I recently (two days ago) updated to El Capitan on my work machine (15" MBP, Mid 2015, 2.5 GHz Core i7, 16GB ram, R9 M370X, 500GB SSD) and ever since then, Spotlight has been draining my battery and causing the fans to spin like it's about to take off from my desk. My battery life has gone from about 6-7 projected hours pre-update to only 3 until it's completely drained.

Here's a picture of Activity Monitor:
http://i.imgur.com/BY0MLl7.png and CPU:

           enter image description here

I initially thought that Spotlight was simply indexing and using high amounts of energy in the process, but 1. it shouldn't be indexing for almost three full days (I don't have very much data stored on the disk at all) 2. the process for indexing is usually called 'mdutil' rather than the actual 'Spotlight' process and 3. Spotlight would usually display a progress bar when it's actually indexing.

I've rebooted multiple times, tried force quitting the Spotlight process (but it just turns back on and uses the same energy) and tried turning mdutil on and off and forcing reindexing (to no effect, most likely because indexing is not the root issue?).

Does anyone know what might be causing this issue?

I updated to El Capitan on my personal Mac way back when it first came out last fall and I never had this issue. Nor do any of the coworkers I've talked to now.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • What search results are enable and disabled in System Preferences > Spotlight? You might want to try unchecking all the Search Results checkboxes and see if the CPU usage goes down. Then check each category one by one (Applications, Bing Web Searches, etc,) to see if any one of them (or a combo) causes the CPU to pike again.
    – IconDaemon
    Apr 21, 2016 at 16:33
  • 1
    After unchecking all of the checkboxes, CPU and energy usage unfortunately doesn't go down at all - it's still consistent with what i've been seeing the last few days (over 50-150 varying energy impact). So it might be that this problem is not tied to what Spotlight is indexing but rather there's something wrong with Spotlight itself?
    – alexjwong
    Apr 21, 2016 at 16:51
  • Did you reboot?
    – IconDaemon
    Apr 21, 2016 at 17:50
  • Many, many times. I've contacted Apple Support now, tried everything that might have some impact, and nothing works. Their final advice is to reinstall OS X. I'll try that and if it resolves the problem, i'll note that here.
    – alexjwong
    Apr 21, 2016 at 18:15
  • I meant a reboot after making the checkbox changes. I feel your pain. I recently had a similar problem where three processes sucked up all the CPU, fans blazing away, and I traced it to ... wait for it ... the USB connection to the UPS. I unplugged/replugged and the problem went away. I hope your solution is as simple.
    – IconDaemon
    Apr 21, 2016 at 18:18

3 Answers 3


In my case, the Spotlight process seemed to have something to do with the iOS Simulator, which I had left open. Closing the iOS simulator resolved the issue immediately.

  • I had the same issue, what could be wrong with iOS Simulator?
    – makkuzu
    Dec 14, 2021 at 12:33
  • I'm seeing this too. In my case, Xcode was pounding the CPU, then Spotlight immediately follows. Are they competing?
    – Marcy
    Mar 6, 2022 at 0:13

It turns out my problem is related to a bug in versions 9.9 and 9.91 of JAMF (enterprise management software) as described here: https://jamfnation.jamfsoftware.com/discussion.html?id=19626
It's unclear as to whether it's directly related to El Capitan or if it affects all versions of OS X.

As far as I know, this bug in JAMF has not been resolved yet but I have found a workaround that alleviates the high CPU usage by spotlight:

For reference, the steps I did to resolve was:

-remove all Spotlight.plist files in /Library/Manged Preferences/
-kill the actual spotlight process (it restarts automatically)

sudo rm -f /Library/Managed\ Preferences/<username>/com.apple.Spotlight.plist
sudo rm -f /Library/Managed\ Preferences/com.apple.Spotlight.plist
sudo killall Spotlight

Note that there may be more Spotlight.plist files than I have explicitly pointed out - delete all of them.

This will not work for you if the problem does not stem from JAMF!

CPU and energy usage should go back to normal at this point. As far as I know, this is still a temporary fix and the problem would come back upon reboot, upon which you would have to reapply this fix.


Haven't figured out a fix for spotlight but found a solution to disable spotlight and alleviate the CPU burn.

$ launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.Spotlight.plist

(courtesy of a coworker)

  • 1
    This doesn't address the OP's question, it just indicates how to disable Spotlight. The OP is looking for info on what might be causing Spotlight to use so much memory and CPU.
    – fsb
    Apr 29, 2016 at 16:18
  • 1
    Thank you for this. Even though this doesn't solve the root problem, it keeps my fan from spinning like crazy. And I am able to use Alfred as a Spotlight replacement until this situation gets resolved.
    – jonescb
    Apr 29, 2016 at 19:59

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