I've been using Windows forever, but one thing that has annoyed me is how hard it is to terminate misbehaving full-screen applications. In Linux, I can just switch over to terminal (Ctrl+Alt+F1) and use the terminal to forcefully close a misbehaving program. In Windows, this seems to be only possible using task manager. If a frozen window is set to stay-on-top and full-screen mode, Alt+Tab and Alt+F4 don't work and I can't even use the Task Manager. If I had important work in the background, say, and I'd forgotten to save it, I can't just restart the computer!

What do you do in this circumstance?

  • 2
    You say that even CTRL+SHIFT+ESC doesn't bring task manager to foreground in your scenario?
    – nixda
    Aug 15, 2013 at 10:06
  • Whilst I did not try that specific command, I could not bring any window to the front at all, I presume task manager would be just the same. Maybe if there was some way to start task manager in stay-on-top mode. Aug 15, 2013 at 10:22
  • 1
    @Ramhound I think Ctrl+Alt+F1 on Linux would help because it switches from the GUI to your first text based terminal; you would get away from the (frozen) window manager so you wouldn't have a "terminal window"...just a "terminal" :) Aug 15, 2013 at 11:47
  • 1
    @Ramhound On Linux, Control + Alt + F1 goes to a terminal no matter what the GUI is doing, it's entirely separate. Also ALT + F4 right, not Control + F4... Aug 15, 2013 at 11:53
  • 2
    <CTRL><ALT><Delete> should get you out of everything, the menu should allow to open the taskmanager or switching to other applications. Apr 2, 2016 at 14:38

13 Answers 13


Use AutoHotKey and bind a shortcut to WinKill, A

This command first makes a brief attempt to close the window normally. If that fails, it will attempt to force the window closed by terminating its process.

WinTitle: If this is the letter A and the other 3 window parameters are blank or omitted, the active window will be used.

I compiled this one-liner to an .EXE which you can download here.

  • Move KillActiveWindow.exe to your autostart folder. It will reside in your Windows tray.
  • Close active windows/full-screen applications with Win+Alt+Q.

enter image description here

  • 2
    Unfortunately this does not always seem to stop misbehaving programs. For example, when used in Notepad, Windows will still prompt and ask if you want to save your changes. Is there any way to force-kill a process as if done through task manager?
    – user440147
    Feb 5, 2017 at 23:10
  • 1
    After some further inspection, it seems that WinKill will first wait for the window to close itself briefly, and then kill the process. But quite often, the crashed game will still act as if it's responding, which makes AutoHotkey not kill the process. Is there any way to override this behavior?
    – user440147
    Dec 26, 2017 at 18:46
  • @HugoZink Instead of using WinKill you should use Process, see my answer.
    – Shayan
    Mar 26, 2019 at 12:41

If you're using Windows 10, you can switch to another desktop using Win+Tab and then open the task manager in desktop 2 to kill the full screen application in desktop 1. This works even if the application is set to stay-on-top.

  • 1
    This doesn't universally work, potentially when operating system is non-responsive. I reproduced with "Star Wars: Battlefront II" (2017) beta. The hotkey works fine otherwise.
    – user598527
    Oct 8, 2017 at 11:53
  • 1
    Best answer in the thread. I had a game (They Are Billions) lock up hard and the usual ctrl+shift+esc to bring up Task Manager wasn't working; nothing was viewable outside the task bar. Create a new desktop and bringing up Task Manager there to End Task did the trick!
    – Aaron
    Dec 31, 2017 at 23:47
  • 2
    @user598527 If the operating system is non-responsive, then there are, by definition, no options other than a hardware reset or power off; no software solution will help you.
    – Corrodias
    Dec 17, 2019 at 18:07
  • 1
    dude, I sincerely hope that they pay you well at your workplace Aug 5, 2020 at 21:41

This happened to me today on Windows 10 when the Snipping Tool froze while making the capture selection. I was able to get the Task Manager to show up by the following:

  • Press the Windows key, then type Task Manager + Enter to open the Task Manager
  • Press the Windows key again to get the Taskbar in focus
  • Right click the system tray icon for the Task Manager and select "Always on top"
  • Legend! This really saved me today from losing work! Clicking "Always on top" was the only way I could get task manager to show up and end the snipping tool.
    – pauloz1890
    Jul 23, 2017 at 13:17
  • Same here. Nothing else mentioned on this thread worked. I even tried running the Switch User routine. Once I got the TM to appear and killed the process, all came back to life. Such a weird issue... Dec 10, 2019 at 19:54

Try using command prompt.

You can kill tasks using command prompt just like Linux terminal.

  1. Windows Key+R (Run)

  2. type 'cmd' and click enter

  3. type the command tasklist, press enter. you can see all tasks running in your system.

  4. kill particular task/application by taskkill /f /im taskname

E.g.: If you want to kill notepad, type taskkill /f /im notepad.exe

  • 2
    I'm aware of this, but if the window has taken over the whole screen, you can't see anything or switch windows. Maybe the run terminal would still accept input. It's hard to crash a program on purpose to test this. Aug 15, 2013 at 10:24
  • Did you try Windows key+D (Show desktop) ? It will minimise all running apps and show desktop. Aug 15, 2013 at 10:27
  • 1
    I didn't try that, but maybe that would have worked. I'll keep it in mind next time something crashes, thanks. Aug 15, 2013 at 11:54
  • 2
    win-d didn't do anything. Of course you can't pull up a command prompt either. This usually happens when full-screen graphics applications hang.
    – xaxxon
    Aug 21, 2016 at 23:56
  • 1
    THANK YOU!!! THIS answer worked when none of the others did. I was typing blind because the Snipping Tool wouldn't let me see anything. May 14, 2021 at 23:15

If task manager won't come to the front, it's possible "always on top" is unchecked.

Ctrl+Shift+Esc to bring it open, hit Alt, and you should see the file menu of the task manager appear. Press to go to options, to select always on top, and Space to enable it.

  • Are you suggesting that the user should keep the Task Manager on screen, on top, all the time?  That can be detrimental to the user experience. Are you suggesting that setting the "Always On Top" option will improve Task Manager's ability to respond when a full-screen application misbehaves?  That seems dubious. Have you ever actually observed such behavior? May 5, 2017 at 6:50
  • Might be if testing programs with a large draw on the GDI- we trust in this day & age it doesn't come to that, however. Dec 31, 2017 at 14:00
  • I just had a Snipping Tool crash that left every single desktop obscured by the Snipping Tool selection overlay; this is the ONLY one of these answers that saved my bacon :) So yes, in at least this case, it very much does improve Task Manager's ability to respond. Apr 10, 2018 at 14:14

The easiest way is to Cntrl + shift + esc and then when it opens go into the process (little triangle bottom right) and right click "task manager", you can set it to always be in front, this brings it forward where you can access it.

  • Task manager can't always be opened.
    – user598527
    Oct 8, 2017 at 11:54

If you can start Task Manager with Ctrl + Shift + Esc, but it isn't displayed because the culprit software is full screen, here is something you can try.

Use Alt + Tab to give the Task Manager focus. You still won't see it, but now it can accept keyboard input. Use your cursor to hover over Task Manager's icon in Windows' Task Bar: this will hopefully cause the Task Manager to be revealed. Now use your keyboard to end the process: this can usually be done by pressing the Arrow Keys to reach the culprit application, then press Delete. You might have to press Tab once to put focus on the application list first.

  • 1
    No need for context menu, you can just press delete -> enter
    – Vlad
    Feb 4, 2017 at 23:53
  • Cool! I find that on Windows 10, delete is enough. I updated my answer. Feb 6, 2017 at 10:30

Task Manager has an always on top feature to make it appear above the offending app. You don't need to use the mouse to enable it, just open Task Manager with Ctrl+Shift+Esc then turn it on by Alt+O-A. Even better, the option is sticky, so after enabling it will stay until you turn it off, and the next time you open Task Manager it'll still be on top

Task Manager always-on-top

In Windows 10 the task manager is even more special: no other app can be drawn over it, not even other always-on-top apps. See Is Task Manager a special kind of 'Always on Top' window for windows 10?

See also How do I kill a program that hung with an always-on-top fullscreen window?


I had to hit the Windows key, then in the search bar, type:

c:\windows\system32\cmd /c taskkill /f /im snippingtool.exe
  • 3
    Explain your answer. It would be helpful for readers. like what the command means, command syntax etc.
    – Biswapriyo
    May 17, 2018 at 15:12
  • Thanks, this is the only one that worked for me. Oct 26, 2018 at 9:36

Pressing the following sequence should work if screen snip or a similar program freezes:

Alt+PrtScn then Alt+F4

I may have done

❖ Win+Tab

And sent the app to a new desktop before this so try both for luck!

If this doesn't work, I suggest a reboot.


Here's a little autohotkey script with GUI, which will TERMINATE a process instead of peacefully closing it, so instead of WinKill here, we will use Process:

  WinGet, ActvWndwID, PID, A
  WinGetTitle, ActvWndwNm , A
  MsgBox, 4, Kill, %ActvWndwNm% ?
  IfMsgBox Yes
  Process, Close, %ActvWndwID%

I found an unconventional solution in Windows 10; I pressed the Windows key (the only thing that was still responding at the time, the snipping tool had taken over the whole screen), and I told it to restart. It popped up a screen where it tells you what programs the restart is waiting to close, I waited for 5 or 10 seconds and then canceled the restart. Only a few programs remained open, and the Snipping Tool was finally closed. I don't know if everyone's computer will give the user adequate time to allow programs to close and then cancel, if your computer is fast it might restart quicker. I am not sure.


I had this issue with Snipping Tool. I couldn't resolve it with any of the above but finally tried using a Snipping Tool keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+Print Screen) and that somehow kicked it out of whatever it was stuck in.

  • 2
    This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.
    – Ramhound
    Sep 14, 2018 at 21:19

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