How to Force Quit an App in Mac OS X

How to Force Quit an App in Mac OS X

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The OS X base system works correct and the only app doesn't respond? How can we reset or close an app, if the standard method doesn’t work? Sometimes we all face the freezing of apps, even if using Mac, that is a reliable machine.

Here are some tips for you on how to Ctrl-Alt-Delete programs on Mac that don't respond.


The Dock

The right-click that works as a quit button when the app is running ok, may not work with a frozen application, so you should press and hold the Option key (or Ctrl+click) while you right-click on the app’s Dock icon. In such a way you bring up the contextual menu and the Quit menu turns into Force Quit. Be careful, you should definitely make sure that all the data and changes are saved, if you don’t want to lose them!

mac force quit dock

The Force Quit Window

There is a special window that is responsible for handling applications that are needed to be force quit. We present you two ways of opening this window:

  • The first one is using a keyboard shortcut Command-Option (or ALT) -Escape.
  • The second one is clicking the Apple logo in the Menu Bar and selecting Force Quit.
    apple force quit mac

You will see a list of all currently opened apps, where all the not responding apps will be highlighted with the red text color. Select the frozen ones from this list to Force Quit. Please, be careful with choosing the program — there is no warning when you force quit. After this, just relaunch the application to make sure that it works normally.


Activity Monitor

The Activity Monitor is a built-in app that provides a wide range of information about your Mac. When launched, this tool displays all the apps and services that are using the CPU, Memory and Network. However, it also gives you an opportunity to force quit any frozen apps. What should you do? Locate the app in the processes list (one tip for you: use the search box in the upper-right corner of the window to filter the list), select and highlight it, then press the cross button in the upper-left part of the window.

force quit mac active monitor
You will be given a choice: Quit or Force Quit. Of course, select Quit first, as it helps to quit the application more softly and this option usually saves the users data. If it does not help, choose Force Quit, which will close the app without saving info.


The ‘Kill’ Command in Terminal

The next option how to manage unresponsive apps is a command line method — using the ‘kill’ command in Terminal. If you choose this method, your first step is to determine the Process ID (PID) of an application (a number that OS X uses for keeping track of each unique application). Where can you find it? Switch to Activity Monitor, where you can see it in the list, in the PID column. Of course, if you are in the Activity Monitor for searching PID now, try the previous method to force quit the app (that is mentioned in this article above).

Once you know the process ID, killing it with a help of Terminal becomes simple. Nevertheless, be careful, forcing a process to exit suddenly can have unforeseen consequences, so you should check if the process you are about to exit is the correct one. There are two easy ways to kill a process:

  • By PID: the simplest way is the ‘kill’ command followed by the PID, which terminates the selected process immediately.
  • By name: this method uses the ‘kill all’ command to exit all the processes that contain that name.

Use the ‘top’ command for making a list of working apps right in Terminal. You can use modifiers to order the list by different criteria. Notice, there’s a chance that a program that doesn’t answer, is consuming CPU resources. So, it would be very good, if you start with checking ‘cpu’. Open a new Terminal window and type the following command:

top -o cpu


You will see a list of all applications and processes that work now in Terminal. They are sorted by the current CPU usage. Let’s use iTunes as the example. It is listed at the top (because it is currently consuming the CPU resources) and its process ID is 5472 (note: PIDs are unique to each circumstance, and OS X generates a new PID each time an application is running. That means that the PID will change each time an app is launched, and it is almost certain that iTunes on your own Mac will have a different PID).

force quit app mac terminal
After identifying the process ID, press Q to quit top, or open a new Terminal session, and type the following to force quit the app:

kill [PID]


Press Return to perform the command and your app will be force quit.

Keyboard Shortcut

Here is one of the best and easiest ways - the system wide Force Quit function. Think of this as a simplified version of Activity Monitor. It’s also a great keystroke to remember since it allows ceasing multiple apps quickly. If you’re going to remember nothing else for the force quitting apps in OS X, keep in mind this keystroke: Command + Option + Escape

One more and probably the fastest and the simplest way to force quit an app is a keyboard shortcut: no interventions needed. Anyway, you should remember that it’s also the most risky one! You can just lose the track and close an active application instead of a frozen one (especially if there are more than one unresponsive apps). In this situation, you will lose all the unsaved data by mistake!

If you are ready to take a risk and pay a special attention to the app you are trying to quit — this force quit shortcut is the fastest method. Just make the frozen app active and press and hold Command-Option-Shift-Escape (you will notice that this is simply the Force Quit Window shortcut with the Shift key modifier thrown in). As with other force quit methods, the active application will immediately be force quit. Or you can press and hold Command + Option + Escape from anywhere to bring up the simple “Force Quit Applications” window, then click the app name to select it, followed by clicking the “Force Quit” button. This will end the app immediately.

Sometimes, it happens that with the freezing of app all the system can also become unresponsive. The only way to start it again is rebooting your Mac. Press the power button and hold it for several seconds while a dialogue window appears. You will see some options: sleep, reboot (restart) or shut down. This option may be not available when something goes wrong, so just hold the power button until the Mac is switched off. Remember that after this manipulation some information may be lost, but sometimes this is the only method for making your Mac active again.