Why is Spotlight completely re-indexing the hard drive on every startup?
April 4, 2016 2:13 PM   Subscribe

I've got a late 2009 iMac that has been experiencing this same issue for a long time. Every time I start up Spotlight completely re-indexes the hard drive. As a result, the system is slow for minutes after system startup. What would make it do this so consistently?

I've been trying for years to fix this. I can't recall with OS X version this started with but it's still doing it with El Capitan. I've googled this and tried the various fixes but to no avail. I don't use Spotlight all that much but it's nice to have so I'm reluctant to disable it.
posted by tommasz to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Computer’s 7 years old and you’ve been piling new OS versions on top of old ones the whole time?

It’s time time to wipe the drive and do a clean OS install. (Of course make sure you have multiple backups in place and have tested those backups first!) Don’t migrate your user account back from the backup, make it from scratch and just move back in the stuff you need or you’ll just bring back the cruft.
posted by bcwinters at 3:10 PM on April 4, 2016

Best answer: This is a thing with older Macs and I recall that I've had to deal with it but I can't remember what I did specifically. However the Apple support forums & elsewhere have a few suggestions.

- look for old PPC junk
- verify disk, clear old indexes.
- a few command line ways to essentially turn it off and on again
- nerdy detail-oriented stuff from stack exchange if you want to dig in before you reinstall the OS
posted by jessamyn at 3:55 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've googled this and tried the various fixes but to no avail.

What fixes have you tried? Would help to know just so we're not re-treading the same stuff.

Broadly my first guess in this situation is a corrupt index, or one with bad permissions. You can nuke and rebuild the index really easily: just open System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy and add your entire HD to the list. Then remove it again. This will recreate your .Spotlight-V100 directory and do one big re-index, but hopefully set you up for smooth sailing after that. Jessamyn's links above also have some great things to try if this quick fix doesn't do it for you.
posted by churl at 4:45 PM on April 4, 2016

Also came in here to suggest a permissions issue. Here are a couple of steps I've used in the past when Spotlight was behaving badly, hanging or not indexing certain folders:

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 and re-add your account as well as Read/Write permissions for the whole drive, if needed.
posted by homesickness at 4:58 PM on April 4, 2016

In the Sharing & Permissions section, ensure your username has Read/Write permission and use gear icon to "apply to enclosed items".

My 2c; Spotlight has its own entry in the ACL unrelated to your (or any) user account, and shouldn't be affected by your account permissions -- I'd recommend against propagating the exact same permission set through your entire drive as some system resources have & need unique permissions for normal operation of the OS.
posted by churl at 5:34 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have dinbe permissions, disabled/enabled Spotlight from the command line and deleted the index, searched and deleted PPC search helpers, run Disk Utility and Disk Warrior.

There are some interesting suggestions here that I will try. Thanks everyone!
posted by tommasz at 5:40 PM on April 4, 2016

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