How do I kill a program that hung with an always-on-top fullscreen window?

Raymond Chen

Has this ever happened to you? You’re hard at work blasting zombies being super-productive with a program that has an always-on-top fullscreen window. And then the program hangs. How can you get to Task Manager so you can kill the hung program?

One way to do this is to launch Task Manager and use keyboard accelerators to get it to be always-on-top:

  • Hit Ctrl+Alt+Del and say that you want to run Task Manager. Task Manager will run, but it’s covered by the always-on-top fullscreen window.
  • Whenever you need to see Task Manager, use Alt+Tab to select Task Manager and hold the Alt for a few seconds. This will give you a preview of Task Manager so you can see what state it is in. You can’t interact with it, but you can at least see it.
  • If Task Manager is in compact mode, then press Alt+D to get out of compact mode into details mode. If you’re the sort of person who likes to open Task Manager a lot, you are probably already in details mode.
  • Type Alt+O followed by Alt+D to enable Always on Top.

You now have an always-on-top Task Manager, and you can now use it to select the hung program and terminate it.

But here’s a shortcut: Use virtual desktops.

  • Press Win+Tab to call up the switcher.
  • Click the + to create a new virtual desktop. This gives you a clean desktop with nothing on it. In particular, the hung application is not on this desktop.
  • Run Task Manager on this new virtual desktop and use it to terminate the hung program.


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