killall Command: Tutorial & Examples

The killall command enables you to terminate or signal all instances of a particular process. This command is particularly useful when you need to stop multiple instances of a process. Instead of killing each process individually, killall allows you to terminate them all at once.

How it works

The killall command operates by sending a specified signal to all active instances of a given process. By default, the signal sent is SIGTERM (signal 15), which requests a process to terminate. However, if the process doesn't respond to SIGTERM, you can escalate to SIGKILL (signal 9) which forcefully terminates the process. It's important to note that sending SIGKILL should be your last resort as it doesn't allow a process to clean up or save its current state.

What it is used for

The killall command is primarily used for controlling processes that are consuming excessive system resources or are unresponsive. It can also be used for restarting processes by first killing them and then starting them again. For instance, the command can be used to manage high load issues on a server or to terminate processes that have entered an infinite loop.

Why it is important

Understanding and using the killall command is crucial for Linux Server and VM management. This command gives you control over the processes running on your system, allowing you to manage system resources effectively. It's an essential tool for troubleshooting and maintaining the stability of your server environment.

How to use it and common parameters

The basic usage of killall command is as follows:

killall process_name

This will send the SIGTERM signal to all instances of process_name.

If you need to forcefully kill a process, you can use the -9 or -KILL option:

killall -9 process_name

Some other commonly used options are:

  • -i: Interactive mode. Asks for confirmation before killing each process.
  • -w: Wait for all killed processes to die. killall will not return until all targeted processes are dead.
  • -e: Exact match. Only processes whose names exactly match the argument are signaled.

Potential problems and pitfalls

While killall is a powerful command, it can also cause problems if not used correctly.

  1. Using the -9 or -KILL option should be your last resort. This is because it forcefully kills the process, which might leave behind temporary files or cause data loss. Always try to use SIGTERM (default) first, and only escalate to SIGKILL if necessary.

  2. killall kills all instances of a process. So, be careful when using it in a shared environment, as you might end up killing processes that other users are running.

  3. The killall command might not be available on all Unix-like systems. For instance, it's not available by default on some versions of Solaris and BSD.


Here are a few examples of how to use the killall command:

  • To kill all instances of a process named myprocess:

    killall myprocess
  • To forcefully kill all instances of a process named myprocess:

    killall -9 myprocess
  • To kill all instances of a process named myprocess and wait for all processes to terminate:

    killall -w myprocess
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