I had this same problem before. It was maddening. Eventually I figured out that I had messed up the permissions somehow.
Currently if I do a command + i on my downloads folder it shows the permissions as:
everyone: no access
and the files inside downloads have the same as above but also:
staff: read only
So, assuming you have the same problem I had, what I would do is change the permissions of the downloads folder (in the "get info" window i.e. command + i) to have all 3 of these permissions and then click the gear at the bottom and "apply to enclosed items". Then go back and remove the "staff: read only" from the downloads folder and do not apply to enclosed items. Also do this for pictures, music etc. Do not to this from the top of the home folder as it mioght mess up your library.
And because someone will inevitably ask, no a permissions repair would not accomplish this
Well it looks like Spotlight is disabled.
Go to System Preferences->Spotlight and look in the Privacy tab and see if your hard drive is in the list.
If it's not, then you could try rebuilding the Spotlight index by dragging it there briefly, and then removing it. You should see the magnifying glass strart "throbbing" in the menu bar.
You could also type this from a terminal window:
sudo mdutil -s /
You'll need to enter your password.
You should see this:
If it says disabled, you could type this:
sudo mdutil -i on /
And that will turn it on and start re-indexing your boot drive.
If you have more than one user account, these instructions must be carried out as an administrator.
Launch the Console 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 Console in the page that opens.
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.
Enter "mdworker" (without the quotes) in the Filter text field. Post the messages that appear in the Console window — the text, please, not a screenshot.
If there are runs of repeated messages, post only one example of each. Do not post many repetitions of the same message.
Some personal information, such as the names of your files, may be included — edit that out, too, but don’t remove the context.
Do the same with the search string "mds".
I've had this issue before and that actually did fix the issue. Also, what possible problems could occur from changing permissions of user files? I told him not to do this at the top level of the home folder because that could cause problems.
The thought of a competent user who was able to post a link to his own video of the problem accidentally adding the hard drive to the privacy list of spotlight is kind of funny, don't you think? Although you're right, reindexing may help......