Bugs & Fixes: Can’t stop Spotlight

Macworld has turned its focus to Spotlight this past week with a series of articles on OS X’s built-in search feature that cover everything from Spotlight’s menu to creating good queries to advanced searches in the Finder. In that spirit, here’s a Spotlight-related trouble I experienced recently.

It all started when I began hearing one of the external drives attached to my Power Mac G5 clicking away incessantly, as it does when some process is actively reading from or writing to the drive. This kept going for about an hour, with the side effect of a gradual slowing down of everything else I was doing.

Eventually, I discovered the cause: Spotlight was indexing the drive, but it never seemed to get closer to finishing.

Fortunately for me, this drive contained the backup of my startup drive, so I didn’t particularly care if Spotlight indexed it all. Thus, I tried a simple fix: I went to the Privacy tab of Spotlight’s System Preferences and added the backup drive to the Exclude list. The fix worked—the drive’s clicking stopped instantly. The only snag here is that the backup drive periodically and mysteriously vanishes from the Privacy tab, forcing me to reapply the fix. Clearly, Apple has some bug-fixing to do here.

Of course, if you have this problem with a drive that you want Spotlight to index, you have more work to do. One solution that may work is to turn Spotlight off and back on again. The simplest way to do this is with the $17 Spotless utility from Fixamac. This same utility can also delete Spotlight’s Index Files and Index Directory, a last ditch technique if all else fails.

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