How to Stop Android Apps Running in the Background

Learn how to prevent apps from draining your Android's battery.

Stop Apps Running Background Android Featured

Does your Android phone’s battery drain faster than expected? One of the reasons for this could be the apps that continue running in the background long after you have moved on to a different task altogether. These apps drain your battery and also eat up your device’s memory. You can stop Android apps from running in the background and save your phone’s precious memory and battery life by using a few methods shown to you in this guide.

Note: for this guide, we used a Google Pixel 4a running Android 13. The steps may vary depending on the make, model and Android version your device is running.

Identify Active Apps That Are Consuming the Most Battery Life

The following steps will help you know which apps are open and running, how long they’ve been running, and the amount of RAM they’re consuming.

  1. On your phone, go to “Settings -> System.”
Stop Apps Running Background Android System
  1. Select “Developer Options.” If it is not available, check out how to enable Developer mode on your Android device (steps #4 to #7).
Stop Apps Running Background Android Developer Options
  1. Select “Running services.” If you can’t find it by swiping through the options available, use the “Search” function at the top to locate it.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Running Services
  1. You’ll see a list of the apps that are consuming most of your RAM resources.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Apps Running
  1. To see the apps that are draining your battery the most, go back to “Settings” and select “Battery.”
Stop Apps Running Background Android Battery Option
  1. Tap on the “Battery usage” option.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Battery Menu
  1. On the new screen, you can see the apps that are putting pressure on your battery. The ones that consume the most will be listed at the top.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Battery Draining Apps

How to Close Android Apps Properly

Android apps have a funny way of “closing.” This is unlike on Windows or Mac, where you can usually close a program and kill its process simply by clicking the “X” icon in the corner of the window.

On Android, the very idea of “closing” an app works quite differently. There is no dedicated button to close an app when it’s open. Yes, you can press the “Home” or “Back” buttons, and the app disappears from your screen, but at that point, it is simply on standby in the background. You’ll need to “kill” it instead to prevent it from running in the background:

  1. Tap the square on-screen icon or “Recent Apps” on Samsung devices.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Close Apps Quickly
  1. Swipe up on each app you want to close.

How to Force-Stop Android Apps From Running in the Background

To stop Android apps from running in the background, you can also force-stop them. This is a pretty “aggressive” way of closing an app and means it’s possible your data or your recent game progress won’t be saved.

Think of it like switching your PC off without shutting it down properly – it comes with some risk of losing some data but won’t do any long-term damage to the app, nor will it wipe out the app.

Note: when you force-stop Android apps, it doesn’t prevent them from running in the background the next time you open them. To force-stop Android apps:

  1. Open the “Running Services” menu under “Developer Settings.”
  2. Select an app that is using up a lot of RAM from the list at hand.
  3. On the next page, hit “Stop” to put an end to it running on your device.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Stop App
  1. Alternatively, you can force-stop apps under “Battery usage.”
  2. Select the apps you want to stop, then hit “Force stop.”
Stop Apps Running Background Android Force Stop
  1. You’ll see a warning that says: “If you force stop an app, it may misbehave.” Don’t worry about this warning, and tap “OK.”
Stop Apps Running Background Android Force Stop Confirm
  1. Alternatively, a more general method of stopping apps is via “Settings -> Apps” (or “Apps & notifications” on some phone models).
Stop Apps Running Background Android Apps
  1. Tap on “See all X apps” to view a list of all your installed apps.
Stop Apps Running Background Android See All Apps
  1. To stop an app, tap on it and select “Force stop.” This will stop the app during the current session, though it’ll relaunch when you reboot your phone.
  2. On the other hand, if you realize that you don’t actually need the app, you can select “Uninstall” instead.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Force Stop Uninstall

Setting Up a Background Process Limit

If you don’t want to worry about manually closing apps or force-stopping them, you can set a background process limit to restrict the number of background apps allowed to run at one point.

  1. Go to “Developer Options,” as we showed you above.
  2. Scroll down or use the search function to find the “Background process limit” option and tap on it.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Dev Options Background Process Limit
  1. Select one of the options available. You can set up to four processes to run at the same time. Alternatively, you can opt for “No background processes” whatsoever.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Process Limit Options

Optimizing Your Phone With Adaptive Battery and Sleep

  1. Go to “Settings -> Battery.”
  2. Tap on “Adaptive Preferences.”
Stop Apps Running Background Android Adaptive Preferences
  1. Enable the toggle next to “Adaptive Battery.” Doing this will extend your battery life based on your phone use.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Adaptive Battery
  1. This setting essentially limits the amount of system resources that are made available to apps you hardly use. It figures out the apps you want to use and those you won’t use during a day with the help of machine learning. Based on this information, it drops the commonly used apps into one of five App Standby buckets: Frequent, Active, Working Set, Rare and Never.
  1. Samsung phones have some extra functionality in this area that lets you pick apps to put to sleep when you’re not using them from “Settings -> Battery and device care.”
Stop Apps Running Background Android Samsung Battery Device Car
  1. Hit “Battery” from there.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Samsung Battery
  1. Now tap on “Background usage limits.”
Stop Apps Running Background Android Samsung Background Usage Limits
  1. Switch on the slider for “Put unused apps to sleep.”
Stop Apps Running Background Android Samsung Put Apps Sleep
  1. Underneath that setting, you can choose which apps you want to put to sleep and into which kind of sleep mode.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Samsung Put Apps Sleep
  1. Select a category by pressing on it. “Deep sleeping apps” is preferable since you won’t receive notifications. One downside of doing so is that these apps won’t get updates unless you open them.
  1. To add a new app to the “Deep sleeping” section, press the “+” button in the upper-right corner.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Samsung Deep Sleeping Apps

General Battery Optimization

You can also optimize general battery usage by tweaking a few additional settings.

Note: your phone must be running an older version of Android (11 or 12).

  1. Go to “Settings -> Apps and notifications -> Special app access.”
Stop Apps Running Background Android Special App Access
  1. Select “Battery optimization.” This option has been removed in Android 13.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Battery Optimization
  1. You’ll now be able to view a list of all your optimized apps.
Stop Apps Running Background Android All Apps Optimized
  1. Select an app to change its optimization settings. The first one is “Intelligent Control,” which automatically adjusts the background power strategy according to the app and your usage. At the same time, the “Optimize” option will restrict background activities of apps to improve battery life. However, app notifications and other features might be affected in the process. The last option is “Don’t optimize,” which is not recommended.
Stop Apps Running Background Android Optimization Options

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do Android apps continue to run in the background?

To a greater extent than Windows on your PC, Android apps continue to run, as they often maintain an online connection to let you know if you get messages, send you notifications, and other online-dependent app behavior.

Will closing background apps save data?

Data is a much smaller concern than battery life with apps running in the background. Using our guide above, you can find out which ones use the most data, which will give you an idea of how much background data they use dependent on your usage. But for the most part, there are better ways to reduce data usage than closing background apps. Even so, you can make sure background apps don’t consume excessive amounts of data from “Settings -> Network & internet -> App -> Background data.”

My apps are still consuming a lot of battery while in use. What can I do?

If you think your apps are still draining your battery, even as you’re closing them properly after use or force-stopping them, you might be running an outdated version of the OS. Make sure you’ve updated to the latest version by going to “Settings -> System -> System update.”

With the advent of Android 10, Google has introduced various power management features that control how much power apps end up consuming. This is why, if an Android 10 or above update is available for your device, it should be installed right away.

Image credit: Daniel Romero via Unsplash All screenshots by Alexandra Arici

Alexandra Arici
Alexandra Arici

Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.

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