What Is Control Alt Delete on a Mac and How Does It Work?

Ctrl Alt Del concept. Close up, male hands pressing control delete keys on keyboard. Man experiencing troubles with laptop pc computer. Disposable paper coffee cup, cell phone, wooden texture table.

What Is Control Alt Delete on a Mac and How Does It Work?

Key Points

  • Macs and Macbooks are different from PCs and do not have a Control+Alt+Delete shortcut.
  • On a Mac, you can use Command+Option+Esc to force quit programs.
  • To lock the screen on a Mac, use Command+Control+Q.
  • To sign out or switch users on a Mac, use Shift+Command+Q.

Macs and Macbooks are extremely different from PCs. Getting used to your new device is cumbersome at first. Figuring out simple keyboard shortcuts like control+alt+delete on a Mac can be a daunting task.

We’ve used a combination of Macs and PCs for years, so we’re pretty familiar with both devices and their respective keyboard functions. Macs are excellent workhorses, perfect for writers, and PCs are great for casual users and gamers. So, if you’ve chosen to start using a Mac, we’ll teach you how to use control+alt+delete and some other neat tricks as well. Let’s get to it!

Control Alt Delete on Mac Fully Explained

Control Alt Delete Mac
Your author was fortunate enough to have system issues while writing this piece, so we captured a screenshot for you.


Control+Alt+Delete is the command we use on PCs to access a quick menu and open the task manager, lock the screen, switch users, and sign out of the admin profile. It’s one of the most well-known keyboard shortcuts, and it’s incredibly useful. Even if your PC is frozen, Control+Alt+Delete still works and will take you to the task manager to close problematic windows.

Unfortunately, Macs have none of these keys. So, what keyboard shortcut will take you to the lock screen, sign out, and force quit options fastest? Well, it takes more than one keyboard shortcut to complete those tasks. However, they’re still pretty easy to remember when you get the hang of them.

How to Use Control Alt Delete on Mac

Now, because we must use several shortcuts to complete the same tasks as Control+Alt+Delete, we’ve provided the examples here. For instance, you can use one for Force Quit and another for locking the screen. Whatever your keyboard shortcut goals are on your Mac, you’ll find the alternatives in the following sections.

Force Quit

When we think of Control+Alt+Delete, we think of the Task Manager. That’s the program on your computer that allows you to force quit programs, even when they aren’t responding. If that’s what you’re trying to do, here’s that keyboard shortcut:


Input that command on your Mac keyboard to bring up the force quit menu. Select the program you’d like to close, and click Force Quit.

Control Alt Delete Mac
The Force Quit feature lets you see all programs running on your Mac


Lock Screen

Unfortunately, Mac doesn’t give us a sub-menu when we activate its Control+Alt+Delete variation. So, you’ll need to use various methods to access different shortcuts. Rather than using the Command+Option+Esc buttons to lock the screen, do this:


Your Mac screen will lock, and you can feel comfortable walking away knowing that your information is secure (assuming you have a password, of course).

Sign Out/Switch User

Finally, you can easily sign out of your user profile on your Mac or switch users. Assuming you have several profiles on your Mac and need to switch between them quickly, you can quickly sign out of the current one by inputting this keyboard shortcut:


You can also use Option+Shift+Command+Q to sign out without having to confirm. Of course, you can also click the Apple Icon at the top, then click Log Our [Profile Name] if you’d like.

Control Alt Delete Mac
The Mac Menu also gives you keyboard shortcuts to the right of each option.


How Does Control Alt Delete Work on a Mac?

Command+Option+Esc is a fairly simple shortcut that becomes second nature after a few tries. Instead of going through the Apple menu and selecting options, it’s faster and works even if your Mac is frozen (most of the time).

However, some of our readers may not be familiar with how the shortcut actually works — or the process. When you use a keyboard shortcut, you must long-press the first key (in this case, the Command button). While holding that one, press the others.

Keep the buttons depressed until the Force Quit window appears. Then, you can select each program you’d like to close and hit Force Quit.

Why Is It Important?

Another helpful point of information regarding Control+Alt+Delete functions on a Mac is why it’s important. As stated previously, the Command+Option+Esc functions work even when your Mac isn’t responding. Think of it as an override system.

If your cursor shows a round, colorful, spinning icon and you can’t click on anything, the Apple Menu likely won’t work. Instead, use the keyboard shortcut to access the Force Quit menu and shut down any problematic windows.

Of course, it’s also helpful to get to know many Mac keyboard shortcuts. These functions can be incredibly time savers, and you don’t have to keep moving your hands from keyboard to mouse.

Other Control Alt Delete Functions on a Mac

Speaking in terms of the Windows Task Manager, there is a lot more to the feature than simply force quitting programs. Fortunately, you can still see which applications are taxing your RAM and other neat insights.

Activity Monitor

The Task Manager on a PC shows you processes and performance (among other things). As stated above, Mac doesn’t have that, but it does have the Activity Monitor. Using this feature, you can see which programs are taking up memory, energy, and general performance. While there isn’t a keyboard shortcut per se, there is a fast way to get to it.

Input the following keys on your Mac keyboard:


When the Spotlight opens, tap “Activity Monitor.” A new window opens, and you can use the tabs at the top of the screen to check on your computer processes.

Control Alt Delete Mac
Spotlight is a fast way to access programs on your Mac


Close Apps

Suppose you don’t need to force close an app, but you want to close the window on top. There’s a fast and easy way to do that as well. To close the app that’s currently on your Mac screen using a keyboard shortcut, input this keyboard shortcut:


The window will close (assuming it doesn’t give you a pop-up). However, we should warn you about this one. The window will close, and you’ll lose any saved work. Use Command+S to save, then close the window using the shortcut.

Force Restart

MacOS’s Control+Alt+Delete alternative isn’t nearly as eloquent as a PC’s. Sometimes, the Force Start window will not open. So, what can you do if this happens? You can perform a restart. Shutting your Mac down and restarting it fixes most issues. However, if it’s frozen, you can’t access the Apple Menu.

Instead, try this shortcut to restart your Mac:


Hold those three keys together for a few seconds, and your Mac should shut down and restart. However, this is another one of those “User beware” shortcuts because you’ll lose any unsaved data.

Wrapping Up

Switching from Windows to Mac is a painful process. The keys don’t even align. Getting to know how to perform basic tasks like Control+Alt+Delete on a Mac is challenging without help. Fortunately, after getting used to the keys, Mac makes a lot more sense.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I see all of the keyboard shortcuts on my Mac?

Mac is neat because you can actually see all of the keyboard shortcuts in the settings. Click the Apple Menu icon and select System Settings (Preferences, on older models). Then, click Keyboard. Finally, click the Keyboard Shortcuts option to see all keyboard shortcuts.

What is a keyboard shortcut?

A keyboard shortcut is a key combination that results in an action. For example, Command+Tab will switch between windows on a Mac. These shortcuts are much easier than using a mouse to perform common functions.

Which keyboard combination lets me search for documents and apps on my Mac?

The Command+Shift combination opens the Spotlight feature and lets users search for documents and apps stored on the Mac. Use this to quickly locate anything you need without ever moving your hands off of the keyboard.

Why aren't the function keys working on my Mac?

You must enable the function keys before you can use them on a Mac. Go to the Apple Menu and select System Settings (Preferences for older models). Then, select Keyboard and Keyboard Shortcuts. Finally, enable the function keys.

Can I create my own keyboard shortcuts on a Mac?

Yes. Go to the Apple Menu and select System Settings (formerly Preferences). Go to Keyboard and Keyboard Shortcuts. Click the Add Shortcut (+) option and follow the on-screen prompts.

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