How to Force Quit Applications on a Mac

by | Mar 23, 2020 | Mac

A program is no longer responding and spinning your Mac to a halt? Find out here how to force quit apps on a Mac with macOS (including a force quit keyboard shortcut).

First, If This Seems Confusing

try the religious and philosophical streams overflowing today’s India instead. (Outside quantum chromodynamics perhaps, it matters little what the confusing “this” is.)

The schools, practices, and beliefs are so manifold that prominent Hinduism scholar Klaus Klostermaier once wrote:

For thousands of years India has been a veritable laboratory of religion: everything imaginable seems to have been tried out, and nothing ever completely rejected.

Klaus K. Klostermaier

Now, what if macOS seems unwilling to completely reject and close an application? Here are a few approaches to try:

How to Force Quit Applications on a Mac with macOS

To rein in an unruly application on your Mac with macOS:

First, Make Sure the Application Will Not Quit Regularly:

  1. Click on the application’s Dock icon with the right mouse button.
    Alternative: You can also click and hold the application’s icon in the macOS Dock.
  2. Select Quit from the context menu that has appeared.
    Keyboard shortcut: You can also switch to the stuck application using Command Tab, then press Command Q.
    Even better keyboard shortcut: For the smoothest quitting experience, press and hold Command while you first hit Tab, then use repeated presses of Tab or the right and left arrow keys ( and ) to highlight the application to be closed, then (while still having Command held down) press Q.
  3. Wait for the application to quit and possibly prompt you to save changes.

Then, Force Stop Applications on macOS Using the Dock

To force-quit an app on macOS:

  1. Click on the program’s Dock icon with the right mouse button.

  2. Select Force Quit from the context menu.

    Important: You may lose unsaved data; if nothing else is possible, do try taking a screenshot at least of any work that might disappear.
    Screenshot note: I was unfair to Luminar for demonstration’s sake and put it into an unresponsive state on purpose.
    Force Quit an Application in macOS

Or Use the macOS Force Quit Keyboard Shortcut

To force an application to shut down using the force quit keyboard shortcut on macOS:

  1. Press Command Option Esc.
  2. In the Force Quit Applications window, highlight the program you want to quit.
    Keyboard shortcut: You can use the up and down arrow keys ( and ) to select the desired—or, well, now undesired—application.
    Note: You will only be able to force quit visible applications using this method. See below for force quitting invisible processes.
  3. Click Force Quit.
    Keyboard shortcut: Press Enter to force quit the application.

Force Stop any Application Process on macOS Using Activity Monitor

To shut down any process on macOS:

  1. Open Activity Monitor.
    Tip: You can use Spotlight, for instance, or find Activity Monitor in the /Applications/Utilities folder.
  2. Highlight the application or process you want to force quit.
    Hint: While you can highlight the process to quit on any Activity Monitor tab, the CPU and Memory tabs are particularly useful: they let you identify applications that consume processor time without making effective progress (sort by %CPU) or continue gobbling up memory without use (sort by Real Memory) respectively.
  3. Select View | Quit Process from the menu.
    Keyboard shortcut: You can also press Command Option Q.
    Tip: You can just as well use the Force a process to quit toolbar button.
  4. Select Quit on the sheet that has appeared.
  5. If the process or application does not stop, select View | Quit Process again.
  6. Now select Force Quit.
    Important: Unsaved data will be lost.

Force Quit Applications and Processes Using the Terminal

You can also kill a process at the system level using the a Terminal prompt and the killall command:

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Type killall -9 <process name>.
    Note: Replace <process name> with the process’s name, as it appears in Activity Monitor, for instance.
    Example: To kill the Dock, type killall -9 Dock.
  3. Press Enter.

(How to force stop applications on a Mac with macOS tested with macOS Catalina 10.15; updated March 2020)