Three-finger salute

Updated: 02/07/2022 by Computer Hope
Three-finger salute

Three-finger salute is slang describing the IBM PC compatible three key sequence Ctrl+Alt+Del that David Bradley developed as a keyboard shortcut. This term became widely used during a time when PC users were frequently pressing these keys each time their computer froze. It is used to restart a computer that gets stuck in the boot process or cannot load the Windows operating system.


On a Mac computer, the Command+Option+Esc key combination is the equivalent of the three-finger salute.

On a Chromebook and Chrome, use the Shift+Esc key combination instead.

On a computer running Linux, press Ctrl+Alt+F1 to access the first console (text mode). Using F2 through F6 instead of F1 opens consoles two through six, respectively. To return to the window manager (graphical desktop), press Ctrl+Alt+F7.

When pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del, an NMI (non-maskable interrupt) is sent to the CPU (central processing unit), and Microsoft Windows opens a full-screen menu. The menu gives access to Lock the computer, Switch users, Sign out, open the Task Manager, and Shut down the computer. Earlier versions of Windows only opened the Task Manager, which allows them to see what's running on the computer, and to use the End Task function to force-close any open programs.

Is it written as "Alt+Ctrl+Del" or "Ctrl+Alt+Del"?

Although you get the same results when pressing these keys in any order, it's more common to write as "Ctrl+Alt+Del" or "Ctrl+Alt+Delete."

Computer slang, Force quit, Operating system terms, Reboot, TFS, Warm boot