18

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 '13 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. – AStupidNoob Aug 15 '13 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" :) – Philipp Horn Aug 15 '13 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... – AStupidNoob Aug 15 '13 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. – martinstoeckli Apr 2 '16 at 14:38

13 Answers 13

7

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.

#!Q::WinKill,A
  • 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

| improve this answer | |
  • 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? – Hugo Zink Feb 5 '17 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? – Hugo Zink Dec 26 '17 at 18:46
  • @HugoZink Instead of using WinKill you should use Process, see my answer. – Shayan Mar 26 '19 at 12:41
18

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.

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  • 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 '17 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 Shaver Dec 31 '17 at 23:47
  • 1
    @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 '19 at 18:07
  • 1
    dude, I sincerely hope that they pay you well at your workplace – Isaac Carol Weisberg Aug 5 at 21:41
8

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"
| improve this answer | |
  • 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 '17 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... – Local Needs Dec 10 '19 at 19:54
3

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • Task manager can't always be opened. – user598527 Oct 8 '17 at 11:54
3

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 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? – Scott May 5 '17 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. – Laurie Stearn Dec 31 '17 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. – Whelkaholism Apr 10 '18 at 14:14
3

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

| improve this answer | |
  • 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. – AStupidNoob Aug 15 '13 at 10:24
  • Did you try Windows key+D (Show desktop) ? It will minimise all running apps and show desktop. – Harikrishnan Aug 15 '13 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. – AStupidNoob Aug 15 '13 at 11:54
  • @AStupidNoob If you go to C:/Windows/System32, you can rename sethc.exe, copy cmd.exe, and rename the copy to sethc.exe. Now you can go into the CTRL+ALT+DEL menu and press shift 5 times to open the command prompt. Should work even if an application is completely stuck in the foreground. – Hugo Zink Nov 8 '15 at 12:43
  • 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 '16 at 23:56
2

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.

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  • 1
    No need for context menu, you can just press delete -> enter – Vlad Feb 4 '17 at 23:53
  • Cool! I find that on Windows 10, delete is enough. I updated my answer. – Protector one Feb 6 '17 at 10:30
1

I had to hit the Windows key, then in the search bar, type: c:\windows\system32\cmd /c taskkill /f /im snippingtool.exe

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  • 3
    Explain your answer. It would be helpful for readers. like what the command means, command syntax etc. – Biswapriyo May 17 '18 at 15:12
  • Thanks, this is the only one that worked for me. – NetherGranite Oct 26 '18 at 9:36
1

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:

^!Numpad9::
  WinGet, ActvWndwID, PID, A
  WinGetTitle, ActvWndwNm , A
  MsgBox, 4, Kill, %ActvWndwNm% ?
  IfMsgBox Yes
  Process, Close, %ActvWndwID%
return
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0

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 untip you turn if off, and the next time you open Task Manager it'll 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, 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?

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0

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.

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-1

Nothing of the above was useful to me but @abraxas gave me an idea and it worked marvelous on Windows 10.

  1. Open task manager typing the program name after launching the start menu with win key.

  2. Right click on the TM and send it to another desktop.

  3. Change to that desktop with ctrl tab and then you'll be able to end task with the app.

Probably it will work to with the cmd or whatever following the same steps.

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  • Going to need a serious rework of this answer before anyone upvotes it! – Laurie Stearn Dec 31 '17 at 14:14
-1

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 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 '18 at 21:19

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