Tell the computer who's boss

by Giles Turnbull

Sometimes you just want your computer to behave the way you want it to. After all, you're the boss. The machine just needs reminding of that every now and then.

Take some of the processes that Just Work in OS X Tiger, even if perhaps you might not want them to. I'm thinking of things like Spotlight and Dashboard.

Dashboard widgets are sub-processes of the Dock, and as such are relatively simple to switch off or permanently disable.

Spotlight is pretty closely tied in to the innermost parts of Tiger, but even that doesn't stop you switching it off, it you want to.

Why would you want to? If you're using Tiger on a relatively old machine, Spotlight might be slowing things down to an unacceptable degree. And if you're wanting to keep your concentration fixed on your work, and resist the urge to invoke Dashboard to check out the latest foobar on doodad.blah, disabling it might be a good idea too.

Fear not, oh productivity-depleted ones. There are ways of doing these things.

To switch off Spotlight, first drag your hard disk volume into the Privacy pane of the Spotline preferences panel, then in Terminal, type:

sudo mdutil -i off /Volumes/volume_name

This will break searching in Mail and in the Finder. But you knew that, didn't you? I expect that only people who have no use for Mail will be attempting this sort of hackery anyway. There are far more detailed instructions and notes about managing Spotlight's activity at The X Lab.

There's another way of killing Spotlight outlined at MacOSXHints, but it looks risky to say the least, and is not for the faint of heart.

Switching off Dashboard is easier. In Terminal, type:

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean YES

And follow it up with:

killall dock

That's it. Dashboard is toast. If you should ever want to restart it, just type:

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean NO

followed by the same killall dock command. Dashboard springs back to life.

If you're someone who has arrived at this page after some Googling and you're a little worried about typing obscure weirdness into the Terminal - indeed, if you have no idea what the Terminal is - then don't worry, there are options for you, too. There are utilities floating around that do these tasks in a familiar click-buttons environment. My favorite at the moment is Tweak Freak, a friendly little tool that does all sorts of helpful things for you, including killing the Dashboard.

Spotless is a utility for managing Spotlight indexing for different volumes, and switching it off mid-index if you choose. It's shareware; I haven't tried it, so I can't tell you much more about it.

Now you're gonna tell me there's an even better way


Ric Vieira
2006-02-05 22:33:26
Neither the tips to turn off the Spotlight or Dashboard worked for me !?

After attempting to switch off Spotlight I get this message:
"Could not set indexing status for volume".

And after atempting to switch off Dashboard I get this message:
"No matching processes belonging to you were found" and also "No matching processes belonging to you were found
tcsh: No: Command not found".

How can I get this 2 switch off without downloading more apps ??