7 Ways to Force Quit Mac Applications

Mar 2, 2012 - 32 Comments

Finder Do you need to force quit an unresponsive Mac app? Is your Mac seeing the infamously dreaded spinning beachball of death? Is an app failing to respond to any input? Maybe you have an errant process or two? When any of the above happens, you’ll probably want to forcibly quit the application in question, and that’s what we’ll cover with this walkthrough, showing you how to force quit apps on a Mac with seven different methods.

Whatever your skill level with Mac, you’ll find a way to forcibly exit out of an app. Read on to learn more!

How to Force Quit Mac Apps: 7 Different Ways

Take a moment to review the tricks below, and then remember a few keyboard shortcuts or sequences now to save yourself a hassle later if you find yourself in a situation where you need to force quit a Mac app. And yes, these tricks work in all versions of Mac OS and Mac OS X.

1) Use a Keyboard Shortcut for “Force Quit Applications” on Mac

Starting with one of the best and easiest is the system wide Force Quit function: Hit Command+Option+Escape from anywhere to bring up the simple “Force Quit Applications” window, then click on the app name to select, followed by clicking the “Force Quit” button, this will end the app immediately.

Force Quit on a Mac

Think of this as a simplified version of Activity Monitor, and it’s also a great keystroke to remember to use since it allows for quickly ceasing multiple apps. If you’re going to remember nothing else for force quitting apps in Mac OS X, remember this keystroke: Command + Option + Escape

Force quit Mac applications with a keyboard shortcut

That Force Quit keyboard shortcut is probably the best combination of easy and power when force quitting apps in Mac OS X, since you can access it with a keystroke, select and force quit multiple apps if necessary, and summon it from anywhere.

2) Force Quit Currently Active Mac App with the Keyboard

Hold down Command+Option+Shift+Escape for a second or two until the app forcibly closes. Be sure to do this while the app you want to force quit is the foremost application on the Mac, as it will force quit whatever is active when held down.

This is not well known, but offers perhaps the quickest way to force quit the foreground application in Mac OS X and a very good keyboard shortcut to remember.

3) Force Quitting Apps from the Dock

Option + Right Click on an apps icon in the Dock to bring up the “Force Quit” option, selecting this will kill the app without any confirmation.

Force quit a Mac app from the Dock Icon with Option key modifier

4) Force Quit an App from the Apple Menu

Hold the Shift Key and click on the  Apple menu to find “Force Quit [Application Name]”.

How to Force Quit an App from the Apple menu in OS X

This is easy to remember but not necessarily the most powerful method, since sometimes an application is completely unresponsive and the menus are inaccessible.

5) Use Activity Monitor to Force Quit Apps

Activity Monitor is a powerful way to forcibly quit any app, task, daemon, or process running on Mac OS X. You can find it in /Applications/Utilities/ or open it from Spotlight with Command+Space and then type ‘Activity Monitor’ and the return key. Using Activity Monitor is very easy: Select the process name or ID you wish to kill (unresponsive apps will usually appear as red), and hit the red “Quit Process” button.

Force quit apps from Activity Monitor in Mac OS X

You can think of this as the Mac equivalent to a task manager from the Windows world and a more complex version of the second tips Force Quit window. If one of the previous methods fails, this will almost certainly work.

6) Using the Terminal & kill Command

If all else fails, using the command line is a surefire way to force an app or process to quit by issuing the low-level kill command. Launch the Terminal and type one of the following commands:

killall [processname]

For example, “killall Safari” would kill all instances of the Safari process. If you know the process id, which you can find with the ps or ‘ps aux’ command. Aim kill at that process specifically:

kill -9 [pid]

Force quit an app from the command line with the kill command

The kill commands will take out just about anything, and sometimes have the side effect of not honoring Versions, Window Restore, and Auto-Save, so be cautious of potential data loss.

7) Use the command line pkill command

Another option for command line users is the pkill command, which works similar to the kill command to forcibly exit and close applications and processes.

pkill is nice because, similar to ‘killall’, you can specify an application name or process name. For example:

pkill Safari

Will forcibly quit out of Safari on the Mac.

pkill can be used for both GUI apps and command line processes.

What’s your preferred method of forcibly quitting an app? Mine is the Command+Option+Escape trick, or by using Activity Monitor, but I often turn to the command line for more complex situations.

Force Quit Mac Apps from the Activity Monitor

Remember, when you force quit an app, you will lose any unsaved data in that application. Don’t forget that.

Bonus Force Quit Tips

You can also force quit several Mac apps at the same time if you find yourself in a situation requiring that.

Mac users without an ESC key will instead need to get accustomed to force quitting with Touch Bar, which can sometimes be a few extra steps to access the escape option.

Rebooting a Mac will also initiate soft quit, but if you force reboot a Mac or turn it off, then it will basically force quit out of apps as well – that’s pretty extreme though so it’s best to avoid that method for quitting any app as it’s not intended for really anything other than a totally frozen Mac.

This obviously covers the Mac, but from the iOS side of things, you can force quit apps on iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, as well, depending on the version of iOS and the iOS device itself. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen on a new device and then swiping up to discard the app will force quit on any new iPhone or iPad, and older models can force quit by double-pressing Home button to then initiate the quit app process. And finally, much older iOS versions can accomplish this by holding down the Power button until the slide to power option appears, and then hold the Home button until the app closes.

Do you have any other tips or tricks for force quitting Mac apps? Share with us in the comments below!


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Rick g says:

    What does restart finder do in the menu?

  2. M says:

    Still doesn’t work. Tried all, and process is still running

    • tnb says:

      You can’t force quit system tasks without root/admin access and trying to force quit those processes will likely cause unexpected behavior like a log out or system crash, so if you can’t force quit the system process you probably should not anyway. This is really for apps and processes running above the system level, not low level kernel resources or system tasks.

  3. Dave Uggla says:

    When an OS X machine freezes during reboot, you can find online a list of options, including resetting the P ROM, booting to safe mode, booting from your recovery partition, and booting from a CD/DVD, a USB ROM or drive. If you have two Macs with FireWire ports you can try booting the freezing Mac into Target Drive mode to access any critical files.
    Your worst case situation will come if you have encrypted your entire hard drive.

  4. Ripul says:

    Nothing works. The panel opens the cursor remains spinning. Force restart only option for me.

  5. Waynos says:

    Thank you. All old news to long time mac user but here’s a question that may or may not have an answer to.

    Is there any way to quit just the process that is causing the app to hang rather than force quitting the entire app?

    The 10 unsaved documents open right now would benefit from knowing the answer to this if indeed there is one.

    Thanks thanks, W

  6. Marc says:

    Good help. Thanks a lot.

  7. Jaggs says:

    Thanks for your artical it really worth to know.

  8. KB says:

    My Macbook which I got I think in 2009 has started crashing. I did force quit last night when it crashed then froze, and on trying to restart I entered my password and the little progress line got about a third of the way across and won’t budge from there. I have force quit a couple of times after letting it rest an hour or so, but no change. Is there anything I can do or is it time to take it to a Mac repair?

  9. Rp says:

    All your stuff doesn’t help since the cursor & track pad is frozen!

  10. Gayle N says:

    long long before x86 mac land there was something like

    control shift open-apple 2

    to force some deep system magic

    Sound familiar? I have been flogging interweb search engines to no avail though now I’m likely to find /this/ comment soonventurally

    XmppTexting: lovemeosx@jabber.otr.im/

  11. Thanks for the tip #2 but that’s too many keystrokes to remember. So I programmed one of the function keys using Keyboard Maestro. Now I can just hit one key and force quit an app. :-)

  12. Julee says:

    Thank you so so soooo much! This helped a TON!! :)

  13. […] and ‘continuing’ a process, but a stop is not to be confused with the more aggressive killing or force quitting applications and thus the terminology of pausing or halting is often easier to differentiate the […]

  14. […] menu is that it allows you to actually take action on running apps directly, letting you force quit them if they have become errant or are shown in red font, which signifies they are not responding […]

  15. Philippe Qwadjo says:

    Very usefull.
    The tip 3 is very efficient
    Thanks a lot.

  16. dick ludlow says:

    I have always just turned off the power to my mac, then on again. Is this bad for the computer?

    • Kaeden doll says:

      If you have a application open then yes it is very dangerous and could damage your computer but if you don’t then it’s just like shuting the computer down just quicker

  17. Niku says:

    Finally! I finally got rid of it thanks to you and Activity Monitor. I just wonder why none of the other sites I searched suggested Activity Monitor as a way of disposing of files that you couldn’t get to go away any other way. Thanks again.

    • Jacob Nikom says:

      What about killing a MAC window?

      Do you always have to use red button at the left upper corner?

      Does MAC have any keyboard shortcuts for that?

  18. lee potter says:

    tried all six to try to quit frozen iphoto, none of them worked?

  19. Sunny says:

    Thank you for the information. Brilliant. I used # 5 – Activity monitor. Works well. Thank you.

  20. […] Ways to Force Quit Mac Applications – https://osxdaily.com/2012/03/02/force-quit-mac-apps – Ways to deal with the dreaded spinning beachball of […]

  21. Dave says:

    Had NO idea about the first one (adding shift to command-option-escape): NICE or the last one (killing apps on iOS). Thankfully, I have had very few problems with stuck apps on iOS.

  22. Bruno says:

    kill like a boss:
    # Kill Like a Boss
    Killall() {
    PROC=`ps aux | grep -i ${QSTRING} | grep -v grep | awk ‘{print $2}’`
    if [ ! -n “$PROC” ]; then
    echo “0 PID found with the matching String: \”${QSTRING}\”.”
    NUMPROC=`echo $PROC | awk ‘{print NF}’`
    echo “Found $NUMPROC PIDs with the matching String: \”${QSTRING}\”.”
    sudo kill -9 $PROC
    echo “All process Killed.”

  23. KhaBu says:

    i Just loved the first one … thank you

  24. Diane says:

    Thank you! This is great information…

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