Spotlight is one of the ultra-great things about Macs, I run Windows7 as well, and Windows search is completely useless in comparison. Takes forever, never seems to find what you want and generally seems redundant. Spotlight by comparison, with its predictive typeaheads and lightening speed almost invariably locates what I'm after.
However Mac Spotlight search was starting to piss me off yesterday, I was searching in my Mac Mail for a keyword and no results were returned. I tried a few combinations, then realised it was nothing to do with my keywords, I simply wasn't seeing any search results at all.
The text search in Mac Mail is powered by Spotlight, so I tried the same keywords in my Spotlight search box – no results. So I experimented some more and deliberately gave Spotlight keywords of files on my Desktop. Again no results.
Yet for some keywords I WAS seeing results come back – and I finally twigged, they were all files from my external hard drive where I archive things I'm not currently working on.
It became apparent that Spotlight was not returning any search results at all from my local hard drive.
I hunted online. All of the available advice was that the Spotlight index file for the drive needed to be deleted, then Spotlight would be forced to re-index. Also, as a precaution, many people suggest running Disk Utility and doing a permissions repair – which I did, although that by itself did not kick Spotlight into action.
So, if you are happy using Terminal, here's what I found worked for me. Please bear in mind I'm using OSX Lion 10.7.2, I don't know if the location and file name for the Spotlight index is the same on other releases.
In terminal make yourself super user:
david-eedles-macbook-pro-4:~ davideedle$ sudo -s
You should be at the bash prompt.
Change to the directory where the index is located (don't forget to escape the spaces):
cd /volumes/Macintosh\ HD/.Spotlight-V100/
Note your HDD might have a different name. Mine is 'Macintosh HD'.
Now kill the file:
rm -rf Store-V1
I rebooted, and Spotlight started to index the drive. This morning my searches are absolutely fine. I have no idea why Spotlight decided to forget there was a drive inside my MacBook Pro and only index the external drive.
If you want to locate the file in Finder you'll need to turn on showing hidden files. I use the handy TinkerTool for tasks like this.