Ubuntu – How to identify and kill hanging process, when system hangs and reacts slowly on user input


Recently when I tried to open a video with VLC, my system slowed down, the open applications webbrowser, VLC and filemanager and others didn't react any longer. The mouse just reacted still very slowly.

On a windows machine i would press a keycombi CTRL-ALT-DEL to open the taskmanager, search the process which caused the hang and kill it.

Since i'm fairly new with the use of linux i haven't figured out the best practice for solve such a situation in Ubuntu.

Which quick and effective way would you recommend to identify the hanging process and close it, when the system already reacts very slowly on user input?

Best Answer

There are two primary ways to identify hung processes. One is via the System Monitor GUI and the other is via top in command-line.

System Monitor

This can be found in System > Administration


You can also create a keyboard shortcut for this in this article.

Once the GUI launches you can select the Processes tab which will list all the running processes. Sort by the CPU column to find the most CPU intensive task


Lastly you can right click that task and choose to end it, stop it, or kill it. Killing it will immediately stop and remove that process from the system.



If you have a terminal open you can simply type top this will list all the running processes similar to that of the Processes tab in the GUI


Within top it is CPU sorted by default - so the top most CPU intensive tasks are at the top. At anytime you can press the letter k to kill a process


Simply type the PID of the process you wish to kill and press enter. It will ask for a Kill signal to send. To kill the process nicely use the default 15 - to kill it right away "Do not pass go, do not collect $200" use 9.


The process will then be terminated.

If you are experiencing sluggish interface you can try to SSH in remotely if that is enabled - or switch to a virtual console via Ctrl+Alt+F# Where F# is a Function Key (F3, F4, F5, etc). To return to the Desktop environment switch to either F7 or F8 depending on your version of Ubuntu.

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