Apple's Spotlight isn't finding files which I know are on my computer
May 14, 2015 11:35 PM   Subscribe

I rely on Apple's Spotlight search to find files on my MacBook Pro, because I am so bad at organising stuff into folders. But recently, it hasn't been working. I look for a word I know is in the file contents – like a Word doc – and it simply doesn't show up in the Spotlight results. I've tried re-indexing Spotlight but it hasn't helped.

Any ideas? I've looked at 3rd party apps but they haven't worked either.
posted by dontjumplarry to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm really good at organizing stuff and I still think Apple's Spotlight blows. When Windows was my main system, I loved Total Commander, but since I favor Macs these days, Easy Find and Find Any File have been meeting my needs.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:06 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Is the file in a folder that you've turned off indexing? (System Preferences … → Spotlight → Privacy)
In a terminal, see if there is any index information on the file; do something like:

   mdls name_of_file.docx

If most of the fields return '(null)', then it's being skipped. There's a chance that the Spotlight plugins aren't being run, or are corrupted somehow.

Spotlight is great for us untidy folks when it works. I don't know how I'd ever find anything with the indexing system built into modern operating systems.
posted by scruss at 7:27 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This may not be your issue, but I had problems with Spotlight not indexing or performing searches within Microsoft apps. It was a permissions problem with the folders that Spotlight needed to index within my user home folder. Here's what I did:

1. Use "Get Info" on the Mac's hard drive icon. Unlock to make changes. In the Sharing & Permissions section, ensure your username has Read/Write permission and use gear icon to "apply to enclosed items".
2. Open Disk Utility and repair permissions on the hard drive
3. Force reindex of Spotlight. In Terminal, enter "sudo mdutil -E /". If you get a "Indexing disabled" message then enter "sudo mdutil -a -i on". Reindexing should start.
4. Double check permissions from step 1. My account name disappeared for some reason and I had to re-add my account as well as Read/Write permissions for the whole drive.
posted by homesickness at 11:06 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

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