The 6 best ways to Force Quit Mac apps


NB: This post has been updated (20/1/18) and now features 6 ways to restart your Mac and a seventh tip to help you relaunch a frozen Finder.

Mac users is this happening or has it happened to you: You’re working away at something and have multiple windows open on your Mac and suddenly it stalls. You need to quit your apps but the spinning beach ball is spinning spinningly and nothing seems to work. Try working through these sequences:

Force Quit Applications

Type Command+Option+Escape to invoke the ‘Force Quit Applications’ window. Now you can quit on app names to select one and then tap Force Quit to quit the app. (Never underestimate the power of the Option key).

Quit current app

You can use Command + Option + Shift + Escape to force the currently active app to quit, just hold the sequence down for a few seconds.

Use the Dock

Control-Option-click (Ctrl-Alt-Click) an app icon on the Dock and you should see the Force Quit option appear, tap it to Force Quit the app.

Apple menu

While in the app you want to quit, hold down Shift while you tap on the Apple menu at the top left corner of the screen. Look down the drop down menu that appears and you should see Force Quit and the name of the app you are in. Select the command to quit the app.

Activity Monitor

Because I always have too many browser windows open I always have Activity Viewer running on my Mac. I use Activity Monitor to identify which apps or operations are eating my memory and slowing performance. Unresponsive apps will appear in red, you can help your system by selecting these and then tapping the X button at the top left of the app window to invoke the Force Quit command. Tap Force Quit to leave that app. I find Activity Monitor the most reliable of the bunch when all else fails.

Use the Terminal

You can also quit an app in Terminal. The least complex way to achieve this is to use the killall command, which almost immediately quits the app. Here is the command:

killall [name of application]
  • To quit Safari you would type
killall Safari
  • To quit Mail you would type
killall Mail

Beware — you may find that any windows you have open in the application you quit using this command may not be remembered by the app. You will likely also find that Auto-Save doesn’t work, so anything you are working on will also be gone.

It is, however, a really quick way to quit an app.

Force Quit Finder

You can also Force Quit the Finder. This is a useful fix if the Finder becomes unresponsive for any reason. There’s two very easy ways to do this:

  • Option 1: Select Finder in the Force Quit menu item window, then click Relaunch.
  • Option 2: Option click the Finder icon in the Dock and choose Relaunch.

In both cases, the Finder will be unavailable for a few moments while it restarts and you may experience a little system lag — don’t worry, this is temporary.

If all of this seems complicated, just be thankful you aren’t involved in extensions management on Mac OS 8, speaking of which, here’s a little video trip down memory lane:


Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

1 Response

  1. Use the Dock
    Control-option-click is a quick way to invoke Force Quit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.