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If you’ve just switched to a Mac from Windows then you may be wondering what’s the equivalent of control alt delete on a Mac to force quit an application that has crashed.

If you’re on a deadline with a work or school assignment or are worried that you’ve broken your parent’s computer, don’t panic if your Mac has frozen.

There are various equivalents to Ctrl-Alt-Delete on a Mac and here we show you all the ways to easily terminate apps that are hanging, have locked-up macOS or are making your Mac run slow.

All of these solutions work to force quit on all types of MacBook too including MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

The most common apps that freeze on a Mac are browsers such as Safari, Firefox and Chrome, Microsoft Office crashes or word processing applications such as Microsoft Word.

Note that force quitting an application will lose any information or editing you’ve done since the last save you did although many applications auto-save at regular intervals automatically nowadays.

We strongly recommend always backing up your data to an external hard drive to prevent data loss through force quitting on a Mac.

How To Control Alt Delete on a Mac

Here are 5 ways to do Control+Alt+Delete on a Mac and force quit unresponsive applications.

1. Keyboard Shortcut

control alt delete on mac - keyboard shortcut

The closest equivalent to Ctrl-Alt-Delete on a Mac is the keyboard shortcut ⌘+Option+Esc.

Press the Command+Option+Esc keys together to bring up the Force Quit window.

cmd control escape force quit mac

 

Then just select the applications you want to close and click Force Quit.

Notice that this even works for quitting Finder which is the main file management system on your Mac and if unresponsive, can sometimes be the reason your Mac is frozen or you see the dreaded spinning beach ball of death.

force quit window mac

2. Apple Menu

You can also open the Force Quit window by going to the Apple logo in the top left of your screen and selecting Force Quit.

force quit mac apple menu

3. Dock

If an app is hanging on your Mac or has stopped responding, you can also close it by clicking on its Dock icon.

Simply CTRL-click at the bottom of your screen and in the menu that appears, select Force Quit.

control alt delete on mac - force quit dock

4. Activity Monitor

Activity Monitor is the Mac equivalent of the Task Manager in Windows and is a useful system diagnostic tool in macOS.

Activity Monitor can not only show you which apps are unresponsive or causing problems but also allows you to Force Quit any application.

If an app is consuming a lot of your Mac’s CPU resources, then you’ll see this in the first column and your Mac’s fans will probably be whirring.

To stop an application on your Mac using it, search for Activity Monitor in macOS Spotlight or open it from your Dock.

Often if the program has stopped responding, it will be highlighted in red in Activity Monitor.

force close program mac - activity monitor

Simply double click on it to bring up the option to Force Quit or select the program you want to quit and click the circled “X” at the top of the Activity Monitor screen.

quit process activity monitor mac

5. Terminal

Terminal is a command based tool in macOS which you can program to force applications to close on your Mac.

Simply launch Terminal by searching for it in macOS Spotlight or open it from your Dock.

Type killall followed by the name of the App e.g. killall Preview

Note that it’s important to use an upper case letter for the name of the app otherwise it won’t work:

kill apps mac terminal

 

If you’re not sure which app is causing your Mac to hang or freeze, you can type top in Terminal it will give you a list of processes that are running.

You may have to drag the window to make it longer to see all the processes currently running.

You can then use the PID number on the left to identify the app that is causing the problem. Simply type “Q” to return to the command line and then kill followed by the PID number e.g. kill1732.

ctrl+alt+del mac - terminal

 

What Happens When Force Quit Doesn’t Work on a Mac?

Force Quit won’t work on a Mac if the application you are using doesn’t leave any kernel space. You can only Force Quit applications on macOS that occupy user address space.

If your Mac completely freezes, then it’s possible that none of the above solutions will work.

If Force Quit is not working on your Mac, try the following:

  1. Hold down CMD+CTRL and press the power button on your Mac at the same time to force restart a Mac.
  2. If this doesn’t work or you have a Touch Bar Mac, simply hold the power button down on your Mac for 5 seconds to kill all processes and force it to switch off.
  3. If you’re still able to at least use the Trackpad, you can also try logging out by going to the Apple logo in the top left and selecting Log Out which will kill all running applications.

About The Author

Author

MacHow2 is devoted to helping you get the most of of your Mac. We're passionate about all things Mac whether it's helping users with software recommendations or solving technical problems. If you've got any comments about this article, get involved by leaving a comment below. You can also contact us directly using the contact form at the top of the site. Please note that in the interests of transparency, MacHow2 may sometimes receive compensation from link clicks or vendors.

3 Responses

  1. Pjay

    Best article EVER! I am a competent Windows user that switched to a Mac several years ago b/c I use an iPhone & iPad, etc. I’ve missed Cntrl/Alt/Delete SO MUCH! Thank you forever!

    Reply
  2. marie

    I work on a Mac Book Pro and I do not have the Esc command you are referring to…

    Reply

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