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Computing & Information Services

Disabling Spotlight Indexing On Your Backup Drive

What is Spotlight?

Spotlight is a search feature that shipped with Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger) and above. It is a useful tool that indexes your hard drive, and lets you search it quickly and efficiently.

Search results in Spotlight are presented in such a way that it is not obvious where on your hard drive the found file is... It's easy to just double-click the appropriate file to open it.

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How does this affect my backup?

If you plug your external hard drive in to your computer, it is likely that Spotlight will begin to index the files on this drive... a very bad idea if this is your backup drive! With an indexed backup drive, multiple instances of the file you wish to open may appear in your search results. With the location of the file not shown in the search results, it's easy to mistakenly open the file on your backup, instead of on your hard drive.

Imagine opening a file with Spotlight, working for 3 hours, saving the document, and then running your backup... if you opened up the file from your backup, then *poof* it's gone, replaced by the unchanged copy you have on your computer's hard drive.

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Tell Spotlight to ignore your backup drive

To tell Spotlight to ignore your backup drive, do the following:

  1. Open your System Preferences (from the blue Apple menu).
  2. In the Personal section, click on the Spotlight icon.
  3. Click the Privacy tab.
  4. Click the '+' button, just below and to the left of the big open box in the middle of the window.
  5. In the browsing window that opens, click once on your backup drive.
  6. Click the Choose button. Now you should see your backup drive listed in the big open box.
  7. Close the preferences window, and you're done.

Now you're backup drive won't be indexed, and you'll be less likely to accidentally lose your work! Hooray!

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