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It’s frustrating when programs crash. Everyone has clicked on something in an application, only to have the window gloss over and see the dreaded Not Responding text.

Your first move to kill these frozen programs might be to open the Task Manager Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative This might seem contrary to what you read about throughout the Internet, but the Windows Task Manager is fine as it is – it doesn’t need a replacement. You could interpret that as a simple... Read More , which is perfectly fine. However, if you’d like to do this even faster, you can create a shortcut to instantly kill any unresponsive programs. Here’s how.

The Main Method

To kill off programs without touching the Task Manager, we can use the taskkill command. Typically, you would type this at the command prompt 15 CMD Commands Every Windows User Should Know 15 CMD Commands Every Windows User Should Know The command prompt is an antiquated, but powerful Windows tool. We'll show you the most useful commands every Windows user needs to know. Read More to kill a specific process. However, it’s clumsy to open up the command line every time a program stops responding, and typing the command every time is a waste. We can do this better with a shortcut Navigating Windows with Keyboard Shortcuts Alone Navigating Windows with Keyboard Shortcuts Alone You might know lots of keyboard shortcuts, but did you know you could get around Windows without your mouse? Here's how. Read More .

First, right-click space on your desktop and choose New > Shortcut. You’ll be asked to enter a location for the shortcut. In that box, paste the following command:

taskkill /f /fi "status eq not responding"

windows-task-kill-shortcut

This command is simple to understand if you break it down:

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  • Taskkill is the command to kill a process, which we want to do when something is frozen.
  • /f tells the command to forcefully kill the task. Without this, Windows just asks the process to terminate, which won’t work if it’s stuck.
  • /fi tells the command to run only on processes that meet the following filter criteria.
  • The text in quotes is our criteria. We want to kill only processes with a status equal to Not Responding.

The shortcut creation box will then ask you to name your new shortcut. Call it anything you like, then press Finish. Now, you’re able to double-click this shortcut at any time, and it will kill any window that’s stuck.

To make this process even faster, we can make a custom keyboard shortcut 12+ Custom Windows Keyboard Shortcuts for the Geek in You 12+ Custom Windows Keyboard Shortcuts for the Geek in You Windows includes hundreds of keyboard shortcuts, but you can create your own shortcuts to nearly anything you'd like. Here's how to customize your Windows shortcuts. Read More to run the task killer.

Right-click on your new shortcut and choose Properties. Under the Shortcut tab, click in the Shortcut key box to set a custom keyboard shortcut. Windows will automatically add CTRL + ALT to any letter you press, but you can change it to CTRL + Shift if you like.

windows-task-killer-keyboard-shortcut

Because this shortcut will momentarily launch a command prompt window, you can set Run to Minimized; with that you won’t see a brief flash when you press the shortcut.

Alternative Methods

The above method is the easiest way to kill off any problematic programs. If you’re a Windows wizard, there are a couple of other tools you might want to have in your pocket, as well.

One is SuperF4, a simple program that lets you kill any window How to Force Kill Unresponsive Apps in Windows How to Force Kill Unresponsive Apps in Windows At times, Windows software just won't close when you ask it to. Here's how you can go over an app's head and kill it instantly -- even when it's not responding. Read More , even if it’s not responding. Like the command discussed above, it forces programs to stop immediately. This contrasts to when you press the X on a window. When you do this, Windows requests the program stop running, and you’ll probably be prompted to save your work. SuperF4 also lets you move your cursor onto any window you want to kill.

If you don’t want to use the Task Manager, you can also look into using one of its many alternatives 5 Powerful Alternatives to the Windows Task Manager 5 Powerful Alternatives to the Windows Task Manager The native Windows Task Manager may as well be called a task killer since we only bring it up to kill unresponsive processes. Alternative Task Managers allow you to actually manage your processes. Read More . For instance, if you’re looking for something with a bit more power, Process Explorer will definitely fill that need.

You can also cook up some magic using AutoHotKey if you’d like to create your own window-killing script. If you’re new to AutoHotKey 10+ Cool AutoHotkey Scripts & How to Make Your Own 10+ Cool AutoHotkey Scripts & How to Make Your Own AutoHotkey is an easy way to add shortcuts to your computer. You can download ready-to-use scripts or write your own. We show you to become more productive with automated hotkey tasks. Read More and aren’t sure how to do this, SuperUser contributor nixda created a simple script which you can download. Add this little tool to your startup folder How To Add Programs To Your Startup On Windows Vista, 7 & 8 How To Add Programs To Your Startup On Windows Vista, 7 & 8 It recently came to my attention that there are people who are under the impression that to allow a program to run at startup, you'll need to either enable it in the included program's options... Read More and press Windows Key + ALT + Q to kill an active window.

How Do You Kill Unresponsive Programs?

Hopefully, you don’t have to deal with programs freezing up too often. If you’re having a regular problem with a specific piece of software, it might be worth checking for updates or looking for a replacement. Just like when Windows crashes Why Does Windows Crash? The Top 10 Reasons Why Does Windows Crash? The Top 10 Reasons Oh, great. Another blue screen, boot issue or frozen screen in Windows. Now you have to restart and lose most or all of the work you’d been trying to accomplish. It’s frustrating both because of... Read More , there’s almost always a reason that a program is having issues. No matter what, the occasional crash is an unfortunate reality that every computer user deals with.

What are your favorite ways to kill off unresponsive programs? Let us know your top methods down in the comments!

Orignially written by Varun Kashyap on May 14, 2009.

Image Credits: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

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