How to force quit on a Mac

MacOS programs giving you a headache? Here's 5 ways to force quit on a Mac


Whether MacOS is giving you a spinning beach ball of death, or iTunes is taking too long to close (again), sometimes you just need to immediately close an app on MacOS. Thankfully, you’ve got options, and there’s more than one way to force quit an unresponsive app in Apple’s desktop operating system.

Keep in mind that unlike the normal method for quitting an app, there aren’t going to be any prompts asking you to save your work or confirming your decision. Once you hit force quit, it’s too late for all of that, and MacOS will immediately shut the app down without any prompts. Just a word of warning — using force quit should be a last resort.

Now let’s get to it. Here’s how to force quit on a Mac.

Method 1: Use the Finder

First up is Apple’s recommended course of action for when an app starts to wear out its welcome.

Step 1: Click on the Apple icon in the top-left corner of your screen and select “Force Quit” from the list.

Step 2: This should bring up a task manager that showcases your open applications.

Step 3: Just select the one that’s giving you trouble and click “Force Quit” at the bottom.

Method 2: Keyboard shortcuts

If that doesn’t work, it’s time for keyboard shortcuts.

Step 1: Just like Ctrl-Alt-Del for Windows 10, hit Command-Q on your keyboard.

Step 2: Like other methods, this will bring up a task manager.

Step 3: Just select the application that’s giving you trouble and click Force Quit.

OSX Force Quit Menu

And for a look at some more general keyboard shortcuts on MacOS, check out our handy guide.

Method 3: Try the Option key

If that pesky program is still giving you trouble, there’s a more manual way to select which app you want to close down.

Step 1: Just right-click or control-click on the misbehaving app in your dock.

Step 2: Then press and hold the Option key, which turn the “Quit” selection to “Force Quit” in the list of options.

If that doesn’t work, don’t worry, you still have options. It’s just time to get creative.

Method 4: Launch Activity Monitor

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 12.36.12 PM

Step 1: Open the Activity Monitor by clicking on the Spotlight icon — i.e. the magnifying glass in the top-right corner of your screen — and typing “Activity Monitor” in the text box. Then select the application from the list.

Step 2: From the task manager that displays everything running on your computer, find the misbehaving app, select it, and click the button that resembles a stop sign in the top-left corner.

If that still doesn’t do the trick, it might be a good idea to save all your open work and restart your iMac or MacBook, which will likely solve the problem. But if you’re still determined to shut down that app, it’s time to go for the nuclear option.

Method 5: Use the command terminal

This is the most involved method, but it still works if you’re a bit more technically-minded.

Step 1: Open your Applications folder, scroll down to Utilities, and launch “Terminal.”

Step 2: When you open the app, give it a second. Once Terminal lists your username and a tilde, type “top” within the box and press the Return key.

Step 3: Terminal will list all currently running applications — including those running in the background — alongside a lot of diagnostic information regarding your CPU and RAM usage. But what we’re looking for here is going to be in the Command column. There, you should see a list of all running applications, and to the left will be a column of numbers labeled PID.

Step 4: If you see the application you want to close in the Command column, make a mental note of its PID (or just write it down). Then close your Terminal window, open a new one, and type “kill” followed by the PID for the application in question. Now hit the Return key. That should do it! Just close Terminal … and take a nice deep breath. It’s gone, right?


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