Better than rm -rf /.Spotlight-V100

My MacBook Pro (10.9.2) was running slowly. I saw frequent spinning beach balls, systemstats was consuming 100% of the CPU on a regular basis, Apple Mail was grinding away indexing files, etc.

The forums at discussions.apple.com contain all kinds of dicey recommendations about rm -rf /.Spotlight-V100 followed by “Works for me!” and “Didn’t work for me!” I’m not averse to wading in with Terminal, but I’d rather get advice from a trusted source.

One of the advantages of having AppleCare (you get it for 90 days after you’ve upgraded to a new OS, such as Mavericks) is that you can call 800-275-2273 and speak to a knowledgeable person. They recommended that I do three things:

  • Boot into safe mode, and let the computer perform a thorough disk and permissions check. (See the Apple “What is Safe Boot, Safe Mode?” article for more info.)

  • Force Spotlight to blow away and rebuild its index.

  • Then let Apple Mail re-index.

To do this:

  1. Boot into Safe Boot mode. Restart your computer and hold down Shift until you see the Apple and the progress bar that indicates that the hard drive is being checked/repaired. When the OS starts up (probably many minutes later), you’ll see “Safe Mode” in red text at the upper right corner of the screen. Restart your computer.

  2. To force Spotlight to rebuild its index, simply open System Preferences, click Spotlight, then the Privacy tab. Add your hard drive (hit the “+” and select the hard drive). Then close System Preferences. Re-open System Preferences, and remove the hard drive from the Privacy tab. This is the cue for Spotlight to begin re-indexing. In a moment, you can click on the Spotlight magnifying glass to see that it’s rebuilding the index. (Rebuilding took about three hours on my system.)

  3. Leave Apple Mail closed during all this. (You don’t want to have them both indexing at the same time – it hammers the processor and prolongs the agony.) When Spotlight finishes its indexing, open Apple Mail to allow it to re-index its cached files. You can continue to work in Apple Mail while this happens.

My system has been much more responsive since I did this, and I didn’t have to try any odd suggestions.

Leave a Reply