How to CTRL + ALT + DEL on a Mac

by Tom Harrison in mac os x

No doubt most people who’ve switched to Mac computers from the PC world are familiar with the CTRL + ALT + DEL command. It’s used to bring up the task manager, and when pressed twice will reboot the computer.

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How do I use CTRL + ALT + DEL on a Mac computer?

The Mac equivalent of CTRL + ALT + DEL is Command + Option + Escape.

Picture of an Apple keyboard with the CMD + OPT + ESC keys circled.
Picture of an Apple keyboard with the CMD + OPT + ESC keys circled.

Hold down the CTRL and Option keys (located on either side of the space bar) then press the Escape key. This will bring up the Force Quit window showing a list of your open applications. Choose one and press the Force Quit button to immediately end that application.

Screenshot of the Force Quit window
Screenshot of the Force Quit window.

You can also force a hanging application to quit by right-clicking (CTRL + Click) on its icon in the Dock and choosing “Force Quit” from the context menu.

What about rebooting?

Macs have a separate key combination to force a reboot: Command-Option-Power. Hold down the Command and Option keys then press the power button to restart the computer.

To force the computer to shut down, hold down the power button for between 5 and 10 seconds.

Forcing a reboot or a shutdown is not advised unless there is no other option. Performing these actions can result in data loss, especially if there are applications running or external storage devices connected. You should first try to correctly reboot or shut down the computer:

  • The right way to reboot a Mac is to click Apple → Restart…
    Choosing restart from the Apple menu
    Choosing “Restart” from the Apple menu.
  • The right way to shut down a Mac is to click Apple → Shut Down…
    Choosing Shut Down from the Apple menu
    Choosing “Shut Down” from the Apple menu.

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