How To

How to Open Task Manager and Force Quit on macOS Big Sur

Written by John

With the macOS Big Sur, Apple moves from version number 10 to 11 on the macOS operating system. This is a major upgrade with lots of new features to be excited about. However, if you’re making the switch to the new Mac OS and experiencing issues with lags in speed and stalled processes, you might need a Task Manager to sort out the trouble.

If you’re a user of Windows you may be well used to the combination of CTRL + ALT + DELETE allowing you to pull up the task manager and end any applications or processes that might be hindering you getting on with your work, however, you’ll find it difficult to replicate the same on macOS.

But, if you haven't used the Task Manager on Mac, you might be asking, is there a Task Manager for Mac?

Yes, there is! It’s called Activity Monitor.

Even most Windows users who had already migrated to Mac might not have had the need to use the Apple Task Manager. This might be because the Mac was already running smoother and hence did not warrant any action.

However, with the new upgrade to the latest and greatest macOS Big Sur, if you run into problems with stalling processes, you might need the Task Manager for Mac to take care of things for you.

Activity Monitor – The Task Manager on Mac

Activity Monitor on new macOS

The Activity Monitor lets you keep an eye on the running processes on your Mac by CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network usages so that you can quickly spot anomalies and stop them from affecting the overall health and speed of your Mac.

How to Open Task Manager on macOS Big Sur

Unlike Windows where there is a ready keyboard shortcut for opening Task Manager, on Mac you will have to configure such an option. But it still would not be a keyboard shortcut but rather a click shortcut. Here are the three ways you can open Task Manager on your macOS Big Sur.

1. From Spotlight

You can easily open Activity Monitor from Spotlight on your macOS Big Sur. Spotlight is the magnifying glass icon present in your menu bar.

You can also access Spotlight by pressing Command (⌘) + Space.

Follow the steps to open the Task Manager from Spotlight.
1. Open Spotlight by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in your menu bar.
2. Type “Activity Monitor” in the search bar that appears.
3. Choose the Activity Monitor option that comes highlighted in the search results by clicking on it or pressing the Return key.

Once you’ve followed the steps, you will see the Activity Monitor window open to show you the list of processes running on your Mac and how much memory each one of them is using. If you find stalled processes, you can force quit them and reopen them so that they run normal again.

2. From Finder
Open Activity Monitor in Application Folder

Finder is an icon with a blue and white face in the Dock on your Mac. Unlike previous versions of the Mac OS, the new macOS Big Sur has rounded corners for the icons in the Dock. Even the look of the Finder window is changed as you will see a new top to bottom design for its sidebar and design inspiration taken from iOS and iPad OS.

Here’s how you can open the Task Manager from Finder.
1. Click on the Finder icon in your Dock.
2. Choose Applications on the sidebar of the Finder window.
3. Select the Utilities folder.
4. Open the Activity Monitor with a double click.
This is an alternative way to open the Task Manager on Mac to monitor processes running on your Mac.

How to use Force Quit on macOS 11.0 Big Sur

1. Force Quit Processes on Activity Monitor
Force Quit in Activity Monitor

The Activity Monitor lists all the processes running on your Mac along with their usage. The usage is classified according to the usage of CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network - each in a separate tab.

Before you force quit unwanted processes you must make sure that the unwanted processes are utilizing way more system resources than needed and hence ending them would improve the speed and performance of your Mac.

You must also ensure that you do not stop important background tasks running on your Mac that help regulate the system. They might look like they use a lot of resources but you do not have to panic and quit them.

For example, if you see a process called “kernel_task” under the CPU tab using up a lot of resources, do not consider ending it. This is a process that ensures that your system isn’t working hard by making the CPU less available for memory-intensive processes. Similarly, the “mds” and “mdworker” processes create a readable index of the files on your Mac to make them available for Spotlight searches.

Other than the system processes important for some critical tasks, if you notice any spikes in usage from other apps, you can consider quitting it.

Here is how you can force quit processes from the Activity Monitor on macOS Big Sur.
1. Navigate to the CPU or Memory tab on the Activity Monitor.
2. Look for anomalies in resource usage.
3. Click on the app with a large usage to highlight it.
4. Press the X icon in the toolbar on top.
5. Confirm your decision to force quit the process

Once you’ve confirmed to force quit a process, it stops and you will no longer see the process in the Activity Monitor.

Occasional spikes in the usage of certain processes are natural as you use them and should not be considered as abnormal usage of resources. However, you should look out for the apps/processes you do not use frequently and that takes up a lot of resources as shown under the CPU or Memory tab. In such cases, you must force quit the processes to free up resources for use for other apps you are using on your Mac.

2. Force Quit From the Dock
Force Quit from macOS Big Sur Dock

Forcing a Mac app to quit using the dock panel is a simple solution to fixing a frozen app. To shut down an app using the dock panel. Hold the Alt key, then right-click the program's logo, and select the "force quit" option. As a reminder, the Alt key is also the option key.

3. Force Quit from Apple Menu
Force Quit from Apple Menu

Forcing an application to stop from the Apple menu is one of the most effective ways to close a program on macOS Catalina. To force quit an app using the Apple menu. Simply hold the shift key and then click on the Apple menu in the top left, then here you’ll now see "Force Quit [Your Application Name]". Once you’ve down this the app should now close.

4. Force an App to close using your Keyboard

You can also use keyboard shortcuts to close a frozen application. To use your keyboard, Press and hold the "Command," "Option," and "ESC" keys. Simultaneously pressing these keys will activate the "Force Quit Application" app in a new window. Choose the application you want to shut down and select the "force quit" option. The app will close immediately.

This final option isn’t the most known about the solution but is indeed useful. If you want to force quit the application that you currently have open hold down COMMAND + OPTION + SHIFT + ESCAPE for a few seconds until you see the app force itself to close. This as well as being one of the least known about methods is also the quickest way to force quit the app that you are currently using.

In case you’re using the Activity Monitor a little too much on your Mac, it is time to address the root cause of the issue rather than treat the symptoms. Your Mac could have issues that are not addressed that could be causing the stalling of apps and lagging in speed. Instead of forcefully closing applications, use optimization software like Clean My Mac to run your Mac smoothly.

Free Up Ram and Swap

Clean My Mac is a personal Mac genius. It cleans the unwanted junk on your Mac, removes malware and other viruses, removes unwanted apps, and does a whole lot more to speed up the computer and give you the Mac performance you’ve always wanted.

Clean Up System Junk and App Junk in macOS Big Sur

It is good to run a Smart Scan on your Mac regularly to remove the unwanted clutter that accumulates and takes up permanent space. Note that there are so many other options in Clean My Mac that can remove gigabytes of hidden junk, remove malware, keep apps up to date, and run maintenance scripts to ensure optimal performance of your Mac.

Although a Mac is an excellent device, they too can freeze, lag, and for whatever reason, not respond to user commands. Sometimes waiting for an app to respond to your commands can take a while. When this happens, it's likely programs are still running, using memory, but the program is frozen, which means it does not respond to specific commands, which can cause the entire system to freeze or process programs slowly, which makes the user experience unpleasant. Whether you have a frozen app or a lagging app, or some other minor issue with your Mac, following any one of these steps will help you resolve the problem.

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