Spotlight Search Not Working On Mac? Here’s the Fix!

Spotlight Search is a powerful search tool on macOS that helps you find apps, folders, and files. 

However, it can be annoying when it doesn’t show you what you want. Sadly, this is the case for several macOS users who can’t look up files from Spotlight Search. 

In this guide, I’ll show you how to get Spotlight Search working again on your Mac.

1. Wait for Spotlight Indexing to Finish

Spotlight Search automatically reindexes after an update to account for new files, apps, and features. 

If you just updated your system, allow Spotlight Search to finish indexing your storage first.

Depending on your storage and files, indexing can take anywhere from several hours to up to 2 days, depending on how many files you have on your Mac. 

Note

  • Indexing should not take an entire day if your Mac has an SSD.
  • Spotlight Search only indexes once after an update. 
  • If it reindexes repeatedly, proceed to the solutions below to troubleshoot the issue.


2. Refresh Spotlight Search

A bug or error may have occurred on Spotlight Search, causing it to malfunction or not show desired results. 

To rule this out, refresh the service by disabling/enabling it:

  1. Go to Apple Menu > System Settings
  2. Scroll down from the side menu and access Siri & Spotlight
  3. Find Spotlight, and under Search Results, uncheck everything. 
Siri & Spotlight
  1. Restart your Mac. 
  2. Go back to Siri & Spotlight and check all the entries. 

Try Spotlight Search again to check if the problem is solved. 

Related: How to Fix Spotlight Search Not Working On iPhone and iPad

3. Use Command + Space Shortcut

If Spotlight Search does not appear when opening from the Control Center, you can try using the Command + Space shortcut. 

You can also try holding the Spotlight icon from the Control Center until Spotlight Search shows at the center of your screen. 

4. Rebuild Spotlight Index

Spotlight is a selection-based search system that uses an index of all files on your system to load them quickly. 

However, this index can get corrupted and cause Spotlight Search to malfunction. 

To rebuild Spotlight’s index using System Settings, you need to: 

  1. Go to Apple Menu > System Settings
  2. Now, click on Siri & Spotlight from the side menu. 
System Settings
  1. Scroll down and click on Spotlight Privacy
  1. Drag your disk or folder to the list of locations that Spotlight is prevented from searching. 
spotlight search not working on mac
  1. Restart your Mac. 
  2. Return to Spotlight Privacy.
  3. Select the folder or drive you added and click the (-) icon to remove it. 
  4. Click Done, and Spotlight will reindex your folder or drive.

You can also use the Terminal to rebuild Spotlight’s index: 

  1. Press Command + Space and look for Terminal
  2. Open the Terminal
  3. Type sudo -i and hit Enter to run the command. 
  4. Enter your password. 
  5. Now, run these commands one by one: 
mdutil -Ea 

mdutil -ai off

mdutil -ai on

Once you see a message that says “Indexing Enabled,” you’re done. Test Spotlight Search afterward to confirm if it works. 

Related: How to Fix External Hard Drive Not Mounting After macOS Ventura Update


5. Restart SystemUI Server

The SystemUI Server manages system menu items, including search content in Spotlight.

Restarting this process should address any issues with the software that causes Spotlight Search to malfunction. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

  1. Open Finder on your Mac. 
  2. Now, go to Application > Utilities
  3. Launch the Activity Monitor
spotlight search not working on mac
  1. Type “sys” in the search box at the upper right corner. 
  2. Locate the SystemUI Server process.
spotlight search not working on mac
  1. Double-click on it and choose Quit

This automatically restarts the SystemUI Server process. Once again, try using Spotlight Search and see if it’s working.

6. Update Your Mac to Latest Version

The version of macOS you’re using might have an issue related to Spotlight Search or indexing. 

If none of the solutions above worked, try updating your Mac. 

  1. In the upper left corner of your screen, click the Apple icon to open the Apple Menu
  2. Now, click on System Settings
  3. Inside settings, navigate to General > Software Update
  4. If a new version is detected, follow the prompts to install the update. 
spotlight search not working on mac

Note

  • Your Mac can restart several times while installing the update.
  • The update progress bar might also appear to be stuck. When this happens, don’t do anything. Software updates can take several minutes to complete.


FAQs

Spotlight Search is enabled by default on your Mac. You can access the feature by doing any of the following: 

1. Clicking the Spotlight icon in the Menu bar.
2. Pressing Command + Space on your keyboard.
3. Pressing the dedicated function key on the keyboard (if available). 
The most common reason the search feature is not working on Finder is problems with indexing. Your system’s current index of all your files may have gotten corrupted, which makes it difficult for Finder to find what you’re looking for. 
Spotlight Search reindexes your system after an update to account for new files and apps. If you’ve just updated your Mac, Spotlight may not work correctly for a few hours while indexing is in process. 
1. Open Activity Monitor on your Mac.
2. Now, access the CPU tab.
3. Click the ProcessName column to sort processes alphabetically.
4. Find “mdworker” from the list.
5. If the process is using CPU resources, Spotlight is indexing.
Depending on your system, Spotlight indexing can take several hours or up to 2 days if you have large files on your Mac. Indexing can also take longer than usual if you have external drives connected to your Mac. 

If this guide helped you, please share it.

Author

  • John Sixto

    John is a staff writer at Saint and comes from a SAP ABAP development background. He has a Bachelors in IT and has been writing since 2018, with over 500 posts published. He loves to build PCs and has a deep curiosity in understanding how different components and configurations work. John spends hundreds of hours at a time, researching and testing the software and apps, before he proceeds to write about it. LinkedIn X (Twitter)

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