How to Rebuild the Spotlight Index on Your Mac

Terminal is the Mac’s version of a command prompt. This is where you can do just about anything to your Mac — as long as you know the textual command to do so. Don’t let Terminal scare you; if you follow the commands listed, you’ll come out on top.

For example you can search for a word written in a PDF document or the telephone number of one of your contacts. To manually add it to the index, you can use the following command.

Add a file to the Spotlight index

An A-Z Index of the Apple OS X command line (TERMINAL) The tcsh command shell of Darwin (the open source core of OSX) alias Create an alias alloc List used and free memory.

You don't need any fancy software, or a knowledge of coding to do any of these. All you need is a keyboard to type 'em out! Sometimes Spotlight doesn't behave properly, or perhaps doesn't know about files or folders that have just been created. Sometimes, it just forgets about files on external drives. When this happens, you can invoke a hidden feature shown only through the Terminal commands to cause your Spotlight Indexes to be rebuilt on either your Mac or any external drives connected to it.

Let's walk through the process of how to do this. After pressing enter, you'll be required to enter your password because this command runs as a super user. After you do that, you will notice after a few minutes that when clicking the Spotlight button in the menu bar, Spotlight will show that it is currently indexing your system.

When Spotlight is indexing, it is building an extensive file that lets it quickly and easily search your system for just the item that you are looking for. This is why rebuilding the Spotlight index can fix a lot of issues stemming from wrong files showing in searches. Spotlight can build an index on each drive that is connected to the Mac for better searching on external drives. Fortunately, you can rebuild the Spotlight indexes on these drives as well. However, every now and again something goes wrong and a stubborn file might refuse to show up.

To manually add it to the index, you can use the following command. Type in mdimport and then hit the space bar. Next, find the file you want to add in the Finder, and drag it onto the Terminal window. Terminal should automatically type in the path to the file for you. Of course, if you know the path you can type it in manually yourself. Finally, hit return and the file should now show up in you Spotlight searches. Adding a folder works in exactly the same way as with a file.

However, in Mac OS X In that case use mdimport -f instead. Considering Spotlight is so quick and easy to access, you will probably only use this if you are already working in the Terminal and want to find a file, or if you want some extra options.

To do a search, just type mdfind query where query is what you want to search for. Control-C will stop it updating. To see all the other options, look at the man page by typing man mdfind into Terminal. If you are having problems with your Spotlight index, you might want to start over and re-index your hard drive.

You may have to enter your password. The existing Spotlight index will be deleted, and Spotlight will start creating a new index in the background. When Spotlight adds a file to the index, it checks to see if it recognises the file type and then uses an mdimporter plugin to index the contents if it does.

Double clicking on a plugin will give you the option to re-index all the files associated with it.

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