How to Tweak Your MacBook’s Spotlight Settings in System Preferences - dummies

How to Tweak Your MacBook’s Spotlight Settings in System Preferences

By Mark L. Chambers

The System Preferences window on your MacBook boasts a Spotlight pane, which you can use to customize what search matches you see and how they are presented. To adjust these settings, click the System Preferences icon in the Dock (look for the Three Gears of Justice) and then click the Spotlight icon (under Personal).

Configuring the Search Results settings

Here is the Search Results tab of the Spotlight Preferences pane. From here, you can


  • Choose your categories. To disable a category (typically because you don’t use those types of files), select the check box next to the unnecessary category to clear it. Doing so makes more room for other categories that you will use.

  • Specify the order in which categories appear in Spotlight. Drag the categories into the order in which you want them to appear on the Spotlight menu and in the Results window.

  • Select new Spotlight menu and Spotlight Results window keyboard shortcuts. In fact, you can enable or disable either keyboard shortcut as you like. Click the pop-up menu to choose a key combination. (This setting is good news for applications such as Photoshop that demand to use the ⌘+Space shortcut for themselves!)

Marking stuff off-limits

Click the Privacy tab to add disks and folders that should never be listed as results in a Spotlight search. The disks and folders you add to this list won’t appear even if they match your search string, no matter what type of search you use.

This is true even if you are the one performing the search. This safeguard can come in handy for organizations (such as hospitals) that are required by law to protect their patient or client data.

To add a private location, click the Add button (which bears a plus sign), and navigate to the desired location. Then click the location to select it, and click Choose.


If you already have the location open in a Finder window, you can drag folders or disks directly from the window and drop them into the list.