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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Excluding backups from Spotlight

Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.

There are those little annoyances that you run into a couple times a day, and which you often don’t even think about fixing, because working around them just doesn’t seem to cost you that much time–until you add it all up, anyway.

I’ve been running into an issue where I bring up Spotlight to launch an application, select what I think is the app I want, and then get an error–because rather than opening the app from my iMac’s internal SSD, it’s instead seized upon another version of the app from the internal 1TB hard drive, which I use as a backup drive for my MacBook Air.1

Spotlight pane

Fortunately, the solution to said problem is pretty easy. In System Preference’s Spotlight pane, there’s a Privacy tab. Click the + button, and you can select files, folders, or volumes that you want ignored during a Spotlight search. I chose the two partitions that I use for backup, and voilà–no more problems.

  1. I think one of the backups on there is actually an old version of OS X, which is where the error comes in–it doesn’t like trying to launch old versions of system apps in the current OS. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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