Every once in a while we’ll encounter a program that stops responding in Windows due to multiple reasons such as misconfiguration, conflicts between applications that are trying to do the same thing or a bug on the software itself. On newer Windows operating systems such as Windows 7, you are able to click on the X button located at the top right even when a program has hung and Windows will tell you that the program is not responding and you have the choice of either forcefully closing the program or waiting for it to respond.
However, sometimes a full screen game can block the standard hotkeys in Windows such as the Alt+Tab, Win+Tab, Win key, Ctrl+Escape or Ctrl+Shift+Esc as a way to stop you from getting back to the Windows desktop while the game is running to prevent cheating or hacking of the game. This can be a problem when the full screen game hangs and the only way for you to recover is to press the Reset button on your computer to force a cold reboot.
Here we have 6 different free tools that can forcefully kill the foreground process by pressing a hotkey.
If you didn’t know, the standard hotkey to close a program in Windows is Alt+F4. SuperF4 is quite different from the standard Alt+F4 command in Windows because SuperF4 forces the program to close rather than just asking nicely because some hung programs can refuse to quit.
There are two ways to kill a program using SuperF4. Once it is running in the notification area, pressing Ctrl+Alt+F4 will instantly terminate the foreground program. Another method is called xkill which can be enabled by pressing Win+F4 where a skull icon will temporarily replace the mouse cursor and clicking on any window will kill it. To get out of xkill mode, simply press the escape button or right click mouse button.
2. Windows xKill
Windows xKill is similar to the one that is found in Linux operating system. The program is portable without any dependency and weighs only at 22KB in size. When Windows xKill is running, press Ctrl+Alt+Backspace and a skull icon with bones will be attached to the mouse cursor.
Clicking on any window such as the one that is frozen will terminate it. To exit xKill mode, press the Escape button. Be careful of an option that disables the tray icon which you will see when right clicking on the tray icon because once it is hidden, there is no way to close the program unless it is terminated from Windows Task Manager.
ProcessKO is a free program that is able to terminate processes with a hotkey and comes with extra features. The hotkey to kill a foreground window is not enabled by default and you can enable it by clicking the question mark icon located at the top right of the program, go to Kill Hotkey and select “Use [Ctrl + Alt + F4] to kill the foreground window”. Now whenever ProcessKO is running, pressing the hotkey Ctrl + Alt + F4 will instantly terminate the active window.
Additional features such as adding a process to the favorite list allows you to easily kill, run or restart the process. KO Timer is a unique feature that automatically kills a process according to the selected interval.
ShutApp is yet another simple process killing application that does not come with a graphical user interface. ShutApp runs immediately after installation and automatically through a current user registry startup entry each time Windows is booted up. To kill a process, simply press the hard coded Ctrl+Alt+End keys simultaneously and a popup will appear allowing you to choose the process that you want to terminate. Finally pressing Ctrl+Alt+End hotkeys again to kill the selected program.
Other than killing processes, ShutApp can also run limited programs by pressing the Caps Lock key twice, type the process name and hit Enter. After testing, we found that the Run command (Win+R) is far more reliable than the one in ShutApp because ShutApp failed to run a few programs such as regedit, calculator, wordpad, just to name a few.
Unlike most of the applications mentioned in this article that need to be active in background to monitor the pressed hotkey to kill the foreground window, WiXkill’s kill function can be turned on by pressing Ctrl+Alt+X even if WiXkill process is not running. An advantage in WiXkill kill mode is it makes it very visible on the window what you want to terminate by highlighting the targeted border in red and also displaying the process name in the middle to avoid accidental termination of the wrong window.
Other than xkill mode, WiXkill also comes with interesting features such as hiding a program making it invisible, offering 3 different commands to terminate a process either by Close, Quit or Kill and a process list that shows all the running processes.
6. AutoHotkey Script
We found a small AutoHotkey script written by John Lennon where it can kill a current process when it is running in the background by pressing Ctrl+Alt+F4. Basically it uses the built-in taskkill.exe found in the C:\Windows\System32\ folder to forcefully terminate the process using the /F parameter.
WinGet, active_id, PID, A
run, taskkill /PID %active_id% /F,,Hide
Since there are no online convertors for AutoHotkey scripts, we’ve compiled and provided the download link for your convenience.