XDA Basics: 4 Methods to Force Quit an Unresponsive App on a Mac

XDA Basics: 4 Methods to Force Quit an Unresponsive App on a Mac

If you’ve been using a Mac for any extended length of time, you’ll know the spinning wheel of doom, otherwise known as the “spinning beachball”. The formal Mac term for this is “the wait cursor” and it is the cause of much wailing and gnashing of teeth everywhere. It indicates that an app has slowed down and become unresponsive, requiring you to force quit it.

mac spinning beach ball

Image Credit : Wikimedia Commons

Our subject for today is how to force quit an app on a Mac if it becomes unresponsive, leading to the spinning beachball. I can’t save your unsaved work though so be sure to hit that Save button on a regular basis to avoid catastrophe.

Four ways to Force Quit an App on a Mac

There are four methods you can use to force quit an app on a Mac. Here they are in no particular order.

Use the Apple Menu

The first one is to use the Apple menu in the top-left-hand corner. Choose “Force Quit”.

force quit on apple menu

A small box will now come up with all currently running programs. Choose the one you want to end and click the Force Quit button at the bottom.

force quit mac app

Use the Dock

If you’re more of a Dock user, and you keep your programs open down there, you can also force quit an app using the Dock.

Simply go to the icon of the unresponsive app, right-click, and choose Force Quit. If the menu only says Quit, hold down the ALT key (also known as the Option key) on your keyboard and it will change to Force Quit.

force quitting an app from the Mac Dock

Use a Keyboard Shortcut

The last two methods are all well and good but what if your computer cursor has completely frozen? Well then, before switching the computer off then back on again, try this keyboard shortcut combo out first.

Press down the Option key, the Command Key, and the Escape key simultaneously. This will then open up the Force Quit Applications box as before. Choose the evildoer causing havoc on your computer and put it out of its misery.

force quit mac app

Use The Activity Monitor

The last option you can try is the Activity Monitor. To be honest, this is the one I use most often, even though it takes slightly longer to do. I sure like to make my life more difficult…

Open up Activity Monitor by going to Finder–>Applications–>Utilities. Activity Monitor will be the first app there.

Mac Activity Monitor

Once open, go to the CPU tab and click on “Process Name” at the top to rearrange all running programs into alphabetical order. This will make it easier to find what you’re looking for.

Mac Activity Monitor running processes

Find the program you’re looking for in the list. If it is unresponsive, it will also likely have “not responding” in red next to it. Click and highlight the program and then click the cross icon at the top.

force quit on Activity Monitor

A small pop-up box will now ask if you’re sure. If so, click “Force Quit” and it shall be done.

Activity Monitor

If all else fails, you can simply switch off the computer and turn it on again. Many people (myself included) have a bad habit of hardly ever restarting the computer. But it helps keep everything nice and zippy, so restarting once in a while is not a bad idea.


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About author

Mark O'Neill
Mark O'Neill

Mark O'Neill is a freelance writer, editor, and bestselling fiction author. Since 2004, he has written on technology subjects such as MacOS, iOS, cybersecurity, and online privacy. Originally from Scotland, he is now based in Würzburg, Germany, where he lives with his wife and dog. Please direct all email enquiries to [email protected]