A Quicker Way to Kill Non-Responsive Programs in Windows

While working with too many programs in Windows, you must have encountered the famous dialog box “This program is not responding”. After this dialog box is shown, the desktop freezes for a while and may be the screen goes black. Next, you are shown an option to end the program, clicking which terminates the program and brings some life in Windows.

What causes this temporary system hog is the lack of resources requested. May be your system is low on random access memory (RAM) and you are requesting a large number of commands, which sadly your system can’t execute in such a small interval of time

Now, what if the desktop enters into a continuous loop where more than one program is not responding. One of the common examples is Firefox and Microsoft Office used in parallel, you open too many tabs or documents and both the programs stop responding.

In such cases you have to open Windows task manager by pressing “Control + Alt+ Del” and manually end the process(s). Why not use alternative ways to kill all the non responsive programs in one shot. This can save time and CPU resources and moreover, you can start your work afresh.

In this tutorial we will learn how to close all the non responsive programs in Windows without using the Task manager.

Kill Non Responsive programs With a Desktop Shortcut

1. First you will have to create a new desktop shortcut in Windows, double clicking the shortcut will kill all the non responding processes at once. Simply right click on any empty area of Windows desktop and select New -> Shortcut

Create New Desktop Shortcut to Kill Non Responsive programs

2. Enter the following line in the desktop shortcut wizard

Enter the address of the desktop shortcut

3. Hit “Next” and give the shortcut a name of your choice. Hit “Finish” and you are done

Kill all not responding programs

You will see a new desktop shortcut placed in the desktop. To recognize it better, right click the shortcut and choose “Properties”. Then hit the “Change Icon” button under the “Shortcut” tab and select a custom icon for the shortcut you just created.

Choose Icon shortcut

While the last step isn’t mandatory, assigning an icon to the shortcut makes sure you recognize it when some programs stop responding.

How to use the shortcut

Using the shortcut is quite simple and straight forward. Whenever you find a program which isn’t responding and want to kill the process, instead of opening the Windows task manager and finding the process name, just double click the shortcut. The process will be killed and you can restart the process in a couple of minutes.

Kill Non Responsive programs From Right Click Context Menu

Another smart way of killing all non responsive programs is to add a context menu entry. This is more useful, because you don’t have to search for the Kill all programs shortcut in the desktop. Following are the steps involved:

1. Type regedit in the run command dialog box or in the search box of Windows start menu. This will open the Windows registry editor

2. Find the following key

Windows 7: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DesktopBackground\Shell
Windows Vista: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\Shell

Create registry keys to end programs in Windows

3. Right click on the Shell folder from the left pane and select New -> Key

Create New keys in Windows Registry

4. Give the key a relevant name e.g “Kill all tasks”. Now right click on this key again and create another sub key, this time name it as command.

Create Subkey of a registry Key

5. Select the command key in the left pane and double click the default entry in the right pane. Enter the value data as:

Enter value of registry Key

6. You are all done. Right click on any empty area of the desktop and you will see a new context menu entry as “Kill all tasks”

Kill All tasks

Later if you want to delete the context menu entry, simply navigate to the corresponding key and delete the command sub-key, as created in step 4.

Do you know of any other trick which can automatically kill all non responsive programs in Windows? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Soumen Halder

Soumen is the founder/author for Ampercent, a tech blog that writes on computer tricks, free online tools & software guides.


  1. I'm inferring that this procedure is only valid with Vista and 7 (based on the imagery and the fact that XP doesn't recognize the shortcut location)…

  2. I am using windows in my work environment (At home I use Fedora Linux). I used the first method but havent applied it till now as there were no processes which hanged the system. Will have to wait and see for that. Did not try the second method though. I must say the second method is also quite good one. It comes in handy when the left click does not work, when any process is not responding.

  3. Nice tip.
    The shortcut could be moved to another location, say Administrative Tools or Accessories, and could be assigned a keyboard shortcut (e.g. Ctrl+Alt+K). If the black Command Prompt window is nagging, it can be easily run minimized (just select it from the shortcut properties).

  4. Clarification #1: Although “taskkill.exe” was only prepackaged with XP Pro, it should be viable for all other versions</hint></hint>…

    Clarification #2: Shortcut creation is indeed possible as detailed for Vista and 7; however, XP context menu creation is significantly different…

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