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May 12, 2009

How To FULLY Disable Spotlight in Leopard

Warning: This is changing system settings that may or may not be attached to other tools. After an extensive search on the internet, one of these tools affected by the following steps is TimeMachine / TimeCapsule. If you are using them, I would not follow these steps. Rule of thumb: if you think it will mess up your system and you don’t want to worry about that, don’t do it.

Quick way

Disable:

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist
sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.Spotlight.plist

re-enable:

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.Spotlight.plist

Explanation

Stop and disable the background server:

Kill the Daemon:
sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist
Re-enable the Daemon:
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist

Stop and disable the spotlight application itself:

Kill the Agent:
sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.Spotlight.plist
Re-enable the Agent:
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.Spotlight.plist

You may get an error on the last command; just ignore it.

What it does

We stop the process from running and tell the system to fully disable it.

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist

Now we need to stop the agent for the user and everyone else.

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.Spotlight.plist

The re-enable Spotlight back again:

If you need to re-enable the process, you can run the following line.

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist

The following line re-enable the Spotlight agent.

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.Spotlight.plist

The reason you get the error is that you are effectively executing the command as root, but the root user hasn’t any running instance of Spotlight. On the other hand, only the root user is able to disable the automatic start of Spotlight. Thus the need for the sudo command.

Done!

There’s no need to reboot your computer after following these steps.