How to Press "Ctrl Alt Delete" on a Mac

By Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

The Ctrl-Alt-Delete equivalent three-key shortcut on a Mac is Command-Option-Escape; also, you can switch the Command and Control key functions.

Things You'll Need

  • A keyboard

When a program freezes on your PC, you know what to do: Hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete to open the Task Manager and force-quit the program. But what about when a program freezes on your Mac?

The Mac version of Ctrl-Alt-Delete

Mac computers have a similar three-key keyboard shortcut for force-quitting programs: Command-Option-Escape.

The Command button is to the left of your Spacebar, and works similarly to how the Control button works on PC keyboards (you can also perform traditional PC keyboard shortcuts with the Command button in lieu of the Control button -- such as Command + S to save, or Command + C to copy). The Option button is next to the Command button, and functions as the Alt key on Mac keyboards. The Escape button is in the upper left corner (Mac keyboards do have a Delete key, which is the backspace key).

Make it a little more PC-friendly

If you're first and foremost a PC person, you can make your Mac experience a little more PC-friendly by switching the functions of the Command key and the Control key. This way, the Control key on your Mac will act like the Control key on your PC.

Here's how to do that:

system preferences

Step 1: Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen and click System Preferences. Click the Keyboard icon to open the Keyboard preferences menu.

keyboard preferences

Step 2: In the Keyboard tab, click the button that says Modifier Keys... This will open up a pop-up window that lets you select how the Caps Lock, Control, Option, and Command keys work.

change modifier keys

Step 3: Next to the Control Key option, select Command from the drop-down menu.

Step 4: Next to the Command Key option, select Control from the drop-down menu.

Step 5: Click OK to save your preferences. Your Control key will now work like a Control key on a PC, and the new three-key shortcut for force-quitting will be Control-Option-Escape.