How to Force-Quit an Application on Any Smartphone, Computer, or Tablet

Ctrl+Alt+Delete isn’t just necessary on Windows and other desktop operating systems. Applications can freeze or get stuck in bad states on modern iPhones, iPads, and Android devices too.

Every operating system has a way to forcibly end misbehaving applications. After you do, you can relaunch them and they should hopefully work properly.

iPhone and iPad

To force-quit a running app on an iPhone or iPad, double-press the Home button to open the list of recently opened applications. Scroll to the left and right to find the app you want to close. Touch the app’s thumbnail and slide it upward and off the screen. The next time you open the app, it will restart from scratch.

This won’t help you save system resources. You don’t need to do this to close apps just because you’re no longer using them. But, if an app is frozen or otherwise stuck in a bad state, this is a way to force-close it and force it to restart from a clean state.

Android

The easiest way to force-quit apps on Android is from the recent app switcher, too. Tap the multitasking button to open the list of recently accessed apps. On some devices, you may need to long-press the Home button or perform a different action if there’s no recent apps button.

Touch one of the apps thumbnails or cards in the list and swipe it to the left or right, moving it off the screen. The app will be closed and will open from a clean state the next time you access it.

As with on iOS, this isn’t something you should do unless you really have a reason to. You should generally let Android manage processes on its own — it’s the same reason why you shouldn’t use an automatic task killer.

Windows

Use the Task Manager to do this on Windows. You don’t have to use Ctrl+Alt+Delete to open the Task Manager — a quicker way is pressing Ctrl+Shift+Escape. Or, with the mouse, right-click your taskbar and select the Task Manager shortcut.

Windows 8 has a nicer looking Task Manager, but Windows 7’s works just fine, too. Locate the window or application you want to force-quit and click the ‘End task” button.

You can force-quit “Store apps” from the Task Manager on Windows 8. You can also place your finger on the top of the screen and move it down until the app becomes a thumbnail, Move the thumbnail to the bottom of the screen. When it switches from a thumbnail of the currently running application to the generic tile image of the current application, release it. Windows will close the Store app.

Mac OS X

On Mac OS X, press Command+Option+Escape to open the Force Quit Applications dialog. You can also just click the Apple menu on your menu bar and select Force Quit. This tool will help you quit those apps.

You can also hold the Option key and right-click an app’s icon on the dock. and then click the Force Quit option.

If you need a more powerful tool that also lists background processes and allows you to kill them, open the Activity Monitor application.

Linux

Linux has its own set of utilities for force-closing desktop applications and killing processes. Each desktop environment includes its own process-management tool — like the Activity Monitor tool on Ubuntu’s Unity and GNOME-based desktops. There’s also the xkill command, which allows you to click a window and immediately close it. And, because this is Linux, there are many other terminal commands for quickly managing those processes.

Chrome OS (and Chrome)

Chrome OS uses Chrome’s task manager. Click the menu button, point to More tools, and select Task Manager to open it — or just press Shift+Esc on a Chromebook. Select one of the processes and click End Process to end it.

This also lets you manage the different processes Chrome uses for web pages, apps, and extensions when you run Chrome on Windows, Mac, or Linux. If a web page or app is frozen, use Chrome’s own Task Manager to identify the misbehaving process and kill it.


There are more powerful options for this, too. Mac OS X and Linux have powerful terminal commands for managing processes, and Windows has PowerShell cmdlets for killing processes. On Android, third-party apps can manage processes, and you’ll also find buttons for forcing apps to close in Android’s list of apps on the Settings screen.

Image Credit: Jennifer 8. Lee on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.