How to Force Quit an Application in Mac OS X

How many times has this happened to you?… You’re surfing the web, and you click a link. You wait a few minutes, and the web page won’t come up. So you click… and click… and click again. You couldn’t be any more frustrated, could you? Then, the spinning disk of color pops up in place of your cursor, and doesn’t go away. Oh great… your computer’s frozen! And it won’t un-freeze! Here is how you can escape this problem by force quitting the program that has crashed.

Keyboard Shortcut

  1. Press Command – Option – Escape simultaneously. If you need more explanation on how to find these keys read on:
    • Command is the button with the curly clover pattern on it. In pre 2008 apple keyboards it also had an apple icon on it. It is in the bottom left of your keyboard.
    • Alt/Option key is located at the bottom left of your keyboard.
    • Escape (Esc) is located at the top left hand corner of your keyboard.
  2. Select the application you want to force quit from the “Force Quit Applications” window that pops up. If the program has crashed, it will typically say “not responding” next to it in this menu.
  3. Click the button that says “Force Quit”.

Mouse Method

  1. Direct your mouse to the apple icon in the top left of your screen.
  2. Scroll down to “Force Quit” and close the application which is not responding.

Dock Method

  1. Use a two button mouse such as the Mighty Mouse or a third-party two button mouse.
  2. Right click¬†on the application’s icon in the Dock and hold Option. This will display a Force Quit option.
    • If you don’t have a two button mouse, instead of right clicking, clicking and holding works too, as does holding control and clicking

Terminal Method (Advanced)

Sometimes, however, trying to Force Quit an application doesn’t quite work the way you’d expect it to. If a normal Force Quit doesn’t work, try these steps:

  1. Open the Terminal application. By default, this is in the Utilities folder, located in the Applications folder (and this application should not be moved).
  2. Type “top”. The top command displays various information about currently running applications, including CPU usage, memory info, and some other stuff.
  3. For this purpose, there are only two things you need to be concerned with: The Process ID (or PID) and Command name (or application name). Under the column titled “COMMAND”, find thename of the Application you wish to quit. (You may not see the wholename, but a portion of it will be there).
  4. Once you find the name of Application, find the number to the immediate left of it, under the PID column.
  5. Type “q”.
  6. Type “kill ###”. Replace the “###” with the number from the PID Column you just located. For example: If you were trying to quit iTunes, and found iTunes to have PID number 320, you would type “kill 320”.
  7. Tada. This should make the trouble application quit. Unlike previous versions of the MacOS, you don’t need to restart your computer after force-quitting an application. You can simply relaunch the application and keep on working.

  • Before you click “Force Quit”, double check that the application is still frozen. Sometimes the application un-freezes while you bring up the “Force Quit” window.
  • It is not possible to force quit Finder. If you select Finder, the “Force Quit” button will say “Relaunch”.
  • To force quit the application without opening the force quit window, just press Shift with the other buttons (Command+Option+Shift+Esc) and hold for about 5 seconds. This will close the currently active application.


  • Make sure the application is still frozen before you force quit it. Otherwise you could damage it.

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