On Windows - since Vista onwards - I'm used to an extremely powerfully configurable instant file/folder/setting search feature: namely its instant indexed Start Menu search. Having a powerful computer, I add every single file and folder to the index so that any little file or folder I'm after (including both file name and extension), is immediately, instantly searchable right from the Start Menu.

It looks like Spotlight is OS X's equivalent of this.

Is there a way I can achieve the same thing, to index every single file on the hard drive, in OS X? So far I see no in-built way to add custom/system folders (or indeed all folders) on the Mac outside the ones it offers, like on this screenshot:

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If there's no in-built solution such as a set of Terminal instructions, is there a good third party solution for this? (As always, free options are more desirable than paid.)


Unfortunately, no, you can't add custom paths to Spotlight.

I use and recommend Alfred, which lets you set a custom Search Scope:

Search Scope

You can search normally just by typing, or press space (which inserts a ' — the operator for a File Search) then type to search all paths:

File Search

  • Thank you for this, my concern with Alfred is that I'm reading on their own website, 'Alfred uses the same metadata index as Spotlight', any comment on this? – user46942 Jan 19 '14 at 10:57
  • @foregon Spotlight has indexed everything — it just decides what to hide from searches, and you can't change that. It's a bit different to Windows, where your user account is indexed and nothing more unless you tell it so. Spotlight will index everything, then hide many things from search results in the Spotlight menu bar item, so as to not clutter it with stuff that it thinks is useless to the average user. You can search everything using Finder or mdfind, or apps like Alfred. – grg Jan 19 '14 at 10:58
  • Interesting, so you're saying Alfred will or can actually reveal more (in fact all) files on the mac HDD, as opposed to Spotlight's default results? edit: ah you expanded your answer, thanks! – user46942 Jan 19 '14 at 11:00
  • @foregon Almost all, yes — obviously you're still limited by lack of permissions, etc. Even external drives are indexed by Spotlight and then searchable through Alfred if you add the drive to the search scope, as you can see I've done in the screenshot above. – grg Jan 19 '14 at 11:01

I can recommend EasyFind and Find Any File (of which I'm the author, incidentally). Both search for file names on entire disks.

They search even in places where Spotlight never looks (e.g. in the System and Library folders).

In case of Find Any File, you can even easily search as root user, so that it even finds files usually not accessible to you. FAF also lets you save a set of preferred paths, either as a default or as a "search" document that you can open as a pre-configured search configuration.

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