We’ve all been there. One minute you’re surfing along on your browser of choice, or completing some extensive edits in Final Cut Pro. The next minute, your Mac suddenly locks up, leaving you held hostage by the spinning beach ball of death. From time to time, applications experience problems which cause them to freeze or act unpredictably. As a result, your entire system may even slow to a crawl. In these instances, simply quitting the application often isn’t enough. That method may also not be possible.
In this guide, we’ll outline how to force quit Mac applications when appropriate. Following these steps should restore your system and applications to working order.
Quick Methods 1 and 2: Hot Keys or Control + Click
The easiest method to force quit a Mac problematic application is to use the command + Q hot key combination. Pressing these keys simultaneously initiates the force quit process. This will close the application as expected.
When an application is opened, its respective icon sits in the Dock. Users can also hold down the control key and click using the trackpad or external mouse. Doing so on the app icon will open a shortcuts menu. MacOS will often recognize when an application is misbehaving and present a “force quit” menu option. Selecting this option will close the program.
Note that when your system is running slowly, these commands may take several seconds to work.
Method 3: Open Activity Monitor
On occasion, using your keyboard to force quit Mac applications will not always be responsive. When problems are a little more severe, users may need to open Activity Monitor, Apple’s built-in task manager. This is one of the most reliable methods available to quickly force quit Mac applications.
Activity Monitor can be found by opening Finder and looking through the Applications folder. However, it is slightly easier to access using Launchpad:
Step one: Click the Launchpad icon in your Dock
This will bring up a page full of your Apple and third-party applications. Note that some of these may be organized into folders, so Activity Monitor may not be immediately visible.
Step two: Click the Activity Monitor icon to launch it
The Activity Monitor icon resembles a heart rate monitor in appearance. This application is very similar to Windows Task Manager:
Step three: Find the problem application within Activity Monitor
Once Activity Monitor is open, you can force quit your application. Activity Monitor displays all processes and apps currently running on your Mac, in a list format. If interested, users can also view how much memory each process is using by clicking the “Memory” tab.
If you know which app is causing problems, you can quickly search for it without scrolling. Type the name of the app using the search bar in the upper right. Activity Monitor will show you the problem app. Click on it, then hit the “X” button in the upper left. The button resembles a stop sign with an “x” in the middle.
You will be asked to confirm your choice. Force quit your application by clicking the “Force Quit” button in the popup box. This will quickly kill the app.
Method 4: Using Terminal
Many Mac users aren’t used to using Terminal, so this may be an advanced option for most users. However, many power users prefer Terminal’s simplicity, and find it useful in these situations. Instead of using your Mac applications, Terminal allows users to input commands directly to macOS.
Step one: Open Terminal using Launchpad or the Applications folder
Terminal can be opened in the same way as other apps like Activity Monitor. Either open Launchpad, or open Finder and search for Terminal within the Applications folder. Opening Terminal will present you with a new command window:
Step two: Locate the app you want to force quit
Next, you will need to find the app that is causing you problems within Terminal. Each application and process has its own ID number. To force quit the app, you’ll need to find that ID number. There are two commands that users can enter to do this:
Within your Terminal window, type the command ps -ax and press Enter. This will bring up a list of every running app and process. Each of these has its own ID number on the left, which you must locate:
To find the correct number, find the application you want to force quit in the list. Using its ID number, force quit the app by typing the command kill ID and pressing Enter. Replace “ID” with the ID number. This will force quit the slow app immediately.
This is the shorter way to work with Terminal to kill specific apps. If you know the name of the app you wish to force quit, type the command ps -ax | grep [application name] and press Enter. This will bring up the ID number for that specific app only.
As with method one, the command to quit the app is the same. Type kill ID and press Enter. Just like that, you’re good to go.
With these methods explained above, you’ll be well equipped to handle most application issues you encounter with macOS. Force quitting troublesome apps is one of the easiest ways to solve pesky application issues. Armed with the above knowledge, using your Mac reliably may just become a little bit easier.