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Disabling Spotlight

© December 2005 Tony Lawrence

Note - in more recent versions, I think Spotlight is great - and would NOT suggest disabling it.

I feel sorry for the Apple developers who worked on Spotlight. I'm sure they put a lot of effort into it, and likely think it's a great feature. I suppose it must be disappointing that so many of us don't use it and don't want it even running. It can really bog down your machine when you are doing things like copying down a lot of files or moving things around; if you aren't going to use it anyway, why waste those cpu cycles and the disk space for the index?

Indeed. So let's get rid of it, shall we?

The first step is to become root. You can do everything with "sudo", but we have a few steps here, so it's easiest to start with "sudo su -". Give your ordinary password, and you have a root prompt.

To disable Spotlight from starting up at boot, edit /etc/hostconfig and change the Spotlight line:


For each disk drive, turn off Spotlight indexing:

 mdutil -i off /
 mdutil -i off /myotherdrive

Note that you'll see errors if the disk is very busy when you do that. Wait till the disk activity stops and try again.

Then run:

 mdutil -E /
 mdutil -E /myotherdrive

If there's any "mdimport" running in Activity Monitor or ps, kill it.

This gets rid of the index, but doesn't remove the .Spotlight directory, so:

  cd /
  rm -rf .Spotlight*
  cd /myotherdrive
  rm -rf .Spotlight*

Reboot after all this and you shouldn't be bothered by Spotlight again.

Some web sites have suggested using the System Preferences > Spotlight > Privacy tab but apparently that can cause other problems.

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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

iOS 10: A Take Control Crash Course

Take Control of iCloud, Fifth Edition

Take Control of Pages

Take Control of IOS 11

Take Control of Numbers

More Articles by © Tony Lawrence

Sun Jan 28 20:40:59 2007: 2838   anonymous

Thank you!

That helped me ALLOT!

Sun Feb 4 05:34:17 2007: 2849   anonymous

Spotless also does the same thing. It has a small shareware fee:


Wed Aug 22 22:57:29 2007: 3081   anonymous

don't get me wrong, its a good feature for most cases, but it's great to have to way to disable it.

Tue Nov 20 22:24:41 2007: 3264   TonyLawrence

On 10.5 Leopard, it's much. much better and I use it all the time:

Tue Jun 3 14:49:17 2008: 4288   Shaun

Thank you. Had to use sudo as I can't recall the root PW.

Wed Mar 31 21:18:53 2010: 8322   nachopro


Hello, thanks for your article... but in 10.6 (Snow Leopard) the SPOTLIGHT=-NO- entry in /etc/hostconfig has no effect :(

I can't remove spotlight from menu bar and if I make a search, mds process consume all procesor (when index is disabled)

Is good idea disable mds ? Can affect another applications, like safari history or other ?


Wed Mar 31 21:22:07 2010: 8323   TonyLawrence


I can't imagine why you would want to disable it in 10.6 but I suppose you must have some reason. For me, it's now a great feature with no downside.

I have no idea how, sorry -


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