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3 ways to force quit on Windows to fix any frozen applications

We’ve all been there: The dreaded moment when an app or browser on Windows stops responding entirely. You try to exit out of it the traditional way, but your mouse won’t move properly, or tapping that “X” just doesn’t do anything. Now you’re looking at an operating system crash and precious wasted time unless you find something to do about it.

That something is usually a force quit, or forcing an unresponsive app to shut down before it causes even more problems. There are a few different ways to do this on Windows 10 and 11. Here's how to force quit on Windows with three different methods.

Difficulty

Easy

Duration

10 minutes

What You Need

  • Windows desktop or laptop

How do you force quit with a keyboard?

Step 1: CTRL + Shift + ESC

This shortcut opens the famous Task Manager. The Task Manager will display all the apps that are currently running and the resources they are taking up. Find the app that’s not responding, select it, and then choose End task. This will force quit the app in question.

It’s also a good idea to use Task Manager to check on how much memory your apps are using. If the percentage is particularly high, you could be running into RAM troubles that are causing your crashes. Try dismissing some of the apps and background processes that are taking up a lot of memory to see if this improves your situation.

Task Manager is also an easy test to see just how bad things are. If the shortcut launches Task Manager and you can successfully interact with it, that’s good news. If you’re unable to use Task Manager, then the whole operating system is having problems.

Task Manager in Windows 11.
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Trends

Step 2: ALT + F4

If you don’t want to mess with Task Manager or can’t bring it up, this is an alternative shortcut you should try. It skips the in-between steps and proceeds to force quit the app you are currently using. Press it once and wait several seconds for the app to respond.

If this doesn’t work, try pressing the FN key so the indicator light is turned on, then try the keyboard shortcut again. This may be necessary on some portable computers like Microsoft's Surface laptops.

Note that the ALT + F4 shortcut will work on the app you are currently using. Don’t navigate away from the buggy app, or you’ll end up closing something else by mistake.

App Shutdown Shortcut.

Step 3: Windows Key + X > Command Prompt

Here you can go right to the source and run some commands to shut down an app, which may be useful if Task Manager isn’t working, etc. Note that the Command Prompt option may also be called Windows PowerShell in some versions of Windows. Once you are there, type in "tasklist" and select Enter. This will bring up a list currently running tasks, similar to Task Manager. Locate the specific program you want to shut down and note its name. Now type the command:

taskkill /im ProgramName.exe /t /f

Where it says “ProgramName,” type in the name of the app as seen on the task list. Select Enter again, and this should automatically close that program.

Tasklist in Windows.

What if the window won’t close?

If none of the commands are working, the problem is affecting the entire operating system. It’s a good idea to reboot your PC entirely when this happens.

Try the CTRL + ALT + DEL keyboard shortcut. If it works, it will bring up a Settings menu where you can select the Power button in the lower right and choose Shut down.

If your keyboard shortcuts aren’t working at all, you have a final recourse with the manual power button. Press and hold the Power button down until your PC is forced to shut down. If necessary, press the Power button again to boot back up.

If your apps continue to freeze and cause problems, you should try to find the source of the trouble. An operating system or BIOS update may help fix the problem, and you should always make sure that third-party apps stay updated, too. On the other hand, if a recent update started causing your freezing issues, it may be time to roll back to a previous version of the OS.

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