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?

  • 2
    Wow. Just... wow. The incorrect answer has 29 votes. Democracy, eh?
    – Ben
    Jun 26, 2012 at 16:54
  • 1
    @Ben No longer the accepted answer, though. Thank you for drawing my attention back to this. Jun 26, 2012 at 17:12

16 Answers 16


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.

  • 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. Jun 26, 2012 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!).

  • 12
    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, 2012 at 5:53
  • Comment is a bit handier than the actual answer, but thanks to both anyway. Jun 1, 2012 at 8:48
  • Although unfortunately that did not turn out to be the case this time around. Jun 1, 2012 at 8:50
  • 1
    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, 2012 at 11:16
  • The support article you linked is a little confusing. "Windows System key combinations: ALT+F4: Quit program" means that Windows will quit if it receives Alt+F4. To try this, show the desktop, click on the desktop, and type Alt+F4. You get the shutdown menu. It does not mean that other applications are supposed to quit. The "General keyboard-only commands" section applies to them.
    – Ben
    Jun 1, 2012 at 11:56

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.


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.

  • 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).
  • 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, 2015 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, 2015 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:



In a case where you can't see the task manager (a fullscreen application like a game malfunctions) and Alt F4 doesn't work you can use taskkill.exe if you know the name of the process.

Open the Run-dialog with Win R and type:

taskkill /IM NameOfTheProcess.exe /F

Taskkill doc

  • This works perfectly IF windows is listening to you. I created a shortcut to invoke this and it works on the desktop, but in a program that is full screen it doesn't seem to.
    – ggb667
    Apr 22, 2022 at 13:57

In windows Fastest way is by pressing alt and space simultaneously and c afterwards

alt + space c


Ctrl+Shift+ Esc to open Task Manager.

Hit the first letter of the application's name (for "Spotify": s). Or, use the arrow up/down keys to navigate to the application's row in the task manager.

Then Alt+E to "End Task"


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


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.

  • 1
    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. Dec 9, 2012 at 20:42

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)  

Many of these didn't work for me when a video game crashed and was full screen, so I couldn't get to task manager.

My solution was found after I gave up. This worked on Windows 10

  1. Press power button on computer body. Windows will start to shut down. It shows a dialog "shutting down these programs"
  2. Quickly press "cancel shutdown" once the offending program is closed.

It's essentially shutting down, but you stop it before it does.


ctrl + alt + del pulls task manager. From there, hover over task manager on second monitor and the press down arrow until on destination program. Then scroll down until on destination program. Press del on keyboard. This will kill process externally without killing all processes on windows 10 with multiple monitors.

  • “press down arrow until on destination program. Then scroll down until on destination program.”  Is that a typo?  It looks like you’re doing the same thing twice. May 28, 2018 at 8:46
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del doesn't open task manager. It shows the "login screen" with various options. The shortcut for opening task manager ks Ctrl+Shift+Esc
    – phuclv
    Feb 4, 2019 at 9:47

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.

  • He isn't asking about Spotify, the program was used as an example.
    – user198350
    Aug 23, 2017 at 17:42

I had this problem and a simple solution is opening the start menu with the windows key, using tab until you are able to shut down the pc, start the shutdown and after a few seconds while the pc is closing applications you cancel by pressing esc

  • 2
    Seriously? If you found termites in your house, would you use a flamethrower to kill them? Jul 3, 2017 at 18:05

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