Alt+F4 is the longstanding go-to shortcut for instantly quitting programs. Done web browsing? “Alt + F4” it. Finished with Photoshop? “Alt + F4” it. In fact, you can “Alt + F4” your way out of Windows all the way to the Shut Down prompt if you so wish.
But sometimes things aren’t so simple, and programs can crash, hang and refuse to die even when you’ve given the trusty “Alt + F4” command. “Ctrl + Alt + Del” is the next port of call, right? But what if that doesn’t work or the Task Manager remains hidden behind the crashed window? We have some solutions for you here.
The Basic Method
You probably all know this one, but let’s throw it in there anyway just in case. If “Alt + F4” doesn’t work, then the next thing to try is ending the process through Task Manager. To get to Task Manager, either press “Ctrl + Alt + Delete” and click Task Manager or press “Ctrl + Shift + Esc” to go straight to Task Manager.
Next, right-click the troublesome program and click “End task.”
Make Task Manager “Always on Top”
The basic method won’t work if the program that’s crashed is blocking your view of the Task Manager, putting you in the awkward position of potentially having to reboot your PC. To prevent you from having to do this in the future, however, you can make Task Manager appear over the top of all other windows – even crashed ones.
To do this, open Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), click Options then “Always on top.” That’s it. The next time a program seizes up your PC, jump into Task Manager, and it’ll be there to save the day. Right-click the problematic program in Task Manager and hit “End task.”
If Task Manager isn’t appearing, try Command Prompt
If the above doesn’t work, the next port of call is the slightly more hands-on Command Prompt. If possible, go to the Start menu, type
cmd, then right-click “Command Prompt” and click “Run as administrator.”
tasklist into the Command Prompt and hit Enter.
Scroll down the task list in Command Prompt using your mouse or “Ctrl + Down” arrow and look for the program that you think is the one that crashed. (It’ll generally have a similar name to the actual program, so Adobe Photoshop is “Photoshop.exe,” for example.)
Next, enter the command
taskkill /IM taskname /f
where “taskname” is the name of the program you want to force-quit. So if I want to force-quit Photoshop, it’ll be
taskkill /IM Photoshop.exe /f
If you don’t mind installing a tiny third-party program (more accurately a command than a program), then SuperF4 is fantastic. It creates a new keyboard command – Ctrl + Alt + F4 – which instantly kills the active window in Windows much like Task Manager does (as opposed to “Alt + F4,” which is just a shortcut to close windows and does not force-quit them).
To get SuperF4 working, just download it from here, extract it, then double-click the “SuperF4” application file. That’s it. The “Ctrl + Alt + F4” command is now part of your computer.
Another handy trick of SuperF4 is that you can press “Win + F4” to turn your mouse into a skull-and-crossbones, then click any active window to instantly kill it. Be warned that this works very well, so don’t go dilly-dallying around with it on unsaved Word documents you’ve been working on for hours.
The above should just about have you covered for force-quitting any stubborn program on Windows. Of course, if you notice one program crashing more than others, then even though these tips will help you close it each time, you should probably dig deeper into what’s causing the problems with that particular program.