Finder Search Not Working? Here’s How To Fix Finder Search FOREVER

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How To Fix Finder Search

Finder Search Not Working? Here’s How To Fix Finder Search FOREVER

This video tutorial will show you how to fix finder search & get files to show up.

We’ve all been there. You’re working on your mac, and you need to find or attach a file.

You head over to a new finder window, enter in the name of the file in the search bar and….


Crickets. Nada.

But you KNOW that the file is in there. You KNOW exactly what it’s called.

You probably even know exactly where it is! But for some reason finder isn’t finding much at all.

It turns out this is a pretty common problem. Luckily – There is a VERY easy, quick fix that will get finder search working the way it’s supposed to in about 20 seconds.

To get your files to show up in finder, all you need to do is reset the spotlight index.

It sounds confusing & complicated, but it’s actually really simple.

This video tutorial walks you through how to fix finder search & reset the spotlight index

Turns out, the reason finder doesn’t do so well at finding things is most often because of something called Indexing.

Indexing is like a treasure map Finder has to keep track of where all the different files are kept in your computer.

But because you’re constantly moving files, deleting files, making new files etc. The treasure map is always changing – And sometimes Finder loses track.

In fact, sometimes finder apparently throws up it’s hands in the air and completely gives up!

Luckily, all you have to do to fix finder search is to reset the index.

Basically you’re getting finder to make a NEW treasure map of where everything on your computer is hanging out.

Simple right?


So how do you do it?

How To Fix Finder Search

Rebuild the Spotlight index in 5 steps direct from Apple

  1. Choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Spotlight.
  2. Click the Privacy tab.
  3. Drag the disk or folder that you want to index again to the list of locations that Spotlight is prevented from searching. Or click the add button (+) and select the disk or folder to add.
    folder named "Documents" dragged into the "Prevent Spotlight from searching these locations" list in Spotlight System Preferences
    You can add an item to the Privacy tab only if you have ownership permissions for that item. To learn about permissions, choose Help from the Finder menu bar, then search for “permissions.”
  4. From the same list of locations, select the disk or folder that you just added. Then click the remove button (–) to remove it from the list.
    Spotlight System Preferences Privacy tab with add and remove button callout
  5. Quit System Preferences. Spotlight will reindex the contents of the disk or folder. This can take some time, depending on the amount of information being indexed.

It sounds too good to be true, but 99% of the time, this will fix finder search and your files will start showing up!

Having an organized computer is an extremely important part of having a photography business & efficient client workflow. Getting finder search working better will save you a LOT of time manually tracking down files.

Did this fix work for you?! Let us know in the comments below!

  1. Any ideas on how to make it work on Mac OS Ventura?

    1. ehsan

      Hey Mark! I haven’t tried it recently, but this website seems to have instructions for resetting spotlight database… Perhaps it would extend to finder as well?

      Let me know what you find!

    2. Hmm not sure why resetting finder spotlight index wouldn’t work the same on Ventura as on any other Mac OS, sorry! Did you find a solution?

  2. resa

    seems to have done the trick – thanks

    1. Awesome, glad to hear it worked!

  3. Tim

    Are you confusing Finder for Spotlight? Finder is the general windowing environment and Spotlight is a utility in that environment. I have an issue where FINDER will not show the files in my Documents folder. I can open Documents in Finder but there is no file shown. Doing ‘ls’ in Terminal shows the files are still on the disk.

    1. Nope, not confusing! While there are differences, both Finder & Spotlight use pretty much the same index. By rebuilding the index it SHOULD fix both finder AND spotlight 🙂 Give it a try – Hope it helps!

  4. Yuval

    not wrok in my mac. no such options

    1. Hmm that’s very strange! Which version of mac OS are you using? Finder and spotlight have been a core part of mac since Mac OS X Tiger in April 2005, so as far as I’m aware this should be there somewhere for you! Let me know if you track it down 🙂

  5. ID

    This worked for me. Been going a long time without a functioning finder, and now finally I’m back in business. Thanks.

    1. Sweet deal! Glad it worked and you’re back on track 🙂

  6. barb

    WOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!!! (use of caps and excessive exclamation points deliberate)

    it worked! this has been driving me CRAZY – thank you so much!

    fyi that on mine siri and spotlight are combined into one folder – you can still click the spotlight privacy section on its own but an fyi in case anyone doesn’t connect the dots.

    i’m on a 2019 macbook pro running ventura 13.4.1

    thanks again!!

    1. Amazing! So glad it solved it for you Barb!

  7. Rod

    This didn’t work for me. It’s baffling that I can get dozens of results, NONE of which have anything to do with the search. The search term is not in any of the results. So why do I get them?
    I know the document was there at one time because I have sent emails with it as an attachment. Is there any way to trace the email attachment to it’s original location?

    1. Dang! Sorry it didn’t work for you Rod. What you could try if you’ve sent as an attachment would be to go through your email archives? Another thing I’ll try when it doesn’t work: Enter just the file extension (so in finder search for “.jpg” and then sort by date.) You’ll get a LOT of results, but you can go through them and often find what it is you’re looking for!

  8. Rod

    Thanks, Ryan. Yes, I CAN retrieve the file that was sent with the email but there are other similar files that should be in the same place that don’t show up either. I don’t remember their names so I need to find the location of the original that I remember. They were not in emails so I cannot retrieve them. I suppose it’s possible they got deleted but I don’t want to think about that yet. They were pretty important and I wouldn’t delete them on purpose.
    I tried the extension search you suggested and that doesn’t work either. I am looking at a folder “Documents/Business/…”. It has several sub folders and some “.doc” files. I do a search on “.doc” and nothing shows up even though I am looking right at them in another window. I do a search on “.do” and a single “.xls” file shows up that is three subfolders deeper. Strange behavior to me.

    1. So frustrating! Sometimes putting a space in front of “.doc” does the trick (” .doc”. Perhaps give that a try? Wish I had more to offer!

  9. Deb

    Thanks! Worked for me—iMac OS Ventura 13.4.1

    1. Awesome! Glad it fixed finder for you!!!

  10. Tony Blackberry

    Worked!!!! iMac OS Ventura 13.4.1…just this little change: go to System Settings and find out Siri & Spotlight….and it works…. THANKS

    1. Awesome! Thanks for sharing that Tony!

  11. Rasto

    I was in the same situation (I also was not able to search in Mail, Notes and Settings app), I tried many things that were supposed to fix the issue including rebuilding Spotlight indexes, etc.

    The only thing that worked for me was

    1. Go to `/Users/YourFolder/Library/Metadata`
    2. Delete everything within `CoreSpotlight` folder
    3. Empty trash
    4. Restart computer
    5. Wait a few seconds

    Apple support suggested this. They are surprisingly good, call them if this does not help.

    1. Good suggestion! Thanks for sharing Rasto!

  12. Phillip Mink

    Amazing! I’ve been incredibly frustrated by search failure. Online with Apple support, and went to the store twice for help. They couldn’t figure it out. I desperately need this function for my work as a college prof, so it’s been an essential chore for some time. Finally I bumped into this video, and it works. It’s really quite astounding.

    For specs, I have a MacBook Pro running Ventura 13.5.1.


    1. YES! So glad it fixed your Finder search results for you Phillip! I shared because I figured if I was having the issue, other people must be too. Take care and thanks for sharing!

  13. Alex

    Didn’t work on Ventura 13.3.1 (a)

    1. Dang! Hope you figure something else out Alex! Thanks for sharing

  14. Judith

    This didn’t work for me. I’m using Sonoma ios. Was working just find before most recent upgrade.

    1. Shoot! Thanks for sharing Judith, I hope you figure something out!

  15. Tania

    I am having the same issue with Sonoma – was totally fine – if i log in under a co-worker it works just fine – but under my login it doesn’t

    1. So frustrating!!!! Hope you manage to find a solution. Sometimes this trick takes a couple times / a couple minutes to actually start working, so maybe that is worth a shot?

  16. Wayne

    I just today updated to Sonoma 14.1, went to search my Humble Bundle library in my iCloud account to see if I had any duplicates from a purchase I was considering, and found I wasn’t getting any hits. This rebuild trick got me searching again!


    1. Awesome! Glad it worked for you 🙂

  17. Mary Scarborough

    Thanks so much! It worked. It’s been bothering me for months!

    1. Amazing, so glad it helped you!

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