How to Force Quit on a Mac

Whether MacOS is giving you a spinning beach ball of death or a particular app is taking too long to close, sometimes you just need to immediately close an app and get back to work. Thankfully, you’ve got options, and there’s more than one way to force quit an unresponsive app in MacOS.

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.

These methods are compatible with MacOS Big Sur.

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 the Force Quit Applications window that displays 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: Similar to Ctrl+Alt+Del on Windows 10, hit Opt + Cmd + Esc on your keyboard (on some Mac keyboards, Opt is labeled as Alt).

Step 2: Like other methods, this will bring up the Force Quit Applications window.

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

OSX Force Quit Menu

Also, if you’re looking for even more keyboard shortcuts to speed up your computing 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 Ctrl-Click on the misbehaving app in your Dock.

Step 2: Then, press and hold the Option key, which turns 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 app 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. If you’re still determined to shut down that app, though, it’s time to go for the nuclear option.

Method 5: Use Terminal

This is the most involved method, and it’s a good option as a last resort if you’re a bit technically-minded.

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

Step 2: After a few moments, Terminal will display your username, followed by a dollar sign. Using your keyboard, type the word Top and press the Return key.

Step 3: Terminal will display diagnostic information related to your CPU and RAM usage. The table below this information shows all open applications on your Mac – including those running in the background. The second column from the left is the Command column, which displays applications by name. The leftmost column indicates each app’s PID. This process identification number is how your computer keeps track of open applications.

Step 4: Identify the application you want to close by referencing the Command column. Copy the PID in the adjacent column by highlighting it and pressing Cmd + C. You can now close the Terminal window. 

Step 5: Open a new Terminal window and type the command Kill followed by a space and press Cmd + C. You should see something like “Kill 93142.” Terminal will close the application for you when you press the Return key.

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