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How to control alt delete on a Mac

May the force quit be with you...

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Sometimes on your MacBook or iMac desktop, you’ll want to force quit. If an app is playing up and your screen ends up freezing, it’s usually the best solution.

If you’ve used Windows before, you’ll probably know that pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del together makes you force quit. But that’s not the case on a Mac.

Where are the Ctrl-Alt-Del buttons on a Mac keyboard?

Macs don’t actually have a direct equivalent to Ctrl-Alt-Delete on Windows.

The good news? You’ve got a few options if you want to force quit on your Mac…

How to force quit an app on a Mac

If you’ve got a frozen app, and you’ve tried quitting it normally without any luck, you can attempt to force quit. But please remember - force quitting should be a last resort, and it's best to backup all your work before trying any one of the following methods.

Force quit shortcut on a Mac

Using this keyboard shortcut is a quick and convenient way of force quitting apps when your entire system isn't frozen. It’s usually the most immediate solution.

1. Press and hold the ‘Command’ key on your keyboard.

2. While holding ‘Command’, press ‘Option’ and ‘Esc’ key together. This opens the ‘Force Quit Applications’ window.

3. Select the app you want to force quit by clicking on it.

4. Click the ‘Force Quit’ button. Hopefully, the app should now forcefully quit.

Force quit on the Apple Menu

The Apple menu on a Mac is the dropdown menu located in the top-left corner, and it gives you access to system functions. If your keyboard is frozen and the above shortcut doesn’t work, this is a good alternative to try:

1. Click on the Apple logo in the top-left corner.

2. Select ‘Force Quit’.

3. Click on the app you want to force quit.

4. Press the ‘Force Quit’ button.

Force Quit on the Activity Monitor

The Activity Monitor on a Mac lets you see all the processes that are currently running, and how they’re using resources like memory and energy usage. It’s the way to go when you want to quit a misbehaving app without affecting others. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Go to ‘Applications’ > ‘Utilities’ and open Activity Monitor.

2. Select the app you want to quit.

3. Click the ‘X’ button in the top-left corner.

4. Confirm in the pop-up window.

Force quit on the Mac Terminal

The Mac Terminal is an interface where you input text-based commands to get things done. It’s a good option for force quitting apps or processes in certain situations. For example, when your keyboard is unresponsive, or you want to quite an individual application rather than everything that’s open.

To force quit an app, follow these steps:

1. Go to ‘Applications’ > ‘Utilities’ and open Terminal.

2. Note the process ID (PID) of the app you want to force quit.

3. Press ‘Control’ + ‘C’ to stop the top command.

4. Type ‘kill -9 [the app’s PID]’ and press enter. The app should now force quit.

Force quit on the Mac dock

The Mac dock is the bar of icons that runs across the bottom of your screen. It gives you a visual alternative to keyboard shortcuts, which makes force quitting easier for some users. So, if you want to use the Mac doc to force quit, here’s what you need to do:

1. Click on the misbehaving app's icon in the dock.

2. Hold down the ‘Option’ key.

3. Right-click on the app icon.

4. Click ‘Force Quit’ on the menu.

What should I do when an application won't force quit on my Mac?

If you’ve attempted the above methods and the app still won’t force quit, we suggest you try the following:

  • Check for Updates. Sometimes, updating the app or your operating system can resolve the issue.

  • Give yourself some space. Make sure you’ve got enough free RAM and disk space. An overloaded system can sometimes lead to unresponsive applications.

  • Try Safe Mode. Put your Mac in Safe Mode and attempt to force quit the app from there.

  • Reboot and restart. This should clear your Mac’s memory and starts it afresh.

  • Factory reset. If all else fails, you can factory reset your Mac. Doing this erases all your content and returns your device to its factory settings. This is definitely a last resort – and you should back-up all your content before you try it.

Need more help?

If you need help with any of this, don’t be shy about reaching out. Our tech experts are here to help you with computer maintenance whenever you need it.

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