Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I use Spotify, an application which, like many others, remains running when you close the window. That is to say, when I alt+F4, it doesn't have the desired effect. It only closes the window. The little icon at the bottom in the launch bar remains highlighted as an active application. You have to right click the icon and select "Quit" in order to truly close it. I don't feel like doing that every time.

Is there a keyboard shortcut equivalent to the ctrl+alt+del end task?

share|improve this question
Wow. Just... wow. The incorrect answer has 29 votes. Democracy, eh? – Ben Jun 26 '12 at 16:54
@Ben No longer the accepted answer, though. Thank you for drawing my attention back to this. – Aerovistae Jun 26 '12 at 17:12

10 Answers 10

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Depending upon the application and the layout of the menu in the application you may be able to press ALT + F followed by the X key. ALT + F opens the file menu and then X will exit the application. If this does not work look for a quit or exit button on the menu bar and press the corresponding underlined key. This should do the trick for you.

share|improve this answer
Nice work. I must've misunderstood the first time I read this, because this was exactly what I was looking for. Won't work on full screen apps like games, but perfect for everything else. – Aerovistae Jun 26 '12 at 17:12

Yes, there is. It's Alt+F4.

This is the key combination to end a program. The only reason it doesn't work as advertised is ignorant programmers who refuse to follow Microsoft design guidelines.

This problem would persist with any other hotkey as well. You could only possibly create a custom solution with AutoHotKey (or similar tools) that kills the process. But this would most likely make you lose a lot of work. As that is quite the brute force method to exit a process.

I want to know more!

OK, to my understanding, there are several ways a Windows application can be terminated.

  1. Posting a WM_CLOSE window message to the main application window.
  2. Destroying the main application window.
  3. Terminating the process.

The first way is the clean way. The way you're intended to close an application. This is the same thing that Alt+F4 works. Pressing Alt+F4 will just send the WM_CLOSE message to the application window.

Now, let's look at all 3 ways in reverse order.

Terminating a process

In Windows, an application lives in a process. Inside that process, the application may create a window. The window is what you will see on your desktop and what you will interact with.

So, if the process is the root of an application, if you terminate it, everything else will go away as well. So this would be great to fully end an application. But this will kill the application so abruptly, that it will have no chance to save any critical data to disk.

So this would not be recommended!

Destroying the main application window

As we just learned, the main application window is just part of the process. So if we just destroy that window, we'll still have the process stinking up the place :(

And that would be even harder to get rid off than the application would have been.

This is most likely the nastiest approach to trying to end an application. Stay far away!

Posting a WM_CLOSE message

Windows is a message-based operating system. Meaning, components talk to each other by sending each other little messages.

One of these messages is the WM_CLOSE message.
If an application receives this message, it is agreed upon, that this application should seize all action and then life.

But every programmer can decide on his or her own how to handle the message.

As the documentation told us earlier, the default behavior would be to call DestroyWindow and, thus perform our application exit approach #2.
With the little difference that, this time, it's intentional and the program has every chance to save critical data.


So, as you can see, we're pretty much at the mercy of every programmer here. Or we take the risk of losing data (you don't want to take that risk!).

share|improve this answer
To elaborate, a Windows application has a method that runs when the application's window encounters an exit program event from the user. Instead of exiting as the user wants, this particular program contains code in this exit method to minimize the application to the notification area instead of exiting as the user requested. This is against Microsoft's design guidelines though it is sadly a common practice. If you're lucky, the application may have a setting somewhere that usually says something like "minimize to tray on exit" that you can disable if you want the application to end for real. – shufler Jun 1 '12 at 5:53
Comment is a bit handier than the actual answer, but thanks to both anyway. – Aerovistae Jun 1 '12 at 8:48
Although unfortunately that did not turn out to be the case this time around. – Aerovistae Jun 1 '12 at 8:50
The same reference you link also has ALT+F4: Closes the current window. Not really the application's fault that Windows has inconsistent shortcut definitions. – OrangeDog Jun 1 '12 at 11:16
It's rare to be both ignorant and refuse to follow the rules. Oh, you meant this as an insult... – Phong Jun 1 '12 at 17:24

There are a number of things you can try if you can't shut down a program with Alt-F4, besides killing the process (which I would only use a last resort). Though this has to be done on a per-program basis as there is no generalized solution.

  • You can try and find a command line option in the documentation that shuts down a program entirely. If it does not exist, you can contact the developer
  • Another option is to look in the preferences of a program for an option like "Pressing Alt-F4 terminates program instead of minimizing to SysTray".
  • Some programs allow you to create user-defined hotkeys for actions like this.
  • Create a script with AutoHotkey that selects the option to terminate from the GUI. Something like "!fq" for "Access file menu with Alt-F then select the quit option". You could restrict the hotkey to the program with #IfWinActive and assign the Alt-F4 hotkey.

Some examples:

  • In order to shutdown PhraseExpress, you'd have to create a shortcut to phraseexpress.exe with the parameter -shutdown.
  • In order to quit Word entirely, you could create a macro that does "application.quit". This will attempt to close all instances of Word.
  • To close an AutoHotkey script, you'd have to have a shortcut to ExitApp somewhere in the script.

Just start using macros and after a while you will get the hang of it. AutoHotkey or AutoIt are good scripting languages for this kind of problem.

share|improve this answer

You want to access the tray icon meny via the keyboard?

Start with Win-B to focus on the tray ; if you need to access the additional hidden items, go to the arrow and hit space or enter, then go to the icon of the application, hit the menu key (between right Alt and Ctrl keys) and go with the arrows to the exit/quit menu entry.

share|improve this answer
  • Alt+F4 should close the current window, not necessarily cause the program to quit.
  • If it is the last window, the process will generally exit of its own accord.

There are exceptions such as programs which run in the background and do not normally show a window, except for notifications. For these Alt+F4 generally dismisses the notification and there is usually another way to make the program exit.

But the answer is: No, there is no keyboard shortcut for forcibly terminating a process. Shortcuts are for making frequent actions easier. Forcible termination should be a rare event, and therefore doesn't get a shortcut.

  • Also, Ctrl+C generally causes console applications to quit (but not windows applications as it is the shortcut for "copy"). So does Ctrl+Break. In each case a "control hander" is called, which usually terminates the application, (but may not).
share|improve this answer
In my Windows days, Ctrl +F4 closed the current window; Alt+F4 closed the application and all its windows, for sane applications. – Arjan Aug 5 '15 at 18:13
@arjan, in an application with subwindows (called an MDI or Multiple Document Interface application) Ctrl+F4 closes the MDI Child window. E.g. in Word or Excel, each document was opened in a sub-window within the main window and Ctrl+F4 would close that window only. These days tabbed GUI is more common and generally Ctrl+F4 closes the current tab (e.g. in IE, Chrome and Firefox, Visual Studio etc.). – Ben Aug 9 '15 at 18:20

Gnome HIG uses Ctrl-Q to close apps and Ctrl-W to close tabs.

Firefox, Eclipse and others support these.

Googling for Spotify and Ctrl-Q indeed reveals:

share|improve this answer

CtrlPause, which on my Dell is the blue Fn key and F12 / Pause.

So, I hold the blue function key, hold the Ctrl key and press F12.

share|improve this answer
This answer really confuses me. i did Fn+ctrl+F12 and my computer blacked out...despite that "Sleep" is F4. I have no idea what the F12 symbol means; it's really not very informative at all. It definitely did not end the program, though. Same with Fn+Ctrl+Pause. – Aerovistae Dec 9 '12 at 20:42

Is there a keyboard shortcut equivalent to the ctrl+alt+del end task?

Yes, should you really wish to access the Task Manager which allows you to end the process directly, you can use the following shortcut:

Ctrl + Shift + Esc

share|improve this answer

alt+F4 no longer closes any windows. Change the registry key to 1 and it will close the windows, even if there are more tabs.

Value Name: NoWinKeys
Data Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value)
Value Data: (0 = disable restriction, 1 = enable restriction)  
share|improve this answer

Alt+F4 will work.

You have to disable "Close Spotify to tray" option in preferences. Then when you do your alt+f4, it will really quit the app.

I don't know if this option exists before.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .