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Fix a 'Could not set indexing status for volume' Spotlight error System
I have read several forums which discuss the "Could not set indexing status for volume" error message from mdutil, but none of the responses explain why this happens. There are several reasons for getting this error message from mdutil, the tool for changing Spotlight settings. Here are a few of the reasons, and the remedies...

If Spotlight is already Disabled, attempting to do sudo mdutil -i off /Volumes/your_vol will result in this error message. There are at least two reasons for mdutil to believe that Spotlight is disabled.

The first is that the volume was mounted and had a .metadata_never_index file at its base. The remedy is to remove that file in Terminal:
sudo rm -f /Volumes/Your Volume/.metadata_never_index
Then dismount and remount your_vol. If it is on your internal hard drive, do a restart instead.

The second reason is that Spotlight actually is disabled! To find out, do the following in Terminal:
sudo mdutil -s /Volumes/your_vol
If you still get an error message, check for that .metadata_never_index file. Otherwise, you should get a confirmation message about the status, either Enabled or Disabled. If it is Disabled, try turning it on, as follows:
sudo mdutil -i on /Volumes/your_vol
That should confirm it is enabled. You can then turn it off, if you wish, as follows:
$ sudo mdutil -i off /Volumes/your_vol
$ sudo mdutil -E /Volumes/your_vol
That last command discards the Spotlight database, something that takes up lots of space.

You can create .metadata_never_index files on some external volumes to insure Spotlight doesn't try to index those volumes. I do that with all my external drives, especially my backup drives.

But there's a catch with backups: if you "clone" your internal hard drive, it will copy the .Spotlight-V100 folder from your internal volume to your external volume, which makes Spotlight enabled again. I always turn off Spotlight on my backup volume after doing a backup.

Create .metadata_never_index as follows:
sudo touch /Volumes/your_vol/.metadata_never_index
You may have noticed I've used /Volumes/your_vol as the reference to the volume where either .metadata_never_index or .spotlight-V100 exists.


1) Remember that if the name of your volume contains spaces, you'll need to either include the full path in quotes ("/Volumes/some vol"), or use a backslash to escape the space (/Volumes/some\ vol).

2) The / as the mdutil volume parameter means your boot volume, usually on your internal hard drive. You don't have to use the longer /Volumes path to reference your boot volume.
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