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Why is searching so much slower in both Lion and Mountain Lion than Snow Leopard?

7174 Views 13 Replies Latest reply: Aug 1, 2012 4:56 PM by Linc Davis RSS
oliverfromplymouth Calculating status...
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Jul 29, 2012 3:33 AM

Hi, I use Snow Leopard run on several Mac Pros to perform multidimensional time-lapse-imaging in our lab. Snow Leopard provides instantaneous (seconds) searching for folders containing the image sequences I require for analysis (distributed across 4 x 2TB hard drives- images are saved under the structure Time\Position, and for analysis I need to retrieve all folders with the same Position label). Lion and Mountain Lion either fail to search or are painfully slow. For analysis I use internal hard drives connected as external volumes via USB and I suspect this might be part of the problem, however the same setup works flawlessly with Snow Leopard.


This problem is becoming very frustrating as I can’t figure out what has changed, or whether I am overlooking something obvious. I installed Lion on my MacBook Pro over 6 months ago which is when I discovered this problem and had to reinstall Snow Leopard. At that time I had hoped that the next OS might provide a better search function for our use, but after some testing it seems the same. To search through folders manually takes over 10 x as long as using a simple search in Snow Leopard. Can anyone provide me any advice as to what might be causing this problem and whether there might be a solution? I’ve tried a few free searching tools from the app store, but these do not perform any better than searching in Finder. I would obviously prefer to be able to invest in new Macs in the future which run the most current OS without having to install Snow Leopard on them all (if this is even possible without future models without causing compatibility problems).


Many thanks for reading and for any advice you can give me.



MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.7)
  • nick101 Calculating status...

    Not seeing that here. I suggest you force Spotloght to delete its indices and reindex the drives you search. That often clears up glitches.


    To do this, open the Spotlight preference pane in System Preferences; drag all your volumes to the Privacy tab, then remove them. You'll have to wait through the reindex, but it'll be worth it. I had similar issues during the pre-release versions of ML and this fixed it.

  • Linc Davis Level 10 Level 10 (107,665 points)

    First, back up all data immediately, as your boot drive may be failing.


    Launch the usual set of applications you use when you notice the problem.


    Step 1


    Launch the Activity Monitor application in any of the following ways:


    Enter the first few letters of its name into a Spotlight search. Select it in the results (it should be at the top.)


    In the Finder, select Go Utilities from the menu bar, or press the key combination shift-command-U. The application is in the folder that opens.


    Open LaunchPad. Click Utilities, then Activity Monitor in the page that opens.


    Select the CPU tab of the Activity Monitor window.


    Select All Processes from the menu in the toolbar, if not already selected.


    Click the heading of the % CPU column in the process table to sort the entries by CPU usage. You may have to click it twice to get the highest value at the top. What is it, and what is the process? Also post the values for % User, % System, and % Idle at the bottom of the window.


    Select the System Memory tab. What values are shown in the bottom part of the window for Page outs and Swap used?


    Next, select the Disk Activity tab. What approximate values are shown for Reads in/sec and Writes out/sec?


    Step 2


    You must be logged in as an administrator to carry out this step.


    Launch the Console application in the same way as above. Make sure the title of the Console window is All Messages. If it isn't, select All Messages from the SYSTEM LOG QUERIES menu on the left.


    Post the 50 or so most recent messages in the log — the text, please, not a screenshot.


    Important: Some personal information, such as your name, may appear in the log. Edit it out before posting.

  • nick101 Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)

    Ouch. That needs some serious thought.


    There's something not normal going on here: Spoltight under Lion and ML uses the same indices as the SL version. After an OSX upgrade, some reindiexing is normal, simply because the new OS installs a lot f new files and deletes a lot of old ones. But that shouldn't affect data-only drives, which is what we're addressing here.


    You said you have multiple Mac Pros: is the problem only on one of them, or more than one?

  • nick101 Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)

    Just to make sure I have the right picture:


    You have a number of Mac Pros, connected to a 4 x 2TB set of external drives. Some of the Macs run SL and some run Lion/Mountain Lion. On the Lion/ML Macs, indexing the drives is much slower than on the SL Mac Pros, but they're idnexing the same drives


    Is that right?

  • nick101 Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)

    OK - that's clear now, thanks.


    Some points:


    1. Any Mac connecting to one of these drives for the first time will have to index it, regardless of the OS version - could that explain why your friend's iMac is slow? Indexing will take soem time and, until it's complete, the search is "manual"

    2. I have observed that, when I upgrade OSX, the new system wants to do a lor of reindexing. Some of that is down to new systems files, but that doesn't apply to external drives. I suspect, but I don't know, that the upgraded OSX has a trigger which gets it to reindex if certain criteria are met (but I don't know what they are).

    3. I have some external drives that I only connect occasionally; whenever I connect one after a gap, I see a lot of indexing activity

    4. During seed testing of Lion and Mountain Lion, I ran into a couple of situations where Spotlight wasn't showing complete results or was otherwise behaving oddly (0 results for files that I knew existed and could find in other ways, for example).

    5. Spotlight index files can get into difficulties - I can't be prescriptive about the circumstances. I just put it down to the fact that software has become so complex that we have to expect a certain degree of random failure.



    I believe that, if you upgrade to ML and reindex the drives, the problem will solve itself (as it did for me in the cases I mentioned above). I relaise (a) that that will take ages and (b) it relieves a symptom (if it works) without giving you confidence that it's a cure, but I think it's the right thing to do.


    I believe staying with SL cannot be a long term solution. If you buy a new Mac, you'll get ML (or its replacement next year) whether you want it or not. Also, if the index does have issues, they might manifest elsewhere.


    But - staying with SL wil at least allow you to do the upgrade, and the reindex, at a time that suits you.


    Hope that helps

  • Linc Davis Level 10 Level 10 (107,665 points)

    It looks like that log extract was captured shortly after startup. Were you actually running the slow operation then? If not, please do so now and post the messages timestamped during the operation.

  • Linc Davis Level 10 Level 10 (107,665 points)

    It looks like a USB device is malfunctioning. Try disconnecting half of the devices. If there's no change, reconnect them, and disconnect the other half.


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