight control panel:

  • Launch System Preferences from the  Apple menu
  • Click on “Spotlight” and then click on the “Privacy” tab
  • Drag Macintosh HD (and other drives if necessary) into this window
  • Rebuild Spotlight index in Mac OS X
  • Click “OK” when asked to confirm
  • Now select the drive(s) you just added and click the “-” minus button to remove it from the list
  • Reindex Spotlight
Note: if an item is left under the “Privacy” list, it will exclude from Spotlight indexing completely.
Spotlight will immediately begin to reindex the drive(s) you added and then removed from the Privacy list. How long it takes to reindex the drive varies, ranging from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the speed of the drive and it’s contents. At any point, you can pull down the Spotlight menu and check the progress:
How long it takes to reindex Spotlight

The Mac will probably feel sluggish during reindexing as the mdworker and mds processes run and consume a lot of CPU and cause a lot of disk activity.

Rebuilding and reindexing Spotlight is an excellent troubleshooting technique when you encounter problems with the Mac search client. If you find Spotlight isn’t working at all, try some of these other troubleshooting tips too.