A Macbook keyboard.
Marcus Mears III / How-To Geek
Press Command+Option+Esc to open the Mac equivalent of Ctrl+Alt+Delete. To monitor your system activity, including running applications, launch Spotlight Search (Command+Space), then search for "Activity Monitor."

If you switch to a Mac after becoming familiar with Windows, you’ll quickly find that the standard Ctrl+Alt+Delete shortcut doesn’t do anything. Apple’s macOS does have its own version of the Task Manager, but it doesn’t do everything.

How Is the Task Manager Different in macOS?

While the Windows Task Manager contains a wealth of information and features, macOS splits those features up into separate apps. The Force Quit dialog, which you access with Command+Option+Esc, allows you to close misbehaving applications much like the Ctrl+Alt+Delete Task Manager in Windows. However, if you want more in-depth information info about your running applications and overall system resource usage, you’ll want to use the separate Activity Monitor application.

The Task Manager in Windows also lets you manage your startup programs. In macOS, those controls are in the “Login Items” under Settings.

How to Force Quit an App on Mac

If an application is frozen on your Mac, you can use the Force Quit dialog to close it. This is particularly useful when using a full-screen application, such as a game, and your Mac doesn’t seem to be responding.

To open the Force Quit dialog, press Command+Option+Esc. This should work even if a misbehaving application has taken over your screen and your Mac isn’t responding to other keyboard or mouse actions.

Scroll down in the list and select the misbehaving application you want to close. Click the “Force Quit” button and your Mac will forcibly close that application.

Force Quit window.

If that shortcut doesn’t work, you’ll likely need to forcibly shut down and restart your Mac. To force your Mac to shut down, press the Power button and hold it for several seconds. You should only do this if your Mac can’t shut down normally.

Tip: Command+Option+Esc is different from the well-known Ctrl+Alt+Delete shortcut on Windows, but it’s actually similar to Windows’ Ctrl+Shift+Escape shortcut, which opens the Task Manager directly without the extra click it takes from Windows’ Ctrl+Alt+Delete screen.

You can also open the Force Quit dialog by clicking the Apple menu on your menu bar and selecting “Force Quit.”

The force quit option available in the Apple menu.

There are also other ways to force quit a misbehaving application. For example, you can press and hold the Option and Ctrl keys and click an application’s icon on your dock. (You can also press and hold the Option key and then right-click an application’s icon on your dock.) Select the “Force Quit” option that appears to forcibly quit an application.

If an application isn’t responding and you click the red “Close” button on its title bar several times, you may also see a prompt window asking if you want to force-quit the application.

How to Use The Activity Monitor on Mac

The Force Quit dialog takes care of closing misbehaving or frozen applications. However, it doesn’t allow you to see how much CPU or memory different applications are using, get an overview of your system’s overall resource usage, or other statistics like the Task Manager on Windows 10 and Windows 11 does.

RELATED: How to Troubleshoot Your Mac With Activity Monitor

To use those other features, you’ll need the Activity Monitor. To access it, press Command+Space to open Spotlight search, type “Activity monitor,” and press Enter. Alternatively, open the Applications folder in the Finder, double-click the “Utilities” folder, and double-click “Activity Monitor.”

Search for "Activity Monitor" in Spotlight Search.

This window displays a list of your running applications and other processes. You can view information about their CPU, memory, energy, disk, or network usage — click a tab at the top of the window to choose which. From the “View” menu, you can select which processes you want to see–just your user account’s processes or every running process on the system.

Overall system resource statistics also appear here. The CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network tabs all show how many resources all the processes on your computer are using in total.

You can close applications from here, too: Select an application in the list, click the “X” button at the top of the toolbar, and select “Quit” to close the application normally or “Force Quit” if it isn’t responding.

You can do all sorts of troubleshooting with the activity monitor. It is well worth familiarizing yourself with it if you’re going to use a Mac regularly.

The Activity Monitor on macOS Ventura.

How to Manage Startup Programs on Mac

If you’ve used the Task Manager on Windows 10 or Windows 11, you’ll know that it also allows you to control which startup programs launch when you log into your computer. MacOS also has a similar tool, but it’s not included in the Force Quit or Activity Monitor tools.

To manage startup programs on your Mac, click the Apple menu and select “System Settings.” Scroll down and navigate to General > Login Items.

Applications that are displayed in this list will launch when you sign in. To remove an item, click it, then click the minus sign at the bottom-left of the application list. If you want to add a program, click the plus button instead. You can drag-and-drop applications from your dock or Applications folder to this window, too — if you do, they’ll be added to this list and will automatically open when you sign in.

Navigate to System Settings > General > Login Items to manage your startup items on a Mac.

RELATED: Where Is the Alt Key on a Mac?

You may have Ctrl+Alt+Delete burned into your brain for a catch-all when something goes wrong. If you ever get into trouble on your Mac, Command+Option+Escape will open the Force Quit dialog and serve a similar purpose. For everything else, you have Activity Monitor and System Settings to help you out.

Profile Photo for Nick Lewis Nick Lewis
Nick Lewis is a staff writer for How-To Geek. He has been using computers for 20 years --- tinkering with everything from the UI to the Windows registry to device firmware. Before How-To Geek, he used Python and C++ as a freelance programmer. In college, Nick made extensive use of Fortran while pursuing a physics degree.
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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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