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Geoffrey Kim
Geoffrey Kim

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How to Force Quit Unresponsive Applications via CLI on macOS

If you're working on a macOS system and encounter an application that's not responding, you know how frustrating it can be. While the graphical interface offers ways to force quit applications, sometimes you may need or prefer to do this from the command line interface (CLI). Whether you're remote accessing a system, prefer using the terminal, or are in a situation where the GUI is not accessible, knowing how to handle this via CLI can be incredibly useful. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to force quit unresponsive applications using the command line on macOS.

1. Finding the Process ID (PID)

The first step in forcing an application to quit is identifying the process ID (PID) of the application. The PID is a unique number that macOS uses to refer to each running process. There are a couple of ways to find the PID of an unresponsive application:

Using ps aux:

  • Open the Terminal application.
  • Type ps aux and press Enter. This command lists all running processes on the system.
  • Look through the list for the name of the unresponsive application. Next to it, you'll see a number, which is its PID.

Using pgrep:

  • Alternatively, you can use the pgrep command for a quicker way to find the PID. Simply type pgrep [application name], replacing [application name] with the name of the program. For example, pgrep TextEdit will return the PID for TextEdit if it's running.

2. Force Quitting with the kill Command

Once you have the PID, you can proceed to force quit the application using the kill command.

  • In Terminal, type kill [PID], replacing [PID] with the actual process ID of the application you want to quit. For example, kill 12345.

  • If the application doesn’t quit with the standard kill command, you can use a stronger signal, -9, to force quit. Type kill -9 [PID], for example, kill -9 12345. This sends a SIGKILL signal, which immediately terminates the process.

3. Using pkill to Directly Force Quit

If you prefer not to look up the PID, you can use the pkill command to force quit an application by its name.

  • Simply type pkill [application name]. For instance, pkill TextEdit would force quit TextEdit.


While force quitting applications can be necessary, it should be done with caution. Unsaved data may be lost, and there's always a slight risk of causing system instability. Always attempt to allow the application to respond on its own or try to close it normally before resorting to force quitting.


Understanding how to manage unresponsive applications through the CLI can be a powerful addition to your troubleshooting toolkit on macOS. Whether you're a developer, system administrator, or just prefer using the terminal, these commands offer a quick and effective way to regain control over your system when applications freeze or become unresponsive.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. Use these commands wisely and always ensure you have saved your work before force quitting any application.

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