How to Kill a Program or Process in macOS

This step by step guide will show you two different ways to kill (end) a program and/or process running in macOS.


Use the following information very carefully. Killing processes in macOS can cause system instability and full scale OS crashes. With that said, this tutorial will show you how to ‘quit’ a program or process, even when it’s not displayed in the dock or the “Force Quit” menu. The first method is to use the Activity Monitor app and the second is to use the macOS Terminal.

Kill an App or Process with Activity Monitor

  1. Open the Activity Monitor from the Application -> Utilities folder. Apps and processes can be listed in a number of ways. Select the CPU tab to get a list of how much CPU each running App or process is using, select the Memory tab to see how much memory each is using etc. Start with the CPU tab.

    Click the % CPU column header to sort all of the running programs and processes by their CPU usage.

  2. click to enlarge

  3. Locate the macOS app or process that you want to kill, select it by clicking on it once, and then click the X button located in the upper-left corner of the Activity Monitor (see screenshot below).

  4. click to enlarge

  5. A confirmation window will appear asking if you’d like to Quit the app/process, Force Quit it, or cancel. If you select Quit but it doesn’t quit, try again but select Force Quit the second time.

Kill an App or Process with the Terminal

  1. Typically when you’re looking to force something to quit, it’s because the program or process is eating up a ton of CPU. To identify the program/process, open an OS X terminal by going into your Applications -> Utilities and selecting Terminal. Once a terminal has opened, you can get a list of the running programs by entering the command top.
  2. the top command in a macOS terminal
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  3. To quit the top program simply hit the q key on your keyboard. As seen above, the default “sorting” for the top command is by PID (Process ID). Since this doesn’t always help identify which program is hogging your CPU, run top with the following string: top -o cpu

    That will launch top and sort the processes by which ones are using the most CPU. In the example below you’ll see that top itself is actually using the most CPU.

  4. the top command in a macOS terminal sorted by cpu
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  5. Again, hit the letter q to quit top. If you’ve identified the program you want to end, make note of it’s PID. In the screenshot below I’m using MozyBackup as my example, and it has a PID of 1488
  6. selecting an app to kill in the macOS Terminal
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  7. To quit MozyBackup, enter the command kill -9 1488. Broken down, that’s kill (the command to ‘kill’ a program) -9 (the “non-catchable, non-ignorable kill” – basically it means kill this program no matter what) and 1488 (the PID that you want killed).
  8. using the kill command to force an app or process to quit in macOS
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  9. As you’ll see in the above screenshot, I was unable to kill the PID 1488. That’s because the program in question wasn’t owned (being run) by me – rather, it was being run by the root user. To get around this, and use this command with care, enter sudo kill -9 1488. You’ll be asked for your password, and after entering it, the process 1488 will be killed.
  10. unsuccessfully killing a process in the in the macOS Terminal
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  11. For detailed information on the top and kill programs, enter man top or man kill from the Terminal to view the manual pages for each program.

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4 thoughts on “How to Kill a Program or Process in macOS”

  1. thank you very much my nokia n900 was very slugish and i went through alot of trouble for such an easy step

  2. Thank you so much I spent a LONG time trying to figure out why my macbook was running so slow and the fan was on full blast. I wish I had seen this site before i talked to that clueless tool on Apple’s tech support line

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