What Does Control-Alt-Delete Mean?

Control-Alt-Delete is a computer keyboard keystroke combination (Control, Alt and Delete) that was conceived by David Bradley, a designer of the original IBM personal computer. It is a command for IBM PC-compatible systems that can be used to restart the computer. On more recent versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system, Control-Alt-Delete is used to call up the task manager program. Control-Alt-Del also summons administrative functions such as the “End Task” feature when a program crashes or gets stuck. On X window systems it is used to call the logout dialog box.


The Control-Alt-Delete key combination is sometimes called the three-finger salute.

Techopedia Explains Control-Alt-Delete

Control-Alt-Delete is invoked by pressing the Delete key while holding the Control and Alt keys on a computer keyboard. It is used when a software program locks up and needs to be restarted, when there is a need to change a computer’s password, or log on or off the computer. The original idea for implementing the Control-Alt-Delete command was to reset or restart the computer without turning it off, which is known as a soft reboot. Microsoft implemented Control-Alt-Delete to ensure that users shut down the computer properly.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…