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How to Kill or Close All Running Programs in Windows Quickly

Looking for a free Windows utility that can quickly close all programs running in Windows? This can be quite useful, for example, when you need to close all running programs before installing a new application. This annoys me very much because I usually have 10 different applications running and I have to manually close them one by one and then reopen after I have installed my program.

This is where two free utilities make the process a lot easier. Close All and SmartClose are practically the only two programs that do this correctly. Close All seems to do a better job of closing all applications than SmartClose, but SmartClose has a nice feature that allows you to restore applications that you previously closed. You should try both and decide which one works best for you.

Close all

Close All is a very simple program that doesn’t try to do anything very ambitious other than closing as many applications as possible. It is also a newer program, so it supports both 32 and 64 bit Windows. Once installed and launched, it will show you a list of all running programs.

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By default, all apps are selected, but you can uncheck an app if you don’t want to close it. Just click OK and you’re done! For testing purposes, I opened 10 to 15 programs on a Windows 7 PC and Close All was able to close all of them. Obviously, different applications will run on your computer and your results may vary, but Close All is best for closing most applications.

As I mentioned earlier, there is no way to restore applications that you closed using the Close All feature. One more caveat for the program: if you have a program open with unsaved data, the program will ask you if you want to save your data. Close All does not end the process in this case, so you need to manually close that particular application. The same problem occurs with the Smart Close feature, although it has the ability to kill programs, but it does not seem to work as expected.

Smart closing

With SmartClose, this process is a little slower than Close All, as it takes a snapshot of all your currently running programs so you can restore them later. In fact, it is a very useful program for many people, because you can run 4 to 5 of your favorite applications and then save the snapshot, which you can simply restore at any time using the program. It can even restore Explorer and Internet Explorer windows to their original place on the screen.

So, instead of clicking on 5 different icons and so on, you can quickly launch applications with SmartClose Another really nice feature of SmartClose is that you can configure it to turn off or stop Windows services. It actually comes with a list of services that it thinks are closable, but you can add or subtract if you know what you are doing. The program tries not to be silly by not shutting down the services that Windows needs to run, but it’s not perfect.

After installing it, you can start by taking a snapshot and closing all programs, restoring the snapshot (restoring applications), or changing program settings.

On the next screen, you’ll see a couple of checkboxes that let you decide what action to take. If you just want to close applications and not worry about snapshots and restores, you can uncheck the corresponding boxes. You can also prevent the program from closing IE windows and disable Windows services. Personally, I always uncheck the “Stop Windows services” checkbox because it disables several services by default that I don’t normally disable. You can edit this list by going to Service Settings, which I will explain below.

Clicking Next will take you to the Protected Programs screen, which is also useful for this program, because unlike Close All, it allows you to select programs to close, SmartClose tries to close everything. On my system, it tried to close certain processes that I didn’t want to close. In such cases, you should add the process to the list of protected programs so that it does not terminate.

When you click Next, SmartClose will start and start shutting down all your programs. Again, as with “Close All“, if the file is open in the program and not saved, you will be prompted to save the file, in which case you will have to manually click this button.

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Overall, it was able to close all programs in my test run, but it took almost a minute, whereas Close All was done in 2 seconds. I also tried to restore the snapshot after I finished and the results were pretty good. We managed to restore about 11 programs out of 14. For some reason, three processes could not be restored, and I do not know why. The program also has a large number of configuration options, as shown below:

General options

Close Programs

SmartClose has the ability to kill programs that cannot be closed properly, but it doesn’t seem to work with programs with open files and unsaved data.

Restore settings

Service Settings

If you leave this option enabled, it is recommended that you click Edit Services.ini and add / remove services. By default, it disables Remote Desktop, Windows Time, and a few other services that I don’t want to disable on my system. I would recommend unchecking this checkbox when starting the program for personal use. However, if you work in an IT environment with a lot of custom services you create, this option is really useful.

So, these are two programs that are best suited for quickly shutting down applications in Windows. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so try both before choosing one. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. Enjoy!

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