How to close all background apps at once in Android 5.0 (lollipop)?

  • I noticed that I can press the square button on the bottom right to show all background apps, and then swipe from left to right with my finger to stop them manually.

    But sometimes, I find that I have twenty or more apps in the background, so I want to stop them all at once.

    I did a simple search on Google, but didn't find an answer.

    Is it possible to do that?

    This bothers me to no end because of the UX issue - with 20+ apps to scroll through, it is very difficult to find the one you want. I don't care if memory management is efficient - having 20+ apps (made worse by each chrome tab showing up) makes navigating awful.

    `am kill-all` command can do it, though it requires root access.

  • As far as I know : no you can't.

    TL;DR :

    Closing all background apps is a bad practice. You should close apps that you don't use often or apps you specifically want to close for X reason. IMO, the only good reason to close all recent apps is that you feel like there are too many of them and you can't find an app any more because of the mess it creates.


    The recent apps feature in Lollipop appears to behave differently from previous versions. First of all, as you noticed, the button to clear all recent apps is gone. Moreover, the recent apps persist through reboot (read on Android Police : The Recent Apps List Now Persists Through Reboot).

    Now, you still can clear them by swiping all the cards, which I agree is tedious. But as the top comment on the AP post I quoted above explains :

    Clearing out all of the apps in recents just puts more work on CPU and thus your battery because you're essentially having to start from scratch the next time you load it. If something stays in your recents list and is in RAM, it loads instantly with virtually no battery or processing penalty minus refreshing the content via the network connection.

    Basically, all the Android users (including me a while ago) who frequently clear their recent apps, use task killers, etc. are using their Android device the wrong way.

    You can read more about Why you shouldn't use a task killer on Android (a post by cybervibin on XDA), which is roughly the same as killing the apps yourself. In short, unused RAM is useless RAM. If a large amount of RAM is required by an app, the system will stop recent apps by itself to provide the newly launched app the needed resources. No need to stop them yourself, it's the OS's job.

    I also recommend the read of this question on Android Enthusiasts about What happens when you swipe an app out of the recent apps list.


    To conclude, to this day and as far as I know, you can't clear your recent apps all at once on Android Lollipop 5.0. But you shouldn't have to do that anyway, which is surely why Google's teams removed the button.

    I don't know if this is a CyanogenMod 12 only option, but I have a little button to clear them all.

    @RyanConrad it's CM option only. At least I can confirm that there is no option on stock Android Lollipop. Probably you could expand that as alternative answer? :)

    @MathieuMaree Are there other optimisations that I'm not aware of in Lollipop? I understand that Windows Metro apps will tombstone (freeze when not focused, and only with permission, run in the background); however, Android has no such permission system. It seems that apps in Android are able to run in the background, taking up CPU cycles. Closing the background app (recents) stops these programs from using CPU (GPS, etc.), hence helps with battery life. In the long run it seems that closing recents can be better for battery life than having to restart apps. Can you comment?

    I'm looking for this ability, not for the purpose of clearing memory, but because the recent apps/overview is pretty useless when it has over 10 cards in it (I currently have ~40), and I can only actually view about 3.5 cards at a time.

    Also, it makes me uneasy to share the device because it has weeks of history snapshots. It shows emails, google searches, etc from weeks ago.

    I agree with @wisbucky, having more than 50 tabs open at a time makes that feature useless. Also, if it is really bad for system resources, why is CM always offering a clear all button? Do they have different views about how Android works? Anyway, recent apps should be different from app in the RAM. Recent apps should show a shortcut to let say the latest 10 apps you opened, regardless they are still cached or not. How apps are managed in memory by Android should be left to Android only, not the user.

    Your comments are, for the most part, correct, but devle into opinion and straight up dogma. I think you could keep the judgementalism to yourself and understand that there are certain use cases that do merit a "close all" function. An out-of-control application CAN eat system resources to the extent that it affects the responsiveness of the entire device. And now, to find said application within the cluttered recent app list is an utter pain. I don't give a good gosh dern if android is going to have to reload an app i launched 2 days ago. I want to click once to solve the problem.

    @barneco Hmm, I don't see where I've been "judgementalist" in my answer, but since you look offended : I apologize.

    For the desperate (and rooted...) lads here, Chainfire released an app, Recently, that gives you more control on the recent apps overview. Among other things, it adds a 'Clear All' button and allows you to limit the number of entries shown.

    I'm aware of the way android manages background apps, but anecdotally I find I run out of memory when lots of background apps are open, especially games and on my old v1 nexus 7, now running lollipop. Closing them always seems to help. Is this actually true? I didn't want to ask a new question as it would basically be the same as this one.

    I'm not sure if this has recently changed or if it's something you have just not considered but as Matthew Read suggested it is very much possible by switching the card view to grid view.

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM

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