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On Windows anytime the system hangs Ctrl-Alt-Del brings up the Start Up Manager, from which you can end the program or process causing the hang.

Is there any command like this on Ubuntu?

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You know in Windows, you can save a step by just using ctrl+shift+esc instead. – JD Isaacks Jan 13 '12 at 18:59
What does that command do? – Mysterio Jan 13 '12 at 19:36
When you press Ctrl+alt+del you then have to choose to open Task Manager from a list of other options. Ctrl+shift+esc skips that step and just opens Task Manager directly. Try it. – JD Isaacks Jan 13 '12 at 19:44
I just did this on Windows 10 and bluescreened. – Dandybot Apr 13 at 19:58
up vote 73 down vote accepted

System Monitor shows you an overview of running applications (under the Processes tab) and allows you to end them by right-clicking on the name and selecting the respective context menu item. You can set up keyboard shortcuts in the Keyboard settings (Shortcuts tab), so you can bind Ctrl+Alt+Del to gnome-system-monitor, the command to start System Monitor.

Another command you might be interested in is xkill. This is traditionally bound to Ctrl+Alt+Esc (not sure if by default) and allows you to click on a misbehaving window to close it.

Both of these might not work if your entire system hangs. If that happens, there are two things you can do. The first has to be enabled in advance when your system doesn't hang yet (you could do it right now): open Keyboard Layout settings (I believe this is merged into Keyboard in Ubuntu 12.04), then click Options. One of the options is Key sequence to kill the X server, you can click that run gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.input-sources xkb-options for recent versions of Ubuntu (according to this answer). If you have done that and your system later hangs, you can press Ctrl+Alt+Backspace, which will effectively bring you back to the login screen.

If even that doesn't work, the last thing you can do is ensuring a sane shutdown (i.e. not pressing and holding the power button). This one is a bit hard to remember, but it involves pressing and holding Alt+PrtSc and then press in order R, E, I, S, U, B (a mnemonic is Reboot Even If System Utterly Broken).

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+1 for Ctrl + Alt + Esc – Lekensteyn Jan 13 '12 at 16:53
How do I know what is causing the system hang? In windows, task manager shows which application is NOT RESPONDING from which the user can end the process controlling the application in question – Mysterio Jan 13 '12 at 18:04
Oh, usually for me the windows of an application that no longer responds becomes a lot darker. You can enable this in CompizConfig Settings Manager (you might need to install this, the package name is ccsm). Click the Fading Windows plugin, and there you can check "Dim Unresponsive Windows". Then in the future you should know which window to kill. – Vincent Jan 14 '12 at 13:38
+1 for the mnemonic – bioShark Jan 17 '12 at 20:17
Another way to remember it is that REISUB is BUSIER backwards. – DNA Oct 14 '12 at 21:53

To stay in the spirit of magical shortcuts, here are some :

  • ctrl+alt+backspace combination (disabled on default on 11.10) that can restart the GUI.
  • ctrl+alt+F2 to F6, that will display a console from which you could login and then eventually kill the stucked application. Once you killed it you can return to the GUI by pressing alt-f7. Killing an application by name can be done by using this command:

    sudo killall <name-of-the-application>

    If this doesn't work, use the -9 flag to kill it with überforce.

    sudo killall -9 <name-of-the-application>
  • IN CASE OF EMERGENCY : use the Magic SysReq Key to directly "speak" to the kernel.
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+1 sysrq. why noone mentions ctrl+printscreen+K, that will restart the GUI and kill all processes in the gui (in case you didn't expect that from a restart). sysrq is the same key as printscreen key. – n611x007 Jul 9 '13 at 0:33
Ctrl+alt+F2 magically f'ed my day up. Thx – Nick Pineda Jan 10 at 5:49

System-monitor is what your looking for. You can launch it by typing system-monitor in the Unity Dash.

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he is looking for a built-in shortcut for it?... – n611x007 Jul 9 '13 at 0:34

you could have a short command for opening a terminal, I have F4. When you need to force an application to quit just open a terminal and type xkill and then click in the window of the application that has crashed.


  1. System --> Preferences --> keyboard shortcuts (gnome-keybinding-properties)
  2. go down to the Desktop list, click on Run a terminal then hold your short command.

    the short command should be visible in the line on the right.

To kill a process

  1. Open a terminal. (Or just use Alt+F2.)
  2. Type: xkill
  3. Click in the window that has crashed.

Having a short command for opening a terminal is a good idea in general because you can do other things as well. (htop, system monitor, rebooting, etc.)

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Could you update your answer with steps needed to create the F4 shortcut to open the terminal – Mysterio Jan 14 '12 at 14:26
@Mysterio Right not I can only make a GNOME-shell (classic desktop) version I will make one with Unity later. (tomorrow) also what system are you using? (11.10? Unity?) – Alvar Jan 14 '12 at 14:28
Unity is my preferred desktop – Mysterio Jan 14 '12 at 18:15
By default, Ctrl+Alt+T opens a terminal. – Scott Severance Jan 20 '12 at 17:09
@scottSeverance No it doesn't, not on my 11.04 at least... still having a known shortcut for a Terminal is really key when Using any Linux distributions. – Alvar Jan 20 '12 at 21:35

You can add a custom keyboard command using the following steps:

  1. Go to System Settings
  2. Click Keyboard
  3. Open the Shortcuts tab
  4. Click the "+" symbol near the bottom of the window
  5. Give your command a title. E.g. System Monitor
  6. In the Command field, enter gnome-system-monitor
  7. Click Apply
  8. Click Disabled on your newly created shortcut
  9. Enter the key combination you want for your shortcut. E.g. Ctrl+Alt+M

Note: on Ubuntu 14.10, Ctrl+Alt+Del is already in use, but can be overridden.

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