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When I create new Dropbox folders, Spotlight does not see them. When does Spotlight index new folders? Or better yet, can I force Spotlight to index new folders?

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3 Answers 3

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From Apple Support: How to rebuild the Spotlight index on your Mac

  1. Choose Apple menu () > System Preferences, then click Spotlight.
  2. Click the Privacy tab.
  3. Drag the folder or disk that you want to index again to the list of locations that Spotlight is prevented from searching. Or click the Add (+) button and select the folder or disk to add.
    To add an item to the Privacy tab, you must have ownership permissions for that item. To learn about permissions, choose Help from the Finder menu bar, then search for “permissions.”
  4. From the same list of locations, select the folder or disk that you just added. Then click the Remove (–) button to remove it from the list.
  5. Quit System Preferences. Spotlight will reindex the contents of the folder or disk.

Note: Apple Support Document Update: Published Date: Nov 14, 2016 See edit history of this answer to see a previous version of this information.


Note: Dropbox specific information as an addendum to the Apple Support directions.

The above directions are the written ones from Apple Support however with an object like Dropbox on the Sidebar in Finder do not drag and drop it from there, instead either add it to the Privacy tab using the plus ("+") button or drag and drop it from your Home folder. Then remove it using the minus ("-") button.

If Dropbox was removed from the Sidebar in it can be dragged back from one's Home folder.

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  • Hmm that resulted in a poofy cloud and now i do not see dropbox at all
    – derelict
    Jul 2, 2015 at 19:47
  • No, it never showed up on the privacy tab.
    – derelict
    Jul 2, 2015 at 19:52
  • @SoilSciGuy, See the added note to my original answer. Jul 2, 2015 at 20:17
  • I dragged the DB folder from finder to the privacy tab, which is why it was removed from finder. I should have just used the plus button. Thanks.
    – derelict
    Jul 2, 2015 at 20:49
  • Updated instructions at the Apple link say to Quit System Preferences, perhaps that's what they meant, but it wasn't clear. Sep 9, 2017 at 17:35
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There are two ways to force indexing on a folder/directory:

mdimport If the directory is new and has not been indexed before (or even if it resides within a directory structure that has previously been excluded from indexing), mdimport is your tool of choice: From a terminal window, type mdimport /path/to/directory to get indexing started. Possible error messages related to missing or outdated importers for file types found within that path will splatter into your view.

mdutil To force re-indexing on a previously indexed folder, run mdutil -E on it as root user. If indexing for a higher level folder (or the entire volue) has been switched of by the user, mdutil will complain (unknown indexing state in a subfolder, or Indexing and searching disabled. at the node where the block starts) and refuse indexing. In that case activate indexing for the subtree desired from a user perspective with mdimport as described above.

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I was also having trouble with indexing when I installed Dropbox. Here is what I recommend.

  1. Don't use Spotlight for file/folder searches. Use Alfred.

  2. Install Alfred. Go to Alfred Preferences. Go to Features --> Default Results. In Search Scope, add the folders you want to be indexed.

  3. Then within Alfred Preferences, go to Advanced -> File/Apps -> Rebuild macOS Metadata --> Delete .Spotlight-V100 Folder and then proceed with the steps that are presented. This YouTube video guides the user through all this.

If you don't find some of the above options, you may need to purchase the Powerpack feature of Alfred from here. After all this, your indexed files should start showing up in Alfred and Spotlight searches.

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  • We prefer answers which answer directly, without sending people offsite with links which may break in the future, making the answer useless. Can you please summarize the steps required directly in your answer here? This will also reduce the risk of getting downvoted because the answer currently seems mainly to exist to increase the view count of your video.
    – nohillside
    Feb 24, 2023 at 17:15
  • Also, Alfred uses the same index as Spotlight, so can you elaborate how a 3rd party tool can improve Spotlight results?
    – nohillside
    Feb 24, 2023 at 17:18
  • Since Alfred indexing method worked for me, whereas Spotlight indexing did not (in the context of Dropbox folder), clearly the two methods are not totally equivalent. I don't know the inner mechanism behind this. Feb 24, 2023 at 18:19
  • You most likely can leave out the middle man (Alfred) by adding the Dropbox folder directly in the Privacy setting.
    – nohillside
    Feb 25, 2023 at 18:09

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