How to fix a Mac's broken find function

Bring the shine back to Spotlight

We're taking a look at the Find and Spotlight functions in Mac OS X, which can be essential for locating files on your computer. But what do you do when that function just stops working? We'll show you how to get it running again.

Question

I recently moved all my content to a new Mac running OS X Yosemite, and everything is working great except that the Finder won't actually find anything! When I hit Command + F and run a search, most files aren't showing up, even ones that I can actually see and know should be there. How do I fix this?

Answer

When the Find command stops working properly, usually it means that the contents of your Mac need to be re-indexed. Fortunately, it's a pretty easy process.

Spotlight

If your files aren't showing up in searches, add your hard drive to this list, then remove it

Start by opening your System Preferences, then select Spotlight. Click on the privacy tab. Here you'll see any private locations that aren't going to be searched when you use the Find command or run a Spotlight search.

Though it might seem counterintuitive, drag the icon for your hard drive(s) onto the list — or, if you'd prefer, just drag over any specific folders that you think aren't being searched. Once you've done that, click the folders or hard drives you just added, then hit the minus button to remove them from the list, which will cause their contents to be re-added to the search index.

The reindexing process can potentially take a long time (several hours) depending on how many files you have, but once it's done, your searching capabilities should be restored.