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Fix a Slow Spotlight on Your Mac

I updated my 2018 Mac mini to macOS Big Sur, and then Spotlight’s performance tanked. If you’re in the same boat I was, here is your answer.

Attached to my Mac is an external drive that I use for Time Machine backups. When this drive is attached, Spotlight slogs through most of my inquiries, especially inquiries for definitions and weather. I would wait 10 to 15 seconds for Spotlight to render its answers. When I ejected that external drive, then Spotlight returned to its spry self with nearly instant responses.

So the Time Machine drive is the culprit, but we still need backups.

Thankfully, the fix is fairly simple. Just prevent Spotlight from looking at the Time Machine drive.

  1. Go to System Preferences/Spotlight.
  2. Click the Privacy tab.
  3. Click the + button.
  4. Navigate to the Time Machine drive and select it.
    (Be sure to select the top-level drive and not any of its folders or subfolders.)
  5. Click Choose.

macOS will reindex briefly, and then Spotlight performance should be significantly improved.

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