How To Force Quit In macOS

How To Force Quit In macOS

When your Mac cannot handle some heavy tasks, it starts to lag, and a rainbow wheel pops up. This wheel is commonly known as the wait cursor and can be extremely frustrating to deal with if you are on a deadline and need to get things done. When your Mac is loaded with tasks, applications can freeze and stop responding. When this occurs, you have two choices. You can either wait it out and hope the app unfreezes itself. The second option is to force quit the frozen application and restart it.

The force quit option is extremely effective and can shut down the unresponsive application when it has frozen. Therefore, every Mac user should know how to force quit an app on a Mac. However, it is important to remember that force quit may cause you to lose your data. Your work will not be saved if you force close applications. Additionally, if it is a browser that has frozen, you may lose your tabs and your place on the websites open at that time.

Now that you know what the simplest way to go about frozen Mac applications is, let us see the solution.

Why can’t you force quit?

Force quit is a pretty useful option when your Mac applications have frozen and won’t load or shut down. It can completely shut off the app, and even though you might lose your data, you won’t be stuck in an endless loop of waiting for the app to unfreeze. You can simply start working again. However, sometimes you cannot force quit the application, and your entire screen is frozen. If you are in such a sticky situation, the best idea would be to force close your Mac and restart it. This method allows the entire system to reboot and hopefully work normally as it did before. Here is how to force close a mac device if the screen is frozen.

  1. Hold down the power button for several seconds, or you can also press the control+command key at the same time and press the power button. If you are using the older Macbooks, then the power button is located on the top-right-hand side of the keyboard. If you are using newer Macbooks like the M1 versions, then the power button is the blank Touch ID sensor, which is also on the top right of the keyboard. If you are working on an iMac, then the power button will be at the back of the device. On a Mac mini, it is a small button on the back of the device.
  2. Leave the device to cool for a minute or more.
  3. Restart the device by briefly pressing the power button.

Now that you have restarted your Mac, the applications should start and work normally. Read ahead to find out how to force quit on Mac.

Try quitting normally before you force quit

Try quitting normally before you force quit

Often times we panic and assume that the application that we are working on has frozen when in actuality, it is simply just loading and taking a long time to do so. When you think you need to force quit an application, try quitting the app normally. You can do this by pressing the x key on the Mac window, or you can right-click on the app icon present on the menu bar and select ‘Quit’ from the menu that pops up. Another way if quit is by using a keyboard shortcut. This shortcut is Command + Q, and it will automatically close the application if it was not frozen and simply takes a long time to load. 

However, if none of these methods seem to work, then you need to force quit the application that is not responding. 

How to Force Quit

Force quit is a pretty nifty feature that allows you to swiftly deal with unresponsive apps so that workflow is not disturbed. If any application on your Mac suddenly freezes up, there are several ways that you can force quit those applications and restart them. Let us take a look at some of those methods.

Using the apple menu

If you want to force quit Mac applications, then the easiest way to do it is through the Apple menu. First, however, you will need to identify which application from the ones you have open is unresponsive. This step can be a challenge because many people have several applications open at the same time. One nifty trick is to hover your cursor over the window of the app. If it remains normal, then the app is responding and working fine. If it turns into a spinning wheel, then it is unresponsive and needs to be shut down.

Here are the steps to do so.

  1. Once the unresponsive application has been determined, navigate to the top left of the screen. This is where the taskbar of that application is. Here select the Apple Logo. A drop-down menu will open up.
  2. From the drop-down menu that opens, select the Force Quit option.
  3. A new window will open up and display the list of applications open on your Mac. In this window, you can select all the applications that you wish to force quit. If there are multiple unresponsive applications, then you can choose to force quit all of them simultaneously. All you have to do is use the command key. This key allows you to select multiple applications.
  4. Once you have selected one, or multiple applications, click the ‘Force Quit’ button. Here, a pop-up will show that will remind you that none of the changes have been and would be saved once you force quit. 
  5. Here, you will select the ‘Force Quit’ option once again.

When you select ‘Force Quit,’ apple will force quit the application, and you can restart it if you still wish to work on it. 

Using keyboard shortcuts

Another way to force quit an application on Mac is to use a keyboard shortcut. This method is the simplest way you can close down a frozen app, and it only requires you to press a few buttons at the same time. Use the keyboard shortcut Option + Command + Esc. When you press this combination of keys, the Force Quit application box pops up. From here, you can select one or many unresponsive applications that need to be shut down. Choose the apps and then select the option that says, ‘Force Quit.’ When this is done, Mac will force quit the apps you have chosen. It is important to keep in mind that the work you were doing on the frozen apps will not be saved and that you will have to do it all over again.

Restarting Finder

Among many applications that can freeze on a Mac, Finder is also one of them. Finder is one of the most important applications on Mac as it allows you to access your files, folders, and other applications. There are many reasons as to why your Finder may have frozen. One reason can be due to an update. 

If your finder freezes, the best way to get it to start working again is to force quit it and to relaunch it. This method usually fixes the issue and gets the finder up and running again. Here is how to unfreeze finder.

  1. On your keyboard, press the command+option + Esc key at the same time.
  2. The force quit dialogue box should appear on the screen
  3. From the dialogue box, select Finder (and other apps that are not responding) and choose the ‘Relaunch’ option.

Another way to execute this task is through the Apple menu. If your cursor is working, you can also try this method. Click on the Apple menu and select force quit from the menu that pops up. You can also force close the finder through the dock.

Using Activity Monitor

Mac has an Activity Monitor, which makes locating applications causing an issue much easier. You can also check the amount of energy of CPU power they are using. From the activity monitor, you can also instruct Mac to force quit certain apps if they are overheating your computer, causing it to lag, or are simply not responding. Here is how you do it.

  1. First, you have to launch the Activity Monitor. You can find it by using the keyboard shortcut Command + Space to open the spotlight feature, or you can Navigate to the finder. From finder, go to applications and then to Activity monitor.
  2.  Once the activity monitor is open, find the app that you want to force quit. When you find it, select it.
  3. After selecting the app, you need to click on the stop icon. This icon is usually found on the top of the application window and looks like an octagon that has an X in the center. 
  4. Once you have clicked it, a pop-up window will show and ask you whether or not you are sure you want to quit this process. There will be three options. Select the ‘Force Quit’ option.
  5. After you have selected that option, Mac will force close that application, and you will have to restart it if you want to keep working on it. 

Why do Mac applications freeze?

Now that you know how to force quit mac applications, you may wonder exactly why these apps freeze in the first place? There are many reasons why this could be happening. The first and most common reason is that there are several apps that are all simultaneously running in the background. Because of this, all the RAM and CPU resources are being used up, and the Mac cannot handle any more tasks. A slow and filled up harddrive can be another reason why applications are freezing on your Mac. 

When your macOS is filled with system junk and cache, it can also clog your apps and cause them to freeze up at times. Additionally, when your macOS is not updated to the latest version, it may cause issues with the software’s overall working and may crash apps or freeze them more often. 

Hardware issues occurring within the RAM or other storage devices is another common cause that causes applications to freeze up and not respond. However, most of the time, it is not your Mac that has an issue, and it is more due to the app which stops responding. This is the reason why your entire Mac does not crash or freeze when a particular app is not responding. 

Luckily fixing frozen apps is not too difficult and can be done by everyone.


How do you force quit on a mac?

If you want to force quit on a Mac, there are many different methods that you can employ to get those apps to force quit. First, you can try force-quitting through the apple menu or through the dock. If you are a big relier on the keyboard, then the keyboard shortcut Option + Command + Esc can also help force quit certain apps. You can also use the activity monitor to force quit apps. 

However, if multiple applications are not working and your screen is also frozen, force quitting the apps will not work, and you will have to force close your device and restart it. 

How do I unfreeze my Mac without force quitting?

Often it happens that the force quit menu does not work. Or the frozen program or programs do not close even when you follow all the necessary steps needed to unfreeze them. In such cases, you can restart your computer. Restarting will help resolve any software issue the Mac may have been having. Therefore, when it opens up again, all the programs would have shut off, and you can once again use them without any issue. To start your Mac, hold down the power button of your Mac until the screen turns black and it shuts off. If you are using an iMac and it is not shutting down, you can unplug the computer entirely. Unplugging will shut everything off automatically.

How do you Ctrl + Alt + Delete on a Mac?

In a Windows computer, if your apps have frozen and are not responding, you navigate to the task manager. From here, you can figure out the issue and force close some of the troublesome apps. On a Mac, you can do this by pressing the Command + Option + Esc at the same time. This combination opens up the Force quit window. Here, you can see all the applications currently running on your Mac. Select the ones you want to force quit and choose the force quit option.

Keep in mind that your data will not be saved if you force quit applications.


Even though this issue does not frequently arise with Mac, it can sometimes happen. When it does happen, it can be a nuisance to deal with. However, the issue is not unsolvable. Through this article, the question of ‘how do I force quit on a mac’ should have been answered as it lists the various ways you can employ to force quit apps if they stop responding. The methods are all quite simple, and even those new to the Mac can execute them. 

However, when you go to force quit apps, remember that this action will cause all the data that you were working on in the app to disappear. None of it will be saved, and you will have no choice but to redo the work at the end. Therefore, if you are working on something important, it is better to wait for a bit to see whether or not it will unfreeze. Force quit is the last option you should try if an application stops responding. 

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Abdul Wahab is a Software Engineer by profession and a Tech geek by nature. Having been associated with the tech industry for the last five years, he has covered a wide range of Tech topics and produced well-researched and engaging content. You will mostly find him reviewing tech products and writing blog posts. Binge-watching tech reviews and endlessly reading tech blogs are his favorite hobbies.