How to End Tasks on a Mac

How to force quit frozen apps on your Mac

What to Know

  • From the Dock, right click the program > click Quit.
  • Bring up the Force Quit menu (option + command + Esc keys at same time) > Click the program you want to quit > click Force Quit > click Force Quit again.
  • Open Activity Monitor > browse or search to find the task you want to quit > click the task > click the X icon > click Force Quit.

When apps freeze up on your Mac, it can be a minor annoyance or a big problem. Sometimes it can make your entire Mac unresponsive. This article provides three ways to force quit apps, quit frozen apps, and stop background tasks on a Mac.

All instructions in this article were written using macOS Catalina (10.15), but the basic concepts apply to all later versions of the macOS, too.

How Do You Kill a Task on a Mac?

Perhaps the easiest and quickest way to kill a task on a Mac—another way to refer to quitting a program—is to use the macOS Dock. Here's what to do:

Screenshot showing quitting an app from the dock
  1. In the Dock, right click the app you want to quit.

    If you don't have a mouse or trackpad and so can't right click, hold down the Control key and then click the app.

  2. Click Quit and the app and all of its windows will be closed.

    Clicking the red X button in the top left corner of a window does not quit an app. It only closes that window, but leaves the app still running.

How Do You Force Quit an Application on a Mac?

If the application you want to quit is frozen up or won't respond to other commands, try using the macOS's built-in Force Quit menu. Force Quit is just what it sounds like—a more powerful version of the Quit command you can use when Quit isn't working. Here's what to do:

  1. Open the Force Quit menu. There are two ways to open the Force Quit:

    • Apple menu > Force Quit.
    • Press the option + command + Esc keys at the same time.
    Screenshot of the Apple Menu with Force Quit selected
  2. In the Force Quit menu, click the program you want to quit.

    Screenshot of the Force Quit tool
  3. Click Force Quit.

  4. In the confirmation dialog, click Force Quit again to quit the program.

    Screenshot of the Force Quit tool confirmation dialog

How Do I Stop Apps From Running in the Background on My Mac?

The final way to quit a program, especially a frozen program, is also the same way you stop apps from running in the background. Many programs can perform tasks in the background, allowing them to perform useful tasks for you while you're doing something else (for example, Mail checking your email while you browse the web or Music playing a song while you work on a spreadsheet).

Background tasks are usually helpful, but they can sometimes go awry, use memory, or drain your battery. In those cases, you'll want to stop the app from running in the background by following these steps:

  1. Open Activity Monitor.

    Screenshot of the Activity Monitor program

    This program comes pre-installed on all Macs and can be found in Applications > Utilities.

  2. Activity Monitor shows all programs, services, and tasks running on your Mac at that moment. Frozen apps will be red and say Not Responding next to them. Browse or search Activity Monitor to find the task you want to quit and click it.

  3. With the program you want to quit selected, click the X button in the top left corner.

  4. The confirmation dialog offers two options for quitting:

    • Force Quit: Click this when you want to close a program right away. This is best for apps that are frozen.
    • Quit: Click this to quit the program when doing so won't cause data loss or interfere with other programs.
    Screenshot of Activity Monitor with the Quit dialog
Was this page helpful?