Spotlight issue under 10.4

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At some point last week Spotlight stopped working properly on my 10.4 Intel machine. Searches in Finder caused Finder to crash and restart. Meanwhile, the error message:

495: Can't checkin with server named com.apple.metadata.mdserver, error 0x10000004
appeared repeatedly in the Finder. I tried following the advice of web pages such as this one and this one to rebuild the Spotlight indices, but commands such as
$ sudo mdutil -E /
would fail with
Could not set indexing status for volume.
Meanwhile,
$ sudo mdutil -s /
gave only
Error: Could not get indexing status for volume.
after a short delay. Dragging the disk into System Preferences::Spotlight::Privacy did nothing -- the disk simply failed to ever appear in the "Privacy" list.

I deleted:

/Library/Spotlight
/.Spotlight-v100
spotlight.plist
but still the database refused to refresh itself, and failed to respond to subsequent attempts to restart it:
$ cd /System/Library/StartupItems/Metadata
$ ./Metadata start

I finally solved the problem by rebooting from my bootable backup hard drive, whose copy of 10.4 was working fine, including the Spotlight component. I'm not sure if I even did anything under the backup system beyond checking the Spotlight function, verifying the original disk (it was fine) and disk permissions under Disk Utility, and running some test searches. When I rebooted to the original disk, the database began to rebuild itself.

It's unclear whether it's necessary to reboot into another copy of OS X to trigger this, or whether any reboot would have done it.

After the Spotlight database had rebuilt itself (which took a while, maybe a couple of hours) and I'd tested it, I ran RsyncX to re-sync it with the backup drive, as the backup drive was behind on some system updates. I was moderately worried that this would mess up the backup installation, but when I rebooted into it the next day (RsyncX not being especially speedy) it was fine.


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