How To Kill Process in Linux | Bash

Understanding and managing processes is crucial for any Linux user. This involves listing them to see what's running and, if necessary, killing them when they misbehave. Here's a detailed explanation:

Why Do We Need To Kill A Process?

We may need to kill a process in Linux for various reasons. One primary reason is to reclaim system resources and maintain system stability. If a process becomes unresponsive or consumes excessive CPU, memory, or other system resources, it can degrade overall system performance or even lead to system instability. Killing such processes allows the system to free up resources and continue functioning smoothly. Additionally, killing a process might be necessary to stop a malfunctioning application, terminate a background task, or troubleshoot system issues. Overall, killing processes is essential for managing system resources efficiently and ensuring the proper operation of the Linux system.

Kill a Process In Linux

The "kill" process is a command-line utility used to terminate running processes. It sends a signal to the specified process, instructing it to stop execution. By default, the "kill" command sends the SIGTERM signal, allowing the process to perform any necessary cleanup tasks before exiting. However, administrators can also send other signals like SIGKILL for immediate termination, which bypasses any cleanup operations. The "kill" process is essential for managing system resources, stopping unresponsive applications, and troubleshooting system performance issues in Linux environments.

Listing Processes

Several commands can help you list running processes on your Linux system:

ps (process status): This is the most versatile option. You can use various flags to customize the output. For example:
  1. ps aux: Lists all processes with detailed information (user, CPU, memory usage, etc.)
  2. ps -ef: Similar to ps aux, but with extended format
  3. ps -e | grep <process_name>: Lists processes containing a specific name
top: Provides a dynamic real-time view of running processes, their resource usage, and CPU/memory load.

htop: An interactive, color-coded version of top with more features and user-friendly navigation.

ps Command

The ps command is used to display information about a selection of active processes. It provides a snapshot of the current processes running on the system. There are different options to customize the output, such as aux or ef.

ps aux # Displays detailed information about all processes ps aux grep <process_name> # Filters processes based on a specific name
$ ps aux USER PID %CPU %MEM VSZ RSS TTY STAT START TIME COMMAND root 1 0.0 0.0 189404 6496 ? Ss Jan15 0:02 /sbin/init ...

This output shows various details about each process, including the user who started it, the process ID (PID), CPU and memory usage, command name, etc.

Filtering Processes

Once you have the list, you can filter it further to find specific processes:

  1. grep: Used with any of the above commands to filter based on process name, arguments, etc.
  2. pgrep: Finds processes by name and returns their PIDs (process IDs).
  3. pidof: Similar to pgrep but searches only for exact process names.

Killing Processes

Use caution when killing processes, as terminating critical system processes can cause instability.


The kill command is used to terminate processes by sending a signal to the specified process ID (PID). By default, kill sends the SIGTERM signal, which allows the process to perform cleanup operations before exiting. You can also send other signals like SIGKILL for immediate termination.

kill <PID> # Sends the SIGTERM signal to the specified PID kill -9 <PID> # Sends the SIGKILL signal for immediate termination

Here's an example of how to use kill:

$ kill 1234

This command would send the SIGTERM signal to the process with PID 1234, requesting it to terminate appropriately. If the process does not respond or needs to be forcefully terminated, you can use the -9 option to send the SIGKILL signal.


The killall command in Linux is used to terminate all processes that match a specific name pattern. It allows users to conveniently kill multiple processes without needing to know their individual process IDs (PIDs). However, it's crucial to be precise with the name pattern to avoid unintended terminations. Without precision, killall may terminate processes that the user did not intend to stop.

Here's an example of how to use killall:

killall firefox

In this example, the command killall firefox will terminate all processes with the name "firefox". This could include multiple instances of the Firefox web browser running on the system. It's important to note that if you have unsaved work or critical processes running under the same name pattern, they will also be terminated. Therefore, it's essential to be precise and cautious when using killall to avoid unintended consequences.


The pkill command in Linux is similar to killall, as it allows users to terminate processes based on a specific name pattern. However, unlike killall, pkill searches for processes based on their name or other attributes using pattern matching. This provides more flexibility in targeting processes for termination. Similar to killall, users must be precise with the pattern to avoid unintended terminations.

Here's an example of how to use pkill:

pkill -f firefox

In this example, the command pkill -f firefox will terminate all processes that have "firefox" in their command line. This means it will not only terminate processes named "firefox" but also any other processes where "firefox" appears in the command line arguments. This can be useful for terminating specific instances of processes or for targeting processes with a more complex naming convention. As with killall, it's crucial to be precise with the pattern to avoid terminating unintended processes.

Process Management | Examples

a. Listing and Killing a Process by Name:

ps aux grep firefox # Find the PID of the Firefox process kill <PID> # Terminate the Firefox process

This sequence of commands finds the PID of the Firefox process and then terminates it.

b. Killing Multiple Processes with pgrep:

pgrep is a command that finds processes by name and prints their PIDs. You can combine it with the kill command to terminate multiple processes at once.

kill $(pgrep <process_name>)
$ kill $(pgrep firefox)

This command kills all Firefox processes running on the system.

Best Practices

Identifying Correct PID or Process Name

Terminating processes with accuracy is critical and you need to use commands like ps or pgrep to determine the PID or process name. This reduces the chance of the undesired abortions and work to preserve the system reliability.

Starting with Gentle Signals

Initiate process termination with gentle signals like -INT (SIGTERM) before resorting to -9 (SIGKILL). This approach allows the process to shut down, facilitating proper cleanup and minimizing potential data loss or system instability.

Using sudo for Root Privileges

When dealing with system processes that require elevated privileges, always use sudo to execute commands. This ensures proper authorization and prevents accidental modification or termination of critical system components.

Considering Alternatives

Before resorting to process termination, explore alternatives such as restarting the service or application. This approach can often resolve issues without disrupting other processes or causing downtime, promoting smoother system operation and minimizing potential disruptions.


To terminate processes in Linux safely and effectively, first identify the correct Process ID (PID) or process name using commands like ps or pgrep. Start with gentle signals like -INT (SIGTERM) to allow the process to shut down, escalating to -9 (SIGKILL) only if necessary. Use sudo for commands requiring root privileges and consider alternatives like restarting the service/application before directly killing the process.