I accidentally created over 1000 screens. How do I kill them all with one command? (Or a few)

  • 3
    run --> screen -ls | grep Detached | cut -d. -f1 | awk '{print $1}' | xargs kill
    – sactiw
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 10:26
  • Good idea @sactiw. I modified it to work with my named sessions, and tweaked the commands a bit for preference, cleaning the sessions out completely in case they are 'stuck' like they were for me, and listing again for the user as a sanity check: screen -ls | grep "<name>" | cut -d. -f1 | tr --delete "\t" | xargs kill -9; screen -wipe; screen -ls;
    – Pysis
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 14:37
  • 7
    How did you accidentally create 1000 screens?
    – duhaime
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 0:06
  • 1
    @duhaime asking the real question.
    – ahron
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 18:11
  • I was using a loop and running different parameters for a model in each screen. It all happened so fast!
    – Adam_G
    Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 21:56

8 Answers 8


You can use :

pkill screen


killall screen

In OSX the process is called SCREEN in all caps. So, use:

pkill SCREEN


killall SCREEN
  • 2
    It's not recommended to use SIGKILL in this case. SIGTERM would be a much better choice.
    – Marco
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 22:31
  • Hi, Rahul Patil. why screen is not listed in Top
    – user15964
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 1:03
  • What if I don't have permissions? Do I have to manually go into and exit all the screens individually? Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:39
  • In OSX (also potentially in Linux), ongoing processes running inside the screen are "orphaned".
    – f01
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 3:26

If the screens are dead, use:

screen -wipe

Have recently begun to familiarize myself with awk I put together this and it served its purpose. I posted it since its quite easy to understand.

screen -ls | grep '(Detached)' | awk 'sys {screen -S $1 -X quit}'

Where screen -ls lists all current screens. grep 'pattern' filters out all matching rows. We can then get a handle for all detached screens and with awk sys {command} we can copy and paste together a command and execute it with sys, $1 refers to the first argument picked up by awk. Finally we execute the quit command with screen -X quit.

  • 12
    screen -ls | grep '(Detached)' | awk '{print $1}' | xargs -I % -t screen -X -S % quit worked better for me. Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 23:24
str=$(screen -ls)  

array=$(echo $str|tr "." "\n")  

for V in $array  
if [ $V -gt 0  ]  
        then screen -S $V -X quit  
for scr in $(screen -ls | awk '{print $1}'); do screen -S $scr -X kill; done

I'm a bit puzzled over how you managed to create 1000 "screens". Did you perhaps mean 1000 screen windows (1000 different terminal windows within a single screen session)?

If you meant 1000 windows within a single screen session, then a more elegant solution would be to quit screen using the command C-a \ (ctrl-a followed by \).

  • 1
    Try executing screen 1000x within screen. What happens? You get 1000 screen windows. Yes, that's right, screen intelligently and mercifully doesn't spawn 1000 screen sessions. So if the OP had already started screen it should be far easier to accidentally start 1000 screen windows than to start 1000 screen sessions.
    – Railgun2
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 1:44
  • Strange but the comment I was replying to appears to have disappeared. Anyway I'm letting the above comment stand for the record.
    – Railgun2
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 1:49
  • 1
    Well it's actually pretty simple. Just make a infinite loop (by accident) and put something like this in there screen -m sleep 100000. This happened and I did not notice until it had already created over 1000 screen sessions.
    – BrainStone
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 10:14
  • How exactly does one create an infinite loop by accident?
    – ahron
    Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 18:13

The following command will terminate all inactive screens:

perl -e 'while (map { kill 9, [split /\./]->[0] } grep { /Detached/ } split /\n/, qx{screen -ls}) { sleep 1 } exec qw(screen -wipe)'

You can use the screen command itself to list all active screen sessions and then kill them one by one. Here's an example:

screen -ls | awk '{print $1}' | xargs -I{} screen -X -S {} quit

This will list all active screen sessions using the screen -ls command, extract the session IDs using awk, and then pass each session ID to the screen -X -S command to quit the session.

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