What to Do When Force Quit an App on Mac Is Not Working?

Man angry because Force Quit is not working

What to Do When Force Quit an App on Mac Is Not Working?

Key Points

  • Force-quitting an app is a last-resort option when it takes too long to load or freezes, indicated by the spinning beach ball of doom.
  • There are multiple ways to force quit an app on Mac, including using the Command-Option-Escape shortcut, the Apple menu, or right-clicking on the app’s icon.
  • If force quitting doesn’t work, you can use the Activity Monitor to identify and close processes that are consuming the most system resources.
  • Regularly updating your Mac’s operating system and clearing app caches can help prevent the need to force quit apps.
  • If all else fails, you can contact Apple Support or the app developer for assistance.

Every Mac user fears the spinning beach ball of doom. Its presence can only mark bad things, like apps breaking or freezing up. Usually, force quitting and then restarting an app on Mac is the easiest way to revive it.

But if your Mac is frozen with no help from the Force Quit utility, then it can be a bit frustrating. Let’s dive into how to fix it.

When Should I Force Quit an App?

Force-quitting an app is already a last-resort option.

If your app takes more than a few minutes to load, you may need to force-quit it. The first telltale sign of an app that needs to be force-quit is the aforementioned spinning beach ball of doom.

You don’t want to rely too heavily on force-quitting apps when they’re being finicky. Instead, completely close them out, and close any other apps that are open. 

Restart your computer, and the issue should be fixed if the app itself isn’t faulty.

How Do I Force Quit an App on Mac?

The built-in Force Quit utility on Mac is there to help out in the event of a malfunction or freeze-up. Force-quitting an app on Mac is really easy to do. That’s why so many people will do this as their default solution when apps are buggy.

Option 1: Command-Option-Escape

You can press Command-Option-Escape and select the app to force quit from the menu that appears on your screen.

force quit an app
The force quit menu on Mac.


Option 2: Apple Menu

From the Apple menu (provided it is functioning normally), select Force Quit.

Select the app you want to Force Quit and finalize it. It’ll bring up the same menu as Option 1, this is just a different way to access it.

force quit an app
Drop down menu on Mac.


Option 3: Right-Click

You can also simply right or control-click on the app’s icon to force quit it. 

force quit an app
The dock on Mac



Force Quit Apps Using the Activity Monitor

You may need to try other methods if you can’t force quit an app easily. The Activity Monitor isn’t too challenging to use, but it is a bit of extra work.

Step 1: Applications

From your Applications folder, select Activity Monitor.

force quit an app
The activity monitor on Mac



Step 2: Order Processes

Organize the Processes by clicking on the CPU column header. You do this so you can determine which ones are consuming the most system resources and close them without a fuss.

force quit an app
Activity Monitor on Mac



Step 3: Identify

Find the process that’s causing your lag. Typically, these processes will be found at or around the top of the Process Name list.

You can select the individual process by clicking it and clicking ‘x’ to quit.

Step 4: Force Quit

You’ll finally be shown the Force Quit menu to finalize everything.

force quit an app
Force quit via the Activity Monitor



Why Can’t I Force Quit an App?

Apps, like computers, need to get regular updates to fix bugs and patch up security holes. Sometimes, if an app hasn’t been updated in a long time, it will fail.

Other issues can cause bugs in certain apps, such as a malfunctioning bit of code, completely beyond your control. If you download a lot of apps from the internet, this will exacerbate the problem.

You can’t always trust the devs to keep up with maintaining an old app, especially a free one. These failures will result in seeing the spinning beach ball of doom and a frozen Mac.

Deleting and Reinstalling Apps When They Won’t Force Quit

If the app you’re trying to load is still compatible with your computer’s OS, you may be able to save it. This method is a bit risky because you might not be able to save important data from inside the app.

For things like a web browser, you might lose your favorites and saved passwords unless you had them synced with an online account.

Step 1: Uninstall The App

Fully uninstall the app by moving it to the trash bin and emptying it.

Step 2: Reinstall The App

Return to the App Store or third-party website where you downloaded the app. Doing this will also give you the most current version of the app, eliminating the need for another update.

Step 3: Test The App

Try running the app again. If it still fails, try restarting your computer, and then opening the app.

Create a Different Desktop to Force Quit

This may sound redundant, but using another desktop to force quit finicky apps is simple and effective.

Step 1: Mission Control

You can access Mission Control in a variety of ways, but the easiest is to simply press the Mission Control key.

However, you can also access it via the Launchpad or Touch Bar icon.

force quit an app
Mission control.


Step 2: Command-Option-Escape

Press the Command, Option, and Escape keys.

Alternatively, you can click on the Apple icon, and then the ‘Force Quit’ button.

Step 3: Select App

From here, you’ll be able to select the app and force quit it from the normal force quit menu.

Use the Terminal

The Terminal can be a bit intimidating to beginner to intermediate Mac users. There is an especially large learning curve for people who would describe themselves as “technology illiterate.” 

You can still successfully use the Terminal to force quit finicky apps and get rid of the spinning beach ball of doom even if you have a hard time with technology.

Step 1: Launch the Terminal

You can find the Terminal app in your Applications folder.

force quit an app
Open Terminal


Step 2: ps-ax

This is where it gets tricky for beginners.

Type in the command ps -ax and then hit the ‘return’ key. Don’t forget the space between ‘ps’ and ‘-ax’ when you enter the command.

force quit an app
Terminal view on Mac.


Step 3: Select Processes

This command will launch a screen similar to the one we saw with the Activity Monitor.

Select the process, or application, that you’re trying to force quit. Then type in the command kill <approprite PID number>, making sure to put the number shown on the left, right between the two < > signs.

Hit the return key, and you should be good to go.

force quit an app
Terminal after entering the command.


Update OS Frequently to Match Apps So They Don’t Force Quit

A simple way to avoid the need to force quit apps is by updating your Mac’s OS every time it alerts you to update it.

Apple really did a number on users by creating the “Remind Me Later” button. If you’re in the middle of writing an essay or coding a website, you’re probably going to want to be reminded later.

But then later never comes. And then your apps do not load anymore.

Instead of insisting that you’ll just do it later, take care of updates as soon as they roll in. Your computer will be thanking you in the future, and you’ll be amazed at how much longer it runs without any issues.

Clear the App Cache

There are a lot of little steps Mac users have to take pretty routinely to ensure that their Mac is operating at its maximum potential.

Most of these tricks are relatively simple, and they’re only getting easier as Apple’s technology evolves.

It’s recommended that you clear your App caches daily. 

That may seem tedious but think of the long-term potential that it could have to benefit your Mac.

Step 1: Finder

From ‘Finder,’ use ‘Go to Folder’ and type ‘/Users/[YourUserName]/Library/Caches’.

Click ‘Go’ to launch the caches.

force quit an app
Locating your app cache.


Step 2: Sort through the Files

Thoroughly sort through the files that are located in your app caches. You may be surprised at how many files are in there, and how old some of those files are.

force quit an app
Sort through your files to delete the app cache.


Step 3: Delete

Delete any old, unwanted files that are taking up space and causing problems on your Mac. Send them to the trash bin, and empty the trash bin to permanently remove them from your storage.

What Are Cached Files, and Why Should I Clear Them?

Cached files are supposed to be temporary files. Your Mac downloads them automatically with the hope that these files save time when you load the app in the future. These cached files eventually make their way to your Mac’s permanent storage.

Cached files aren’t bad, but again, they can be a bit redundant because too much of a good thing can ultimately cause your apps to freeze, leading you to have to force quit them.

Making a habit of clearing out your cached app files and cached browser files is great for your Mac’s overall health. Once a day might be a bit of a commitment, so aim to clear out your cache at least once a month. Remember, you want to do anything you can to avoid the spinning beach ball of doom!

Contact Apple Support

Apple can only help with apps that come directly from them. For example, if you’re mixing a song and experience issues with the expensive Logic Pro app, you can contact Apple Support.

Contacting professional support is always an option we avoid, but it’s important to get an expert opinion if things get out of hand.

They might reiterate a lot of the support tips we’ve covered in this article. Mention that you’ve already tried these methods, and they’ll get a little more creative.

Apple Support can spend as little or as much time helping you get your apps up and running as you need. You can also take your Mac to a Genius Bar if necessary. The Geniuses can tell you if you have bigger problems with your Mac that force quitting simply won’t fix, no matter the workaround.

Contact the App Developer

Most third-party apps have a large tech support team that’s ready to help their customers as needed. Larger companies might have a longer waiting list, but even the biggest names in app development will eventually get back to you.

The app developers for third-party apps have likely weighed out the risks of running their app on your Mac before they even released it to the wild (you, the customer).

Apple will always warn against downloading third-party apps from the internet, but it’s really difficult to avoid doing that these days. There are so many apps made by incredible developers that help accomplish everyday tasks. So, you don’t need to avoid everything.

But you should double-check that the app developer is legit via a simple Google search before downloading their app.

Final Thoughts

It’s frustrating when apps won’t load. It’s especially frustrating when they won’t even force quit after they refuse to load. You can take a few preventative measures to ensure that you need to force quit apps less frequently, like clearing out storage space and caches or updating your OS.

But, ultimately, it is an inevitable problem as your Mac gets older. If your Mac is well-beyond official support for the current operating system, it might be time to invest in a new one.

But if your iMac or MacBook is only a couple of years old, there is no reason to replace it just yet. Instead, keep it going with regular maintenance and just stay cautious on the internet.

Summary Table

Methods to Force Quit an App on MacSteps
Command-Option-EscapePress and select the app to force quit from the menu that appears on your screen.
Apple MenuFrom the Apple menu, select the app you want to Force Quit and finalize it.
Right-ClickRight-click on the app’s icon to force quit it.
Activity Monitor1. From your Applications folder, select Activity Monitor.2. Organize the Processes by clicking on the CPU column header.3. Find the process that’s causing your lag.4. Force Quit the selected process.
Deleting and Reinstalling Apps1. Fully uninstall the app.2. Reinstall the app from the App Store or third-party website.3. Try running the app again.
Create a Different Desktop to Force Quit1. Access Mission Control.2. Press Command-Option-Escape.3. Select the app and force quit it from the normal force quit menu.
Use the Terminal1. Launch the Terminal app.2. Type in the command ‘ps-ax’ and hit the ‘return’ key.3. Select the process, or application, that you’re trying to force quit. Then type in the command ‘kill -9 [process number]’.
Clear the App Cache1. From ‘Finder,’ use ‘Go to Folder’ and type ‘/Users/[YourUserName]/Library/Caches’.2. Thoroughly sort through the files that are located in your app caches.3. Delete any old, unwanted files.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I restart my mac if apps won't force quit?

You can always restart your Mac if apps won’t force quit. This, unfortunately, puts you at the risk of losing valuable data, especially if you were in the middle of working on something. Just remember to save your work frequently, and you’ll be ready to restart your Mac in the event of an issue.

Why aren't apps loading on my mac?

If you have to frequently force quit an app, you may have a storage issue.

You can check your storage in ‘System Preferences’ -> General -> Storage. The bar at the top of the screen shows you what is taking up the most storage, and what apps are taking up the most storage.

Particularly large apps can take up more valuable storage space, especially if you’re not keeping an eye on what you’re downloading.

Take inventory of what large apps you use the least. Deleting these apps may help your other apps run more smoothly, leading you to need less-frequent force quits.

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