Mac OS X slow for 10-15 minutes after boot – THE FIX

Scroll down to the pictures if you want to get right to the fix.

The Symptoms:

  • The actual boot-up is pretty quick. As soon as you log in, it slows down to a crawl.
  • The desktop takes forever to load after boot.
  • Programs take forever to start immediately after boot.
  • You may hear the hard drive ticking (thrashing) during this slow period.
  • It may appear as though the hard drive is swapping during this slow period. You might think the page file is swapping like crazy.
  • After 15-20 minutes, everything’s speedy again.

Sound like the problem you’re having?

If the answer to that is “yes”, here’s the next question…. Are you running a Windows bootcamp partition? If the answer to that one’s “yes” too, you’ve just found the cause.

Actually, it’s not bootcamp’s fault. It’s Apple’s built-in Spotlight search (represented by the little magnifying glass in the top-right corner of your screen). Every time the computer restarts, it tries to rebuilt the entire search index on your Windows BOOTCAMP partition. This takes a really long time, and the rest of your computer slows down while this rebuild takes place.

So how to we fix it? We disable Spotlight’s indexing on the BOOTCAMP drive.

It’s a bit of a convoluted process, so I’ve tried to make this pretty simple. Here are the steps:

1) Boot into Windows (your bootcamp partition).

2) Run the “Command Prompt” program as an Administrator. Here’s a picture to help:

(1) Click “Start”, (2) go to “All Programs / Accessories”, (3) RIGHT CLICK on the “Command Prompt” program, and (4) choose “Run as administrator”.

3) Now, we have to create an empty file called .metadata_never_index on the C drive, to tell Spotlight not to index/search this Windows drive anymore. Here’s how we do it:

3a) Type cd and press enter.

3b) Type type NUL > .metadata_never_index and press enter.

Picture below to help:

The stuff you type is in red. I put little blue arrows to show where you need to leave a space (spacebar).

Make sure you use the proper (backslash), the proper > (greater-than sign), and the proper _ (underscore).

4) Without the fancy coloring, here’s what it’ll look like:

This is what it looks like, without color.

5) DONE!


Now you can close Command Prompt, and restart back into Mac OS X again. You should notice the delay is gone. The desktop will show up quickly, and your programs should be nice and speedy once again.


Note: While this speeds up your Mac again, note that when you try to search through Spotlight or Finder, it won’t search the BOOTCAMP partition anymore (it’ll only search the contents of your Mac drive). You can still read/access the Windows drive, but you can’t search it. This generally doesn’t matter for most people – usually the only time you want to search for a Windows file is when you’re booted into Windows already anyway (which you can still do), but keep it in mind.

If you ever want to UNDO the change, all you have to do is delete the .metadata_never_index file. You could do it through the command prompt, or possibly through Windows Explorer (you may have to change the settings to un-hide everything for it to show up).


Finally, for those who are wondering why it’s such a convoluted process to create the .metadata_never_index file, there are a few things at play. First, OS X won’t write to an NTFS partition, which all the latest editions of Windows tend to use. So you can’t create the file without booting into Windows. Second, Windows programs won’t let you create a file that starts with a period, which is why it’s being done through a command prompt. Windows also won’t let you put anything on the root drive unless you’re running as administrator.

There are other ways you could go about doing it, but this is the most concise way I could think of. Anything else involves either something like Macfuse/3G-NTFS (which most people don’t have), or by using notepad to create a file and renaming it (which you’d have to do through the Command Prompt anyway). You could replace “type NUL” with “echo.” if you wanted, but you’d end up with a 3-byte line break in the file, whereas this way you get a 0-byte file.

15 Comments | Leave a Comment

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  1. will r on March 10, 2011 - click here to reply
    I am running windows 7 pro, and when I run the command it says .... "WINDOWS SECURITY - These files cant be opened." What settings can I change because changing the internet security settings in WE didnt work!
    • will r:

      It sounds like you entered:
      NUL > .metadata_never_index

      That won't work, and will give you the error message you mentioned. You MUST enter:
      type NUL > .metadata_never_index

      (you have to type in the word "type").

      Alternately, if you're not having any luck at all, you can try:
      echo. > c:\.metadata_never_index
      ...making sure to leave a space before and after the > sign. It's not as clean an option, but should still work.
  2. macuser on March 16, 2011 - click here to reply
    Just go into system preferences - choose spotlight - then privacy - and exclude bootcamp partition from there, much easier :)
  3. macuser:

    That's actually what I'd originally tried. However, the change doesn't carry over upon restart.

    The problem is that the NTFS partition isn't writeable, so it can't actually save the changes (those exclusions must be saved to the very drive you're trying to exclude). When you add a folder to the exclusions on another drive, it's added to /Volumes/volume_name/.Spotlight-V100/Store-V1/Exclusions.plist . If the volume isn't writeable, it can't make that change (or even add that path).

    It's almost certain to work if the volume is FAT/FAT32 (and is indeed much easier in that case), but won't if it's NTFS.
  4. macuser on March 16, 2011 - click here to reply
    aah, I wasn't aware that spotlight wrote the information on the drive it excluded. In that case your fix is very valuable. Ill try it out :)
  5. Gareth on April 11, 2011 - click here to reply
    fixed my mac from running like crap after a restart or shutdown. Thankyou!
  6. Iffy on November 30, 2012 - click here to reply
    Hello how can u undo the change in the comand prompt
    • Matt Gadient on December 1, 2012 - click here to reply
      iffy: to undo it, you'd type the following...

      del c:\.metadata_never_index

      However, it may show up by simply browsing My Computer and going to the C drive, in which case you could just drag the .metadata_never_index file to the Recycle Bin.
  7. midconcussion on January 7, 2013 - click here to reply
    You saved the day!! Thank you!!
  8. Razmondo111 on November 21, 2017 - click here to reply
    U legend!!!
  9. Anonymous on October 14, 2020 - click here to reply
    can this work for windows 10?
  10. Ben on November 29, 2020 - click here to reply
    So what if I'm having this exact experience, but I'm NOT running bootcamp? I'm only running a straight MacOSX system, but I have this same elongated startup process as described. Thanks!
    • Matt Gadient on November 29, 2020 - click here to reply
      Hey Ben, one of the first steps I would normally take to diagnose the issue is to start "Activity Monitor" (in Applications, Utilities) during the problematic time period. Then I'd sort the processes by various usages (CPU, etc) and see if I can identify the culprit. If the process name is non-obvious, a web search will often shed some light into what it does and what might cause it to go haywire. Good luck!
  11. Andy on December 27, 2022 - click here to reply
    thanks so much
  12. Anonymous on June 4, 2023 - click here to reply
    Many thanks for this very detailed solution, accessible to the average person. It's a life-changer, at least when you're sitting in front of a Mac with boot camp.
    Well done.

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