I know for a fact that a file named 1A0CFDAF-E43B-49E1-AC88-CD8CC9146947.jpeg exists in my photo library originals/ subdirectory. But searching for 1A0CFDAF-E43B-49E1-AC88-CD8CC9146947.jpeg using Spotlight returns no results.

This is the kind of thing I look for, because if it were obvious I'd already know where it is. I want to have confidence spotlight is searching everything, so that when I get "no result" I know that means "the file does not exist on your hard drive."

Is there a way to expand Spotlight's search domain so that it literally indexes my whole drive and finds any and every file, like it really kind of should?

  • 1
    Can I just ask how you know for a fact...? Catalina converts your pictures library and replaces the filename with a long UUID alphanumeric string. Your filename does not reflect this. In Catalina the original filename is moved into the file's attributes. Searching for a UUID string (the actual file's name) within my photo library gets a result, as long as "System files are included" in the Spotlight search.
    – Redarm
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 13:08
  • 2
    You can expand the areas Finder searches look in by including Invisible and System files using this method: osxdaily.com/2014/01/30/search-system-files-included-mac-os-x (that shows how to search for System files; Invisible files follows the same procedure, just choose that option).
    – Calion
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 21:58

2 Answers 2


Spotlight doesn't search hidden & system areas at all, by design.

The simplest way to get around this is to use something like EasyFind (freeware) instead. You might need to allow it access to Photos Library, in Privacy and Security preferences.

It doesn't index, so it's slower than Spotlight, but it will find anything, anywhere.

  • 1
    Does EasyFind search for the files' attributes?
    – Redarm
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 13:28
  • 2
    Thanks! Good idea. I can also use the "find" command in Terminal to do a slow search of everything each time, but the point of Spotlight is supposed to be that it makes searches fast. I guess you can either have fast or complete but not both... this is a bad design in my opinion.
    – Rich
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 15:14

There are two things that may cause this issue.

  1. Some locations / folders are excluded as mentioned by Tetsujin's answer. In addition to that answer, check your System Preferences > Spotlight and see if the file in question is not excluded in the tabs Search Results and Privacy.

  2. In my experience the Spotlight index goes bad relatively often for some reason. Try rebuilding it using one of these methods:

    a. Use an app like Onyx

    b. Follow the method recommended by Apple

    c. Issue the following commands in the terminal (most thorough method, only for experienced users):

    mdutil -i off /
    sudo rm -rf /.Spotlight-V100
    sudo rm -rf /.Spotlight-V200
    mdutil -i on /
    mdutil -E /
  • 3
    If you go to Photos Library.photoslibrary and right click → Show package contents, you'll find a lot of files which are not indexed by default. Anything that needs "Show package contents", is excluded from Spotlight.
    – anki
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 12:19
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    @ankii Just to reiterate: searching for a filename in my Photos library does yield a result, as long as "System files are inlcuded" has been selected in the Spotlight search.
    – Redarm
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 13:44
  • @Redarm something changed in Catalina, Mojave here? I cannot find files in say deep in "masters" using spotlight. I have all checkboxes checked in Sys pref. I used Finder's attributes settings to include system files too, no effect. regarding your comment above, I searched for actual file name, let me check UUID. \\ never mind, I cannot see any UUID looking file under photoslibrary package.
    – anki
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 13:51
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    @ankii "Masters" is deprecated. It's now called "Originals" as in Rich's original post. To be sure I opened an older library with "Masters" folder and found it removed after the Photos conversion. All the original filenames were replaced by UUID filenames and manually searching for one and running xattr -l on the files shows the following attributes: com.apple.assetsd.originalFilename: with the original filename and com.apple.assetsd.publicGlobalUUID: with the UUID actual filename, as attributes. Searching for one of those UUID filenames yields results.
    – Redarm
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 14:07
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    @Rich use Finder and update search criteria. apple.stackexchange.com/a/108969/313842
    – anki
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 15:19

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