//How To Force Quit Programs On Windows

How To Force Quit Programs On Windows

Windows key keyboard


It’s a tale as old as Windows: You’re using your PC and everything seems fine, but then a program freezes for no apparent reason, and you spend the next few minutes waiting impatiently for it to fix itself. Sometimes the program will resume normal operation and you’ll be able to get back to work, but other times, Windows will seemingly be stuck in an invisible process that leaves the app frozen and unusable. In those cases, you must manually force quit the app so that it can be restarted.

Windows offers a few different methods for force quitting frozen programs; some that are convoluted and unnecessary, such as opening the Command Prompt and typing in a long string of what appears to many average users as gibberish. Far easier is the trusty Task Manager, or a simple keyboard shortcut that works some of the time, and an entirely new feature that’s coming to Windows 11.

How to force quit programs in Windows using a keyboard shortcut

Alt F4 keyboard keys


If you’ve grown tired of waiting for a frozen program to fix itself, you can quickly quit the app using a simple keyboard shortcut: Alt + F4. This combination will shut down whichever program is active when you press the keys. For this reason, you need to make sure you’ve selected the frozen program in the taskbar or clicked its window before pressing the keys, otherwise you may accidentally force quit a different program instead.

As with any keyboard shortcut, you can perform the action by pressing both of the keys at the same time. In some cases — typically ones involving smaller keyboards where the function row keys serve multiple roles — you will need to press the Fn + Alt + F4 keys to make the command work. 

This is because pressing the Function (Fn) key will essentially tell your computer that you intend to press the F4 key in the function row, rather than perform the action mapped to that key, such as disabling the microphone, depending on how your keyboard is designed and mapped. 

In some cases, this shortcut will fail to terminate the app, in which case you’ll need to open the Task Manager and manually end the task that way. While we’re on the topic, it’s also possible to use a shortcut to quickly shut down Windows.

How to force quit programs in Windows using Task Manager

Windows 11 laptop hands keyboard


Though pressing the Alt + F4 key combo will force quit the problematic app in the vast majority of cases, you may run into an issue in which the program remains live, but frozen, after hitting those keys. In that case, your best bet for closing the problem is opening Task Manager and manually killing the task, which will force the program to quit. This method works on many versions of the operating system, including Windows 10 and Windows 11.

  1. Press Ctrl + Alt + Del on your keyboard to open a system menu with multiple options.
  2. Click the “Task Manager” option to open the application.
  3. Click the “Processes” tab.
  4. Look for the frozen program under the Apps listing.
  5. Right-click on the app’s name in that list.
  6. Select the “End Task” option.

In the majority of cases, the frozen program will immediately close down, allowing you to re-open it whenever you’d like. As many Windows users have learned over the years, however, this process is imperfect, and sometimes nothing will happen the first time you select “End Task.”

If you experience that issue, you can try repeating the steps, as there’s a good chance the app will quit the second time you try the process. If that still doesn’t work, you should instead reboot your computer — Windows will automatically force quit the problematic app before it restarts.

How to force quit programs in Windows 11 using the taskbar shortcut

Windows 11 taskbard laptop


The Alt + F4 keyboard shortcut has long been the easiest way to quit a program on Windows, but Microsoft is giving its customers another option, starting with Windows 11 Preview Build 23466. In this version, Windows 11 has a shortcut in the taskbar that, when clicked, will open a menu with a very convenient option: “Force Quit.” 

Rather than just telling Windows to quit the program, this option tells it to fully end the task. That means it’ll be able to shut down frozen apps that don’t respond to the Alt + F4 shortcut. To use the feature, you need to:

  1. Right-click on the frozen app’s icon in the taskbar.
  2. Select “Force Quit” in the menu that appears.

This feature is still in beta, and is only available to some Windows Insider beta users. Early versions of the feature have featured the wording “End Task” in the menu rather than “Force Quit,” though it’s hard to say which wording will be used in the final version of the feature for Windows 11. Windows users must manually enable the feature for it to appear in the right-click menu:

  1. Click the Windows icon in the taskbar.
  2. Click the gear icon to open Settings.
  3. Select “System.”
  4. Select the “For Developers” option.
  5. Toggle on the switch next to the menu card titled “End Task.”

Though this feature has to be manually turned on at the time of writing, it is possible that it’ll be enabled by default when the final update rolls out.