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How to disable spotlight indexing on Mac OSX

Spotlight is a useful Mac app for launching apps, finding files and other stuff on your computer, and a whole bunch of other nifty little things. Since upgrading to Lion I’ve been finding it doing some serious CPU hogging for long periods of time while it updates its index, and because I use very few of the features I decided to switch Spotlight’s indexing off.

How to switch off Spotlight indexing

Open up a Terminal window and copy and paste this:

sudo mdutil -i off

How to subseqently enable Spotlight indexing

If you want to allow Spotlight to index your files again, copy and paste this:

sudo mdutil -i on

It may take some time to index so best to do this when you don’t need to use your Mac for a while.

Why switch off Spotlight indexing?

As mentioned at the start of this post, the CPU hogging was starting to get pretty annoying and I really only use Spotlight for launching apps. It’s great being able to Command+Space and start typing in the app name and hit return when it’s found what I want.

When to not switch off Spotlight indexing

There are a bunch of 3rd party apps out there that offer "better" features than Spotlight, but some of them actually use Spotlight’s index. If you use a third party alternative to Spotlight then check to see if it has its own index or if it uses Spotlight’s. If it uses Spotlight’s then you probably don’t want to disable indexing.

How to launch apps now?

I find being able to Command+Space and start typing in the name of the app then hitting return a lot faster than any of Apple’s methods for launching an app, including the iOS-like Launchpad. (Well, I do use the Dock to lauch apps, but I don’t really like to clutter it up with too many copies of web browsers).

I am now using Launchy, an open source launcher which does exactly what I want: just launch apps.

Alternatives to Spotlight

Here’s some alternatives to Spotlight I have found. Some are full replacements for Spotlight and others are more like Launchy and have a more limited featureset.

Add any others you know of to the comments below. Please note that comments containing URLs are not published immediately and I need to manually moderate them but will do so as soon as I can.

How to remove the Spotlight icon from the menu area

Althought Spotlight indexing has now been disabled, the icon still appears in the menu bar area.