I have Mac Mini with an external hard drive. The external drive is indexed with Spotlight. Whenever I use Spotlight to start an app on the local machine, the external drive spins up, because obviously Spotlight wants to check the spotlight files on the external drive for search hits. The drive makes an audible noise, and stays running for some five minutes until it idles to a stop.

Is there any way around this, apart from disabling Spotlight or disconnecting the drive? Obviously, I understand that Spotlight must access the spotlight files to check for search hits, and can't tell the difference if I want to launch an app or find a file, when I just type "Sa" for Safari.

The only cure I could think of was if the entire spotlight database was cached in memory, or was placed on the local hard drive, or if I used a different hotkey for finding files and launching apps.

  • 1
    Exactly my question! Running Big Sur and I've got this bit 8TB WD_BLACK drive that is reminding me every time! Worse is that Spotlight waits for it before showing me any results, so it's now Spotlag...
    – iJames
    Jun 27, 2022 at 16:12
  • So for Monterey or Ventura, how's it working now?
    – iJames
    Jun 27, 2022 at 16:16

3 Answers 3


Yes, this is pretty annoying behavior, especially if you have multiple hard drives connected to your Mac, and to my knowledge there is no way to prevent Spotlight from doing it.

Fortunately, most app launchers such as LaunchBar, Alfred, Butler, Quicksilver, etc. maintain cached file databases, so they don't spin up all your drives whenever you use them to launch an app or to search for a file. They also have a ton of other useful features. I personally would recommend Alfred or LaunchBar.


I didn't look into the app for a while, but what about Alfred ? I'm sure there is a way to disable indexing for the drive. (or make it spin only when actually needing a file located there)


In System Preferences and Spotlight (Privacy tab), you can configure Spotlight to prevent accessing certain drives or paths.

System Preferences, Spotlight, Privacy, Prevent Spotlight from searching these locations

  • 1
    The thing is I want to index the drive -- for when I want to play a movie or something similar. Like I wrote, when I type "Sa", Spotlight has no way of knowing if I want to launch Safari or watch "Saturday Night Fever". The solution is to launch applications from the Dock... Or have the Spotlight database in RAM/HDD so that the external drive doesn't spin up until you actually press Enter. Or maybe, only access an external drive's metadata if it's already spinning. Again, this would only apply for moving media. I realise this is a comfort (audial) issue more than anything.
    – forthrin
    Apr 27, 2018 at 15:11

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