SOLUTION: Google Chrome process will not close; Chrome will not re-open

A frustrating issue that I have encountered on multiple recent customers’ PCs is an inability to completely close all Google Chrome processes–and, even more frustratingly, a consequent inability to reopen Chrome once it has been closed on the machine.  This happens regardless of whether the Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed checkbox is checked in Settings.

Two workarounds exist: either reboot the machine or open Task Manager and kill the hanging chrome.exe process that is responsible for this problem.  But, of course, this is no long-term solution.

Fortunately I have found the long-term solution!  Keep in mind it may be different in your case depending on the cause, but it appears that this problem is always a product of one of two conditions:

  1. A problematic plugin/extension, or
  2. Corrupt User Data of some sort.

For sake of justification, in the case of my customers’ machines, the first one was caused by a problematic QuickTime plugin (disabling it fixed the problem), and the second one was a corrupt Cookies store–one which could not be cleared using the Clear Browsing Data dialog.

In light of this, there is a relatively easy way to solve either.  Here is the process by which I propose you approach the solution in your particular case:

  1. First, open Chrome and navigate to chrome:plugins.  Disable all plugins and restart the browser.  You may have to kill chrome.exe manually once and then reopen/reclose the browser to test this.  If the behavior persists, reenable the plugins one-by-one to narrow down the one which is responsible.
  2. If this doesn’t work, reenable all plugins, then navigate next to chrome:extensions and disable all extensions next.  Repeat the close/open process to see if the behavior persists.

If this still doesn’t work, now that you’ve ruled out any plugin/extension issues, you’ll need to employ this final phase of the fix, which involves locating corrupt User Data and fixing it.

METHOD 1: From The Ground Up

The first approach involves recreating a new User Data store for your Chrome profile.  This is the most surefire way of correcting the issue as it involves working from the ground up with a new profile and reintroducing customizations (such as Bookmarks, Preferences, etc.) until you find one which is a problem (in my case, it was Cookies).  Here’s how it works:

  1. Open up a folder browser window (a Windows Explorer window) on your PC and navigate to the folder %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome
  2. Inside this folder, you will find a subfolder called User Data.  Make sure Chrome is closed (including the hanging chrome.exe process), then rename this folder to something such as User Data.old
  3. Open Chrome again and close it.  Voila, no problems.
  4. Note that a new User Data folder has now been created which is blank.  Here’s the tricky part.  The new profile doesn’t have any of your previous data in it (as you probably noticed).  If you’re simply using a roaming Google Chrome profile (such as one where you sign in while opening the browser) to retain your settings, it’s as easy as signing in again to repopulate your stuff.  But if you aren’t, you’ll need to manually copy over the data from the corrupt profile.  To do so:
    1. Navigate to %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome\User Data.old\Default to get to the old corrupt profile data that you are no longer using.
    2. Open another folder browser window and navigate to the new profile data here: %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default 
    3. Close Chrome (if it isn’t already) and copy over the following user data files within this folder one at a time, opening and closing Chrome in-between each time to check for a hanging chrome.exe process after the file is copied:
      1. Archived History
      2. Bookmarks
      3. Extension Cookies
      4. Favicons
      5. History
      6. Login Data
      7. Preferences
      8. Shortcuts
      9. Top Sites
      10. Visited Links
    4. If you copy a file and the behavior reappears, that’s obviously your culprit.  In my case, it was Cookies, which you’ll notice I didn’t even list above because I bet that’s what your problem is too!

METHOD 2: From The Top Down

You can reverse this method if you want to try and retain as much as possible of your profile (i.e., if you have a ton of extensions installed that you don’t want to redownload–though to restore those you can technically also simply copy the subfolders within the Default folder as well that relate to them).  First I would create a backup of the User Data folder before beginning just in case, and afterwards I’d begin renaming suspect files one by one until you find the culprit.  Start with Cookies and go through the rest of the files in the Default folder until you find the problem.

Thank goodness this is solved!  It’s an annoying one.

Donate to say "Thanks" if this post has helped save you time and money! 🙂

17 thoughts on “SOLUTION: Google Chrome process will not close; Chrome will not re-open

  1. Many thanks. This solution worked for me and I have read and tried hundreds of suggestions, some of which worked temporarily. If it’s still working tomorrow I intend to donate!
    I have an “identical ” laptop on which this problem never arose – also a Toshiba and an old Dell running Vista.

  2. Hey John,

    Thanks so much for the feedback!

    Out of curiosity, in your case, which one of the files fixed the problem? Or was it an extension by chance?

  3. In order to make Chrome load fast as well as solve the inability to reopen Chrome due to non shutdown of Chrome processes, all I found necessary was to open open the tool menu & go to > history > Clear browsing data > select:

    Cookies and other site and plug-in data

    Cached images and files

    Hosted app data

    And clear them. very simple but be aware the it can take a long time to complete making one think that something is locked up – be patient! Clearing Cached images & files is probably not necessary.

  4. Thanks for sharing this information. I was searching for a solution on why I had several processes running after I closed Chrome. In my case it was the Hangouts extension that kept the processes running.

  5. Or just scrape all traces of Chrome off your computer. If it is this vulnerable to corrupting of it’s installation, it can’t be considered for serious business and scientific uses.

  6. Thanks for the article. This worked for me. Disabling plugins didn’t work so I had to move on to the starting a new user data folder method and copying the settings back one by one. None of the ones on the list recreated the problem, so I guess the problem was elsewhere. I suppose I have most of my settings back now, it looks like it used to again, so I’ll consider it solved. I wish I knew more about what all those files are in that User Data folder. If anyone knows a good resource to read about all that I’d be interested.

    I also had an odd problem with a message being displayed that said “google chrome did not shut down correctly” every single time I started chrome and an option to restore my previous tabs. And I had a very odd problem where whenever I disabled a plugin, it would not stay disabled when I restarted chrome. It went back to being enabled. Googling about that yielded almost nothing useful, but I found a fix for the first issue by opening the preferences file in a text editor and changing a quantity called exit_type from ‘crash’ to ‘normal’. Weirdly, this also fixed my plugin problem too. Then I realized that disabling all plugins wasn’t fixing my ‘process hanging around in the taskbar keeping chrome from opening problem’ and moved on to your starting a new user data folder method, which worked. Thanks again! Chrome seems to be running a lot smoother now.

  7. Thanks for the insight. But I found after I logged in it just kept happening. Then I looked in the tray and tried to shut down the small Google icon there and it asked me if I wanted Google to run in the background. Heck no!! That fixed it permanently.

  8. If the behavior persists, reenable the plugins one-by-one to narrow down the one which is responsible.

    “persists”?

    ended or ceased maybe, if problem has stopped.

  9. I’m using Chrome on Windows 8. I cannot end chrome.exe from the task manager. There are 3 instances, and as soon as I end the last one, 3 more pop up instantaneously. I’ve tried the plugin and extension solutions mentioned above, but of course I can’t try the user data solution since I cannot shutdown chrome.exe. I have also tried to remove chrome entries in the registry without any luck. Anyone have any ideas? I just want to uninstall Chrome completely, I will never use this browser again.

  10. Hey Steve

    Just wanted to take a min to post and say thanks. Very easy to follow guide.

    In my case, it was a plugin called Widevine Content Decryption module that was causing this issue.

    Thanks again

    Jason

  11. Manny on December 1, 2015 at 2:47 pm said:
    I’m using Chrome on Windows 8. I cannot end chrome.exe from the task manager. There are 3 instances, and as soon as I end the last one, 3 more pop up instantaneously. I’ve tried the plugin and extension solutions mentioned above, but of course I can’t try the user data solution since I cannot shutdown chrome.exe. I have also tried to remove chrome entries in the registry without any luck. Anyone have any ideas? I just want to uninstall Chrome completely, I will never use this browser again.

    I am also facing same issue with Windows 7, none of above solutions worked.

  12. Off the top of my head that sounds like malware. There may be a task running which is launching Chrome at regular intervals to keep the malware running. I see this often.

  13. I have the same problem with Windows 7 – I did not try any of the above suggestions.

    When it happens to me I simply run Cleanup, which stops when it advises me Chrome is still open, do you want me to shut it down and then when it will not shut down Cleanup asks me can a do a forced shutdown and with the greatest of satisfaction I say yes. That solves my problem – at 81 years of age I am not interested in going down the long road suggested above because it does or does not work. Google Chrome with Windows 7 is crap – but it is so much better than the versions of Internet Explorer still supported by Microsoft and at least I can still use Windows Live Mail instead of Google’s crap email program.

    brian k of Qld

  14. Thank you very much.

    I had the issue of having the Chrome closes by itself, and I tried this, and it worked perfectly:

    1.Open up a folder browser window (a Windows Explorer window) on your PC and navigate to the folder %LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome
    2.Inside this folder, you will find a subfolder called User Data. Make sure Chrome is closed (including the hanging chrome.exe process), then rename this folder to something such as User Data.old
    3.Open Chrome again and close it. Voila, no problems.

  15. Thanks, this worked for me. In my case, it was the “History” file that was corrupt, and this was causing two problems: the Google Chrome processes kept on running even after I closed Chrome, and disk usage always reached 100% whenever I used Chrome. Now Chrome shuts down properly and disk usage is back down to a manageable level.

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