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How to fix Spotlight stuck at indexing on macOS

Spotlight knows where all your files are. It’s what allows the feature to work as well as it does. When a new file is saved to your system, Spotlight indexes it. This is a process that occurs in the background when it’s just a few files. It doesn’t take long however, if you add lots of new files to your system you might see the ‘Indexing’ bar in Spotlight. This bar should go away when the indexing is complete however sometimes it gets stuck and the feature tends to slow down. Here’s how you can fix Spotlight stuck at indexing.

Fix Spotlight stuck at indexing

Open System Preferences and select the Spotlight preference. It has two tabs; select the Privacy tab. Click the plus button under the list of locations that are not to be indexed by Spotlight.

Select your Mac’s hard drive or SSD, whichever you have. Do not select any of its sub-folders. Select the entire drive and then click Choose. Confirm that you want to add the drive to the no-index list for Spotlight.

Once it’s been added, give it a few minutes so that Spotlight can purge the files from its index. It’s a good idea to restart your system at this point as well. Additionally, if you plan on moving a lot of files to your Mac, now’s a good time to add them.

After you boot back to your system, open the System Preferences app again and go to the Spotlight preference. Return to the Privacy tab, select your hard drive (or SSD) and click the minus button at the bottom to remove it from the exclusion list.

Once you’ve done that Spotlight will start to index all your files again. This will take time and the ‘Indexing’ bar will appear when you open Spotlight but it will eventually go away after a while when indexing is complete.

Spotlight is not immune to problems even though it is one of the better search features you will find on a desktop operating system. It does fail to index files sometimes and is unable to find anything, or it might not learn which apps to show you as the top hit. The feature is not without problems but you will find they’re easy to fix in most cases. Rarely do users have to resort to anything drastic such as resetting a Mac completely. Often, a macOS update will fix the problem so you might only have to wait for one to be available and it can fix a lot that’s wrong with your system.

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