How to force quit a Mac app that isn't responding

Force Quit Menu on macOS
Force Quit Menu on macOS (Image credit: iMore)

Ordinarily, Mac apps are very well behaved, but everyone once in a while something can go wrong — horribly wrong — and the app will stop responding to any input. Sometimes if you give the Mac a few moments to recover, you'll get back cursor or input control and you'll be able to quit. But if you can't, there's a built-in feature in OS X to help — it's called Force Quit, and it's only a click away.

How to force quit a stuck app on your Mac

  1. Click on the menu.
  2. Select Force Quit. (Alternately, you can press the command, option and escape keys on your keyboard.)
  3. The Force Quit Applications dialogue will appear and show all open applications. (Typically if one has stopped working, you'll see "Not responding" appear next to the application name.)
  4. Select the name of the app you'd like to quit.
  5. Click the Force Quit button.
  6. The Mac will ask you to confirm that you want to quit the application, with a reminder that you may lose any unsaved changes in any open documents in that app. Click Force Quit to quit or Cancel to resume.

Bonus tip: Quitting the active app

If you'd like to quit the app you're in, you don't even need to open the Force Quit dialogue. Just go to the menu and hold down the shift key on the keyboard. The Force Quit menu item should say "Force Quit [app name]" instead.

Peter Cohen
  • or quit an active app with Command Q...thanks for the tips :)
  • CMD+Q doesn't force quit. Sent from the iMore App
  • it does for me ..
  • CMD+Q doesn't force quit, it just quits the application normally. If the app hangs CMD+Q doesn't work, I've tried
  • DUHHH read what I said in relation to the article
  • ...or right-click the app's dock icon with the option key held down. And, yes, thanks for the tips because I didn't know about that short cut with the shift key.
  • Does anyone know how to see EXACTLY why an app is hanging? I've googled the little spinning wheel of death, and they give possible reasons, but I want to know if it's lack of RAM, slow HDD, can't find/read a file, CPU overload, etc. I honestly think this happens FAR too often. I have the base model iMac 5k (not the 2015 downgraded model, but the original 2014 base model- 1TB fusion drive) and I get the pinwheel more than my threshold of acceptance allows. Especially with Photos - the main reason I bought a new Mac. I even tried copying my entire photos library onto a late model USB3 SSD, I still get that cursed pinwheel. It comes back to life, but still. I never have drive-reading issues with Windows. Is this bc I have FileVault 2 enabled? Is the core file reading process (whatever) / file system (HFS) just plain garbage? Sent from the iMore App
  • You'd identify what problem it is the same as any other computer; through looking at resource usage, hard drive health, or if the CPU is actually being overloaded. It rarely happens to me, and for me personally less than it does on Windows. I'm assuming it's FileVault 2, also are you using Windows on the same Mac? If Windows is working fine then it's definitely something you have installed on OSX that's causing the issue
  • They should enable "Force Touch Quit" for dock icons. :D
  • Command + Option + Escape also opens the Force Quit Dialog.