How To Deal With Crashed Apps [100 Tips #51]

Force Quit

It’s true: sometimes Macs do crash. More often than not, though, crashes will be limited to a single application, rather than the entire system.

You’ll know an app has crashed because it simply stops doing anything. Clicking on controls has no effect, scrolling gets you nowhere; the app simply doesn’t respond to your usual commands. So what do you do next?

First, don’t panic. OS X is designed to keep crashes under control. Even if an application has crashed, in most cases you’ll still be able to carry on just fine with work you’re doing in other applications. All you have to worry about is the one that’s crashed, and any unsaved work you had inside it.

Second, click outside the application’s window boundary, if you can. Or click the icon of another application in the Dock.

You need to do this so you can take back control of the computer. The crashed application will be displaying its own menus in the Menu Bar, and they won’t respond because it’s crashed. You need to bring another application to the front, so that you can do the next step via its menus.

Now, click the Apple menu. Yup, the little Apple symbol that’s always at the top-left of your screen. This is present in all applications, because it gives you access to system-wide controls.

About half-way down the Apple menu you’ll see a command called Force Quit. Click it.

Now you see this little window appear. It displays a list of all the applications you have running right now (so your list will look different to this example). The application that’s crashed will almost certainly be highlighted with red text, and the words “Not responding”. At the bottom of the panel is a button saying “Force Quit”. All you need to do is highlight the crashed app (by clicking on it once), then click the Force Quit button.

Zap! The crashed app has now been put out of its misery, and you can restart it again if you wish to.

Be warned: using Force Quit does what it says on the tin. It forces a hung application to quit instantly. Any work you hadn’t already saved will be lost. The “save often” mantra remains as true today as it ever has.

(You’re reading the 51st post in our series, 100 Essential Mac Tips And Tricks For Windows Switchers. These posts explain to OS X beginners some of the most basic and fundamental concepts of using a Mac. Find out more, or Grab the RSS feed.)

  • Alan Christensen

    Or click Option-Command-Escape at any time.

  • tiresius

    For whatever reason, I have to visit Force Quit almost every other day because Safari is Not Responding, and I get stuck with the spinning ball. After that, I have the option of sending an error report to Apple, which I do, but have to admit it is frustrating.
    At the same time, I wonder what Apple actually does with these Error Reports; laugh at me with some sort of programmer joke, “hey, he got hit with an 4703 B again. bet he’ll never learn.”

  • Don Pope

    Thanks, I didn’t know about this. I always used the Activity Monitor to kill stubborn processes.

  • CharliK

    Actually you can skip the whole ‘click out of the application’ stuff. You don’t have to do that. You can go to the Apple Menu or use the keyboard short cut just fine right from the bad application.,

  • Jhjohn01

    the same exact thing seems to happen to me with the same frequency or even more. safari always freezes up and i have to force quit out of it when doing things like closing pictures on facebook or transitioning from watch instantly on netflix. what usually causes your program to crash?

  • fortninety

    It would be a not so bad thing to also mention what happens when the Finder also crashes, and using Force Quit Applications to relaunch, plus make the necessary clarifications.

  • Lex worth

    sometimes it is best to force quit and shut down the computer for a minuet and restart. I’ve done this many times and it works.

  • donjusko

    Snow Leopard is the pits. Safari always freezes on me also. My Mac never froze before this trash OS.

  • donjusko

    Snow Leopard is the pits. Safari always freezes on me also. My Mac never froze before this trash OS.

  • donjusko

    It’s not a bad application, it’s a bad OS. Really bad.

About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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