How To Close A Program That Is Not Responding

Every computer user at some point will likely have to deal with a program that just stops responding. The application simply freezes or hangs. Here's how to completely close the program with Windows' Task Manager or Mac OS X's Force Quit.

Remember what it was like when applications never froze? Me neither. But new computer users who have never hit Ctrl+Alt+Del (or the more direct Ctrl+Shift+Esc shortcut) will definitely need to learn how to use End Task on Windows or Force Quit on the Mac; you could email these directions to them or print it out as a handy reference for the future.

Windows: End Task on the Task Manager

To close a program that's frozen on Windows:

  • Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to directly open the Task Manager.
  • In the Applications tab, click on the program that's not responding (the status will say "Not Responding") and then click the End Task button.
  • In the new dialog box that appears, click End Task to close the application.

Mac: Force Quit

Mac OS X has both keyboard shortcuts for closing applications that aren't responding and menu options.

  • To force quit an application with your mouse, click on its icon in the dock and just hold down the left mouse button until the "Force Quit" option appears. Or, optionally, you can right-click and choose "Force Quit"
  • To select from a list of applications to quit, click on the Apple icon in the menu bar, then "Force Quit"
  • The keyboard shortcut to quit the application on top that isn't responding is Cmd+Opt+Shift+Esc
  • The keyboard shortcut to get the Force Quit menu of all applications open is Cmd+Opt+Esc

Alan Henry's got a nice video showing these Force Quit shortcuts in action.

Going Forward

If a specific program keeps freezing on you, it's a sign that something's wrong. Application freezes can be due to a number of issues, though, like software bugs or hardware driver issues, which makes troubleshooting a bit difficult.

Your best bet is to make sure your operating system is up to date, check if there are any updates for your software and hardware drivers, and make sure you have your anti-virus and anti-spyware running and up to date as well. These are all part of basic Windows maintenance and Mac maintenance essentials (we've got a Linux maintenance guide too). If you continue to have problems with one specific program freezing, check the vendor's support website for a solution.


    Well the end task works sometimes but there is an end now dialog and when I do it sometimes it never works so I just right click the program and click go to process and end the proccess for the application. This is just a tuip if it won't close down.

    In my experience the task manager is not the be all and end all for closing frozen programs. Very often it will have no control at all! There are little applets available that will, but you have to have them running in the background, i.e. systray. #]

    I think most people this age already know the task manager method.

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