Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

The Back Page: How to rebuild the Spotlight index on your Mac

If you get unexpected, puzzling, or even downright befuddling results when searching your Mac, rebuilding the Spotlight index might help.

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Spotlight.
  2. Click the Privacy tab.
  3. There is no Step 3.
  4. Just kidding.
  5. Step 3: Drag the disk or folder that you want to index again to the list of locations that Spotlight is prevented from searching. Or click the add button (+) and select the disk or folder to add.
  6. If you are running macOS Catalina or earlier, select the disk or folder that you just added.
    1. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, single click on it.
    2. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, control-double click it.

    If you are running macOS Big Sur or later, carefully wave the mouse pointer over the disk or folder that you just added.

  7. Convert the name of the item that you have selected into Unicode notation.
  8. If the Unicode notation of the first character is an even number, skip to the next character.
  9. Repeat until you reach an odd number.
  10. Is this your card?
  11. Open Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
  12. Type tput bel. Press return.
  13. Quit Terminal.
  14. What day is it?
    1. If it is Monday, drink some water.
  15. Dance like nobody’s watching.
  16. Consider that someone, somewhere, is attempting to rebuild their Spotlight index, and that you may simply be a bit in that index, ready to be wiped away at a moment’s notice, only to be near instantaneously rebuilt from the ground up. Perhaps we are all just ones and zeroes, and nothing more. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
  17. GOTO 10
  18. Somebody is watching. Dance.
  19. This step intentionally left blank.
  20. ^C^C^C^C^C
  21. Time to stand! Stand up and move a little for one minute.
  22. Rethink your life choices.
  23. Do you still want to rebuild your Spotlight index? (y/n)
  24. Seriously? Why? How can you stand to go through this again?
  25. Read Twitter for a while.
  26. Okay, fine. Remember that disk or folder you selected way back in Step 6? I’ll wait.
  27. Click the remove button (–) to remove it from the list.
  28. There, was that so hard?
  29. Quit System Preferences. Spotlight will reindex the contents of the disk or folder. This can take some time, depending on the amount of information being indexed. Once finished, this might solve your problem.
  30. Or it might not. In which case, see step 1.
  31. Yes, this process is quite ridiculous.
  32. Bang on your computer in frustration.
  33. Buy a new Mac.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]

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