I have a user I've been trying to help that had used Time Machine to restore some folders and files from an older Mac onto MacOS Sierra. When I initially saw this user's system, he had the classic issue of a privilege for a user that was just saying "Loading..."

But then, a week later, after Apple ran some diagnostics, I took a look and NOW that user showed up as _spotlight, set to Read Only. For example, the image below shows the privileges for a folder our application creates in the user's Documents folder:

Screenshot of privileges

I've never seen _spotlight, but I assume this must have the same user ID as whatever user he tried to restore from his other Mac's Time Machine backup?

I realize in this particular case, the older "repair permissions" would;t have affected our app's folder, but since Apple's removed Repair Permissions from Disk Utility, I'm guessing they believe there's no longer any likelihood of permissions issues?

Has anyone ever seen _spotlight show up like this? Seems benign, but removing it would also seem harmless, too.

1 Answer 1


Check the folder with ls -le /Users/<user_name>/Documents/<folder_name> and you will see that _spotlight just indicates an ACL. The real owner:group is root:staff. Adding an ACL for the user _spotlight is sometimes necessary to allow (or disallow) the indexing of a folder for the Spotlight search database.

Depending on your system version you may get a similar result checking the /Applications folder:

ls -dle /Applications
drwxrwxr-x+ 84 root  admin  - 2856 23 Jan 20:34 /Applications
 0: group:everyone deny delete
 1: user:_spotlight inherited allow list,search,file_inherit,directory_inherit

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