Unless you’ve been incredibly lucky or gifted with blazingly fast hardware, there’s no doubt in my mind you’ve encountered programs that have hung or crashed before. If you’re a HackCollege regular, you probably already know how to deal with this situation, but today’s OS Tip is geared toward those of you not yet in the know. Today, I’m going to show you how to diagnose programs that are hogging your resources and kill any program in both Mac and Windows.

Mac OS X – The main tool you’ll be using is Activity Monitor. Find it by going to the Utilities folder in your Applications folder. Once you open it, you’ll see a long list of all the processes you’ve got open. If you’ve got something that’s taking up an inordinate amount of your CPU%, that’s probably your culprit for the program making your Mac feel incredibly sluggish. Select it, and then hit the stop sign icon for Quit Process in the upper left hand corner. Just be sure not to kill any process you don’t understand – kernel_task for example, or bad things will happen! Unfortunately, sometimes your Mac is so unresponsive that you can’t even get to Activity Monitor, let alone kill a process from it. What should you do? That’s where you turn to Force Quit Applications. By pressing Command-Option-Escape, you can access this small window that allows you to kill any application anywhere. I often just use this because it’s often easy to tell which program is being unresponsive, and this dialog box is a lot faster and more direct than having to go through Activity Monitor.

Windows – You’ll want to turn to Task Manager in Windows. Access it with Ctrl+Shift+Escape. Once you get to Task Manager, you can see how much CPU/Ram each process is using and kill processes as you see fit. More importantly, as on Mac OS X, you can often tell when a program becomes unresponsive and slows down your entire system. To kill applications outright, click on the applications tab (duh!) and choose the one you want to kill. It’s so easy a caveman could do it!

And that’s it. No rocket science or computer wizardry required – just get to the right system menu, kill what you want, and get your computer feeling nice and zippy again.

I know sometimes killing applications doesn’t work immediately. Have you readers found better solutions to immediately and reliably kill hanging applications/processes? Let us know in the comments!