spotlight wont search time machine backup

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by dogbone66, Apr 17, 2013.

  1. macrumors member

    Sep 1, 2011
    So my understanding is spotlight doesn't index time machine backups. Time machine is how I have been backing up my computers for the last few years, so how do I search an older (previous) time machine backup external hard drive if spotlight doesn't do that? Or, is there a way to get spotlight to index an older time machine backup HD? (older meaning it's not my current time machine backup, it was a previous TM backup.) I need to somehow convince spotlight that this HD is not a time machine backup anymore, how do I do that?

  2. macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    The default behavior is for Spotlight to automatically index drives when they are attached, including TM backups. If it fails to do so automatically, you can try manually starting the re-indexing of any drive:
    If that fails to index, enter the following command in Terminal:
    sudo mdutil -i on "/Volumes/your drive name"​
  3. macrumors 603


    I do not have TimeMachine but I do know it creates a sparse Bundle Dis Image on the HD, if this is the case what happens if you open it, if it mounts it might trigger a spotlight index.
    Just give it a try, it's easy to try out.
  4. dogbone66, Apr 17, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2013

    thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 1, 2011
    Ok so, following the directions for spotlight here is the dialog box that popped up.

    "“Macintosh HD” is a Time Machine backup folder. You cannot add it to the privacy list."

    then when typing what you suggested into the terminal here is the text that followed, just wanted to make sure I was doing it correctly before risking losing data.

    "cpe-76-173-50-84:~ davidcrockett$ sudo mdutil -i on "/Volumes/Megasaurous"

    WARNING: Improper use of the sudo command could lead to data loss
    or the deletion of important system files. Please double-check your
    typing when using sudo. Type "man sudo" for more information.

    To proceed, enter your password, or type Ctrl-C to abort.


    Justperry, I have no idea what you're talking about. :)
  5. macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    The command is correct. The "man" part of it will give you details in a help file format of what the command does, typical safe usage of it etc. This holds true of most "sudo" command line instruction sets.
  6. macrumors 603


    Bold, forget it:p

    As for the warning, when you first use the sudo command it will warn you, sudo gives you root access and can potentially be "dangerous for the system, in this case you can go ahead, it is safe to use that command.
  7. thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 1, 2011
    Ok thanks everyone, so I followed the instruction with the Terminal, the reply was /Volumes/Megasaurous:
    Indexing enabled.

    but spotlight isn't indexing the HD. So indexing is enabled, how do I start it?
  8. thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 1, 2011
    Ok, so I dragged the volume to the spotlight preferences, privacy window and then removed it. Those are the instructions to get Spotlight to "re-index" a hard drive. it works on other back up hard drives, but not on this time machine backup hard drive. I get a drop down box that says "indexing my hard drive, estimating time," and then it stops. With my other hard drives in the spotlight drop down window there is progression bar and a time given how long remaining to index the drive, however with the time machine backup drive, nothing. It's not indexing it. I've read other forums where people have said that spotlight doesn't work with time machine hard drives, maybe it simply doesn't?
  9. macrumors 68020

    Jun 15, 2012
    What, exactly, are you trying to achieve? What is your bigger goal?
    Are you trying to locate a particular file somewhere on your existing TM archive, or is this a former TM archive that is no longer in use?
    Spotlight DOES index TM backups -- the two are pretty inseparable, but it doesn't normally display the results in Spotlight searches.
  10. thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 1, 2011
    This is not my current time machine backup, it's a former time machine backup. Once it was full, I bought a new external HD, made that my current time machine backup. So this previous, or older time machine backup has thousands of my older files that I still need access to, and I cant search it. At the time it never occurred to me that an older time machine hard drive cant be indexed by spotlight. What do most people do when their hard drives and time machine hard drives become full? I have an iMac, not a mac pro, so I cant put in a new hard drive when my hard drive is full.
  11. macrumors 68020

    Jun 15, 2012
    You can move TM backups to larger drives. There are a number of webpages that will show you how. However, if you've already started a new backup, it might be too late for that.

    If Spotlight won't help, then you could try the Terminal shell command "find" (though this may take some time to trawl through large data sets). Or use some other product like EasyFind.

    Even so: how often do you need to search your old backup for files whose location you don't know? Why do you need access to "thousands of files"? These are older versions of files that you have on your internal drive, right?
  12. macrumors 603


    You should have used Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the old hard disk to the new one, if you went this way it would have worked, now you are stuck with two separate TimeMachines which is a pain in the behind.
  13. macrumors 68020

    Jun 15, 2012
    Or Disk Utility.

    While CCC does have merits, it gets pitched here quite a lot, considering it is a paid-for product**, when Disk Utility, an Apple app which comes with every Mac, will do fine for many purposes.

    ** Yes, with a free trial period; and there are earlier (but presumable now unsupported) free versions.
  14. macrumors 603


    Yeah, forgot about that.:eek:
  15. thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 1, 2011
    I'm a photographer, so I still need to access all my older images, and no, this is my only copy because once my hard drive was full, and everything mirrored on my time machine drive, I emptied the HD on my computer and started a new time machine backup on a new drive, thinking i could just search the old time machine backup with spotlight. So in hind site, using the new drive as a new time machine backup was the mistake, I should have moved all the files over to that drive, and continued to use the same drive for the time machine backup. I think I have enough free space to just temporarily move all pertinent files to my computers hd, and the new time machine backup, then reformat the older drive and move the files back to that drive, if that makes sense. Anyway, thanks everyone for your help, greatly appreciated.

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