How to stop your hard disk from grinding away


You have used Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) and your Macs are heavily using their harddisks, while you’re not doing anything with them that justifies such heavy hard disk use. You first blamed OS X Spotlight, but your hard disk was already indexed by it long ago. Chances are, this is a system background process called build_hd_index.

I’m not sure this daemon is still called build_hd_index on Snow Leopard but I don’t want to try it out just for the sake of knoledge.

On Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) this re-indexing seems to happen every night at midnight, on Mac OS X 10.5 (Tiger) and , 10.6 (Snow Leopard)  this can happen after every Time Machine back up. Depending on your TM preferences settings, this can be as often as every hour.

Solution: Shut down build_hd_index

Fortunately, this is not very hard to fix yourself:

  1. In the Finder, go to the Utilities folder (keyboard shortcut: COMMAND-SHIFT-U) and open Terminal (shortcuts: press T to select the Terminal, then pressCOMMAND-Arrow Down to open it).
  2. Type, or better: copy / paste:


    sudo chmod a-x /System/Library/CoreServices/RemoteManagement/
    sudo rm /Library/Preferences/
    sudo rm /var/db/RemoteManagement/caches/filesystem.cache
  3. Quit Terminal

If you’re new to the Terminal: after the first sudo you will be asked for your administrator password.

If build_hd_index was already running before you did  your Terminal actions, it will finish it’s current round. You can open Activities (it’s in the Utilities folder as well) and kill it by selecting it and pressing the stop process button.


  • People tell me Apple Remote Desktop has a setting in it’s preferences to disable this, but it doesn’t work.
  • Spotlight has it’s own index, so this won’t affect it. You won’t break Spotlights functionality by disabling build_hd_index.
  • You might need to do this again after a Apple Remote Desktop update.
  • Here’s how to remove ARD all together.

If you have any additions or comments, don’t hesitate to enlighten us.

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