Mac Performance

3 Ways to Kill Background Processes Running on Your Mac

If your Mac is running slower than usual, or you have applications that have frozen and refuse to quit, you may need to kill some running processes. Using a Mac kill process can force quit problem applications in an instant and free up precious resources, like processing power and memory, so that your system runs more smoothly.


In this guide, we’ll show you how to see all running processes, how to identify any that might be causing issues, and how to kill problem processes in just a few clicks. We’ll also look at some third-party tools that can help you maintain a responsive Mac at all times. Here are three ways to kill processes to help increase Mac speed.


Before we start

If you want to free up gigabytes of disk space and get rid of viruses, consider downloading MacKeeper to optimize your Mac speed with ease. A tool like Memory Cleaner, which is part of MacKeeper, is particularly valuable when it comes to speeding up your Mac.

Use Force Quit to kill frozen apps

If one of your apps has become unresponsive, it may refuse to close and is likely using up system resources and power unnecessarily. When this happens, you can force the app to close by following these steps:

  1. Click the Apple logo in your Mac’s menu bar
  2. Click Force Quit
  3. Select the application that has frozen, then click the Force Quit button to end the task
  4. Confirm this action by clicking Force Quit again when prompted
apple menu force quit

The frozen application should close immediately. You can now restart it again when you need it. 


You can also access the Force Quit tool on your Mac by pressing the Command+Option+Escape keys on your keyboard.

force quit menu

There may be times when some apps are hogging system resources more than usual and need to be restarted, even though they appear to be working normally on the surface. Or you may have background processes you cannot see that are using up too much power. When this happens — if, for instance, you want to kill a background process — you’ll want to load up Activity Monitor, a handy tool built into macOS.

Use Activity Monitor to kill running processes

Use Activity Monitor to see running processes


Activity Monitor is what you should use as a means to see what is running on your Mac.

shows you useful data on how your system resources are being used in real-time. It displays things like processor (CPU), memory (RAM), and storage usage. It also allows you to keep an eye on which apps are consuming the most power, and which are sending and receiving the most data on your network.


When your Mac is running slower than usual, and you’re not sure why, it’s a good idea to open Activity Monitor to see a list of all running processes. You can then sort the list by CPU, RAM, power usage and more to identify which processes may be acting abnormally and need to be ended.  


The first step is to open Activity Monitor by following these steps:

  1. Open Finder on your Mac, then click Applications in the sidebar
  2. Open the Utilities folder
  3. Double-click Activity Monitor to open it

Alternatively, you can open Activity Monitor from Spotlight Search by pressing Command+Space on your keyboard, then searching “Activity Monitor.” When the app opens, you will be immediately greeted by a list of all running processes on your Mac.


To find out which processes might be slowing down your machine, follow these steps:

  1. Click the CPU tab at the top of the Activity Monitor window
  2. In the list of processes below, click the % CPU column header to sort all processes by CPU usage. Those using the most processing power will appear at the top of the list
  3. To check which apps are using up the most RAM, click the Memory tab.
  4. Click the Memory header in the list of processes to sort all processes by RAM usage.


To end any process from within Activity Monitor, follow these steps:

  1. Double-click the process you wish to end
  2. In the popup window that appears, click the Quit button
  3. Confirm this action by clicking Quit again when prompted

If you don’t feel comfortable using Activity Monitor, you may want to use a third-party tool to help you maintain system resources.

activity monitor
force quit app

It’s very important that you do not kill processes and tasks inside Activity Monitor that you are unfamiliar with. You may inadvertently close something that macOS relies on, which could cause your system to become unstable or frozen entirely. If you don’t feel comfortable using Activity Monitor, you may want to use a third-party tool to help you maintain system resources.

Use third-party tools to kill processes safely

With a tool like Memory Cleaner, which is baked into MacKeeper, you can quickly and easily free up RAM without having to worry about ending a task that could make your Mac unstable. MacKeeper can also safely kill processes, help you free up storage space, and identify and remove malware — all of which can make a sluggish Mac feel a lot snappier.

MacKeeper Memory Cleaner

To use MacKeeper Memory Cleaner to free up RAM, follow these steps

  1. Open MacKeeper
  2. Click Memory Cleaner in the sidebar, then click Open
  3. Click the Clean Memory button to instantly free up RAM

You can click Memory Usage to see more detailed RAM stats, or select Apps & Processes to identify which tasks are using up the most memory. You can kill a process by clicking the X button that appears alongside its name. MacKeeper won’t let you quit certain tasks that your Mac relies on to operate properly.


Similar tools for freeing up Mac memory can be found inside CleanMyMac X and Parallels Toolbox.


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