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Since I upgraded to macOS Catalina this weak, the following features of Apple Mail no longer work:

  • Search
  • Flagged Mail
  • Smart Mailboxes

I have tried reindexing everything using Spotlight and also rebuilding the mailboxes, but neither of these things works. What can I do? This seems like a real mess-up by Apple.

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4 Answers 4

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corespotlightd may be causing this.

Starting with macOS Catalina (10.15), Apple moved the indexing of Mail messages files from traditional Spotlight to a daemon called corespotlightd. Unfortunately, it looks like that this piece of software has some bugs that lead to

  • Mail search delivering incomplete results
  • Mail search not working any more at all
  • Mail not finding tagged emails any more
  • Smart mailboxes not working any more

I've had severe problems like this from occasionally to frequently even still in the current macOS Monterey 12.4 when I finally identified corespotlightd being the bad guy.

There is a simple check if corespotlightd is causing your problem, and that's also how to fix it:

  1. open Activity Monitor

  2. search for the process called corespotlightd

  3. Terminate it Terminate corespotlightd using the X symbol

  4. When asked Do you really want to quit "corespotlightd"?, you must answer Force Quit, because a simple Quit won't actually terminate the daemon enter image description here

The corespotligthd daemon will automatically be restarted, and Mail search should work again instantly without the need to restart the Mail app.

Of course, this is not a permanent fix. The problem can (and probably will) re-occur until Apple finally fixes it.

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  • I'm still having this issue with Monterey 12.6.8
    – tim.rohrer
    Aug 21, 2023 at 23:43
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    @tim.rohrer I can confirm that, but it’s as good as gone in Ventura (haven’t had the issue for a long while now).
    – not2savvy
    Aug 22, 2023 at 12:41
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In such events where a problem arises due to multiple reasons, answers look like troubleshoot efforts. Cleaning up the comments, here's what I did on Mojave for an IMAP account:

    • Back up the relevant folder under ~/Library/Mail/ and then delete the original folder associated with the troubling account.
    • Hide the ~/Library/Mail/ from Spotlight index using Spotlight Preferences -> Privacy and revealing hidden folders in Finder layover.

    Spotlight Privacy Folder Selection

    • Restart Mail and wait for all the mails to get downloaded. And remove the said folder from Privacy in Spotlight Preferences. Let the indexing be complete. If anything breaks, use the backup folder.
    • Do step one(backup) of above and take screenshots of Mail Preferences in case account specific settings like "rules" break down.

    • In Internet Accounts in System Preferences, remove the account. Wait for some reasonable time, and add it back.

    • Again if anything breaks(as OP says, smart mailboxes, not for me), replace the new folder under ~/Library/Mail/V6 with the backed up one.

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  • Thanks for posting these steps. Good for anyone who comes across this question. (I presume you weren't the one who downvoted my brief answer?)
    – Noldorin
    Oct 20, 2019 at 14:26
  • No I didn’t. it came when I wrote my answer. We see answers recommending updates all the time. There, nullified it. I thought of doing so when I saw it, but waited for some comment from voter.
    – anki
    Oct 20, 2019 at 14:42
  • No problem, I didn't think so. Anyway I will edit my answer to say I tried the steps mentioned in yours... not sure which to accept yet. Of course, my answer solved it, but yours is probably the more helpful to other people visiting! (Up-voted yours regardless.)
    – Noldorin
    Oct 20, 2019 at 14:57
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Annoyingly, this seems to have been a problem with the initial release of macOS Catalina that disappeared when I installed the just-released Catalina update and rebooted. I tried all the steps mentioned in @ankii's answer (some of which were formerly in the comments), and unfortunately they didn't work, although evidently they have worked for many people in the past for problems very similar to this. Perhaps Apple quietly fixed this issue with the latest Catalina update, or it was a combination of the update and some of the previously-attempted steps.

Hopefully between these two answers, others who come across this question should find their solution!

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I recently had the same problem on Ventura (13.3.1) and tried a lot of thing: restarting corespotlightd, re-indexing, safe mode and a lot of other things but nothing worked. However, once I renamed (or deleted) the folder ~/Library/Metadata, a lot of things worked again, like:

  • smart mailboxes
  • search in notes
  • search function in system preferences
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  • Thanks, I'll give that a go
    – Noldorin
    May 8, 2023 at 16:54

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