I try to exclude my TimeMachine-backup-storage from being indexed by spotlight and got some weird behaviour. The backup storage is a Time Capsule.

To exclude it, i did the following in terminal:

sudo mdutil -i off /Volumes/Time\ Machine\ Backups

Output was:

/Volumes/Time Machine Backups: 
2016-04-25 11:05:25.036 mdutil[2896:441987] mdutil disabling Spotlight: /Volumes/Time Machine Backups -> kMDConfigSearchLevelFSSearchOnly   
     Indexing and searching disabled.

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Seems pretty fine. But when switching spotlight-indexing from on to off, the following lines will be printed out indicating, that the Time Machine subfolder for my machine will still be enabled for being indexed:

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(The spoton-command is an alias for "sudo mdutil -a -i on")

However, i tried to exclude also explicitly the subfolder "Backups.backupdb":

sudo mdutil -i off /Volumes/Time\ Machine\ Backups/Backups.backupdb

The weird output is:

$ sudo mdutil -i off /Volumes/Time\ Machine\ Backups/Backups.backupdb
/Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb:
2016-04-25 11:05:28.815 mdutil[2914:442054] mdutil disabling Spotlight: /Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb -> kMDConfigSearchLevelFSSearchOnly
    Indexing enabled. 

Please note: "Indexing enabled".

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In preferences pane of Spotlight one can see, that the Time Machine Drive is excluded as expected:

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My Questions:

Is the output just a "wrong" output since the parent folder is disabled for spotlight? Or is the spotlight index essentially for TimeMachine to work properly? And if both questions will be answered with "No", how to finally stop spotlight from index my time machine backups?

  • I just added the disk I use for Time Machine backups to the Privacy tab of Spotlight in System Preferences and received the following message "“Backup” is a Time Machine backup disk. Spotlight will continue to search Time Machine backups but will not search other items on the disk.", so it appears indexing may be a Time Machine requirement. Although with the disk removed from the Privacy tab and the Index rebuilt, it doesn't list anything in the Backups.backupdb folder when I search. However it does find other things on the disk that are not a part of Time Machine backups. Go figure!? :) Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 13:37

1 Answer 1


According to Apple, at https://web.archive.org/web/20180101183140/https://support.apple.com/kb/PH21902?locale=en_US

If you add a Time Machine backup disk to the privacy list, you will continue to see messages that Spotlight is indexing your backup disk. This indexing is necessary for Time Machine to function properly and can’t be disabled. Spotlight does exclude from searches any items you store on your backup disk that are not part of a Time Machine backup.

  • Link is now broken, and could not find an equivalent fur current releases.
    – FGM
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 6:21
  • The link works for me. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 17:32

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