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How to fix Spotlight top hit prioritization on macOS

Spotlight search has always worked well on macOS. It’s not only quick to index items, it also learns user behavior quickly and refines the search results. It has suffered in performance these past years though with bugs becoming more common. If you use the feature a lot and the Spotlight top hit results are consistently incorrect, there’s a simple way to fix it.

Fix Spotlight top hit

The trick is to have Spotlight rebuild its index but we’re not going to go through the Terminal to do that. Instead, we’re going to use a different trick that does the same thing but also fixes the incorrect Spotlight top hit results.

Open System Preferences and go to Spotlight. There are two tabs inside this preference. Go to the Privacy tab and click the plus button at the bottom. In the choose file window, select your Mac’s hard drive or SSD. Confirm that you want to exclude it from Spotlight.

Wait a few seconds so that the index is purged completely. Open System Preferences again and go to the Spotlight preference. Go to the Privacy tab and select your Mac’s hard drive or SSD. Click the minus button at the bottom to remove it.

Spotlight will now start indexing items all over again and your top hit results will be correct from this point forward.

Teaching Spotlight

Spotlight does not include or exclude apps in Top List based on your app usage. Instead, it looks at which apps you consistently open from its results. To that end, you need to open Spotlight, search for an app, and open the one you want to use from its search results. It doesn’t matter if you use the keyboard or the mouse to launch it but it should be launched from Spotlight’s search results.

When Spotlight’s search results show the incorrect app/file/folder, they usually just move to an alphabetical preference. The item that is shown under Top Hit is the one that would appear first if you were to sort all matching items into an alphabetically ordered list. No amount of opening or selecting the correct app can change this which is why it’s necessary to reindex everything.

The reindexing can take some time but Spotlight will be usable right away. Some search results might take a few extra seconds to appear and you will see the ‘Indexing’ message in Spotlight on occasion but the feature will work just fine. Once the indexing is complete, you won’t run into any more problems with it.

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