Switching off Spotlight

Reader Curt Douglass would rather do without Spotlight. He writes:

How can I remove Spotlight from my machine? I use Xcode for application development and on a 17” screen, I need the space. I have written an application that restores the capabilities of the “old” Find… I want to remove the Spotlight application and any hidden tasks that it may use. Apple doesn’t know the difference between locate and find, but I do.

If that little corner of the menubar occupied by the Spotlight icon is your only concern, you can remove the icon this way:

Navigate to /System/Library/CoreServices and drag the Search.bundle file to your Desktop. As you don’t have the correct permissions to move the file (Search.bundle is owned by root), this will make a copy of the file. Put this copy in a safe place should you want to re-enable the Spotlight menu item again. Select the original file in the CoreServices folder and press Command-Delete to move it to the Trash. Before it can be moved you’ll be asked to authenticate you action by entering your admin name and password. When you restart your Mac, the Spotlight menu will be gone.

Should you wish to put things back the way they were, drag the Search.bundle file back into the CoreServices folder. Select it, press Command-I to bring up the Info window, and change its permissions so that Owner is system and Group is wheel.

If you want to more thoroughly get rid of Spotlight, follow the steps I just outlined and then launch Terminal and type:

sudo pico /etc/hostconfig

The pico text editor opens and displays the contents of the hostconfig file. Use your Mac’s arrow keys to navigate down to the SPOTLIGHT=-YES- entry. Arrow to the right and change YES to NO. Press Control-O and then press Return to save your change. Press Control-X to exit the pico editor. Quit Terminal and restart your Mac and Spotlight should be disabled.

To undo this change, return to the pico editor and change NO back to YES, save, and restart.

Should Terminal terrify you, feel free to take a look at Fixamac’s $13 Spotless, a utility that allows you to control Spotlight’s behavior—including features for disabling content indexing on particular volumes, deleting indexes, and switching off Spotlight altogether.

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