How To Kill A Process In Linux

How To Articles

As a Linux user, I have encountered situations where I needed to terminate a stubborn or malfunctioning process. Killing a process in Linux can be a useful skill to have, especially when you want to free up system resources or troubleshoot software issues. In this article, I will guide you step-by-step on how to kill a process in Linux, sharing personal insights and commentary along the way.

Understanding Processes in Linux

Before we dive into the process of killing a process (pun intended), let’s understand what processes are in Linux. In simple terms, a process is an executing instance of a program. Every time you run a command or start an application, a new process is spawned by the operating system. Each process has a unique process ID (PID) that is used to identify and manage it.

Finding the Process ID

The first step in killing a process is to identify its process ID. There are a few methods you can use to find the PID:

  • ps command: The ps command is a versatile tool for displaying information about processes. By running ps aux or ps -ef, you can list all running processes along with their PIDs.
  • top command: The top command provides a real-time view of the system’s processes. It displays the most resource-intensive processes at the top, making it easy to find the PID of a specific process.
  • pgrep command: The pgrep command allows you to search for processes by name and retrieve their PIDs. For example, running pgrep firefox will give you the PID of all running Firefox processes.

Killing a Process

Once you have identified the PID of the process you want to kill, you can use the kill command to terminate it. There are several signal options you can pass to the kill command, but the most commonly used one is SIGTERM (signal 15), which politely asks the process to terminate:

kill PID

If the process does not respond to the SIGTERM signal, you can use the more forceful SIGKILL (signal 9) to immediately terminate the process:

kill -9 PID

Remember, using SIGKILL should be a last resort, as it does not give the process a chance to clean up or save any unsaved data.

Killing a Process by Name

If you do not know the PID of the process you want to kill, you can use the pkill command to terminate a process by its name. For example, to kill all instances of a process named “firefox,” you can run the following command:

pkill firefox

Be cautious when using pkill, as it can kill multiple processes with the same name.

Troubleshooting Unresponsive Processes

Sometimes you might encounter a process that becomes unresponsive or “hangs.” In such cases, you can use the killall command to terminate all instances of a specific program:

killall program_name

This command sends a SIGTERM signal to all processes with a matching name. Again, if the process does not respond, you can resort to the SIGKILL signal:

killall -9 program_name


Knowing how to kill a process in Linux is an essential skill for any user. In this article, we explored various methods to find a process’s PID and terminate it using the kill, pkill, and killall commands. Remember to use SIGTERM whenever possible, and only resort to SIGKILL as a last resort. By mastering the art of process termination, you can take control of your Linux system and keep it running smoothly.