Mac OS X’s Finder: What to do if the ‘Find’ command no longer works properly

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 9th, 2004 • 4:25 am

This morning, I was called to look at an iMac running Panther on which the “Find” command in the Finder no longer worked properly.

I tried it myself, and when I typed a simple request to find files whose name contained a specific string, I saw the Finder open a window for the results, but then it went round and round trying to find any occurrences and never found any and kept searching forever.

I tried changing the scope of the search from “Everywhere” to “Local Disks“, but that didn’t change anything.

I made sure we were searching for a string that did indeed occur, and still we couldn’t get any results.

Then I opened a new Finder window and tried using the built-in “Search” field in the window’s toolbar instead of the separate “Find” command. Strangely enough, when I did a search for a very short string (“inf“), it went around for a few seconds and started spitting out a list of hundreds of results, as expected. But when I put a longer string (“informat“), for which I knew at least one occurrence existed, it started going around in the circles again, not finding anything.

I started wondering whether it was some kind of hard drive problem, and I thought I might have to come back later and take the time to repair the directory with a disk utility such as Disk Warrior. That’s what I told the owner of the machine.

Then half an hour later while I was working on a different machine elsewhere and waiting for the completion of one of those never-ending “Optimizing System Performance” processes in a Mac OS X installer, I had an intuition. I phoned the owner of the machine with the defective Finder and suggested that he restart the machine altogether. He admitted that he hadn’t done that in a long time.

He restarted the machine and, sure enough, after that the “Find” command was working again.

And the moral is? Sometimes a good old system restart is all it takes. With Mac OS X’s overall stability and reliability, we tend to forget that sometimes a machine has been running for weeks. And obviously over time some weird things do happen in Mac OS X from time to time. This is one of them.

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