How to Customize Spotlight Searches on Your MacBook

By Mark L. Chambers

You might wonder whether such an awesome Mac OS X feature as Spotlight has its own pane within System Preferences — and you’d be right again. Click the System Preferences icon on your MacBook (look for the gears) in the Dock and then click the Spotlight icon (under Personal) to display the Spotlight pane within System Preferences.


Click the Search Results tab to

  • Determine which categories appear in the Spotlight menu and Results window. For example, if you don’t use any presentation software on your MacBook, you can clear the check box next to Presentations to disable this category (thereby making more room for other categories that you will use).

  • Determine the order that categories appear in the Spotlight menu and Results window. Drag the categories to the order in which you want them to appear in the Spotlight menu and window.

  • Specify the Spotlight menu and Spotlight Results window keyboard shortcuts. You can enable or disable either keyboard shortcut and choose the key combination from the pop-up menu.

Click the Privacy tab to specify disks and folders that should never be listed as results in a Spotlight search. The disks and folders that you add on this list won’t appear even if you are the one performing the search. (This is a great idea for folders and removable hard drives that you use to store sensitive information, such as medical records.)


To add locations that you want to keep private, click the Add button (bearing a plus sign) and navigate to the desired location. Click the location to select it and then click Choose. (Alternatively, you can drag folders or disks directly from a Finder window and drop them into the pane.)