Windows 8.1 apps don't want to close - "tombstoning" is the new cool

If you are geeky as we are, you have already downloaded and installed Microsoft’s latest operating system update – Windows 8.1 Consumer Preview. As you enjoy the latest software goodies from Redmond, you might notice that the behavior of closed Windows 8 apps have changed slightly.

In the past, dragging an application down from the top would completely close the application and remove it from memory – in Windows 8.1, that has changed. Now when you pull an app down from the top of the screen it is removed from your list of currently active apps and “tombstoned”.

Let’s quickly talk about what tombstoning is; Windows 8 does not allow most applications to run in the background in order to conserve and save resources on the PC. Some applications like Slacker Radio and Xbox Music have permission to run since they need to stream content. Other applications like Windows Mail and IM+ can still receive push notifications from a server, but aren’t continuously running. Tombstoning is the act of taking an application that is not in use and putting it into a “software sleep mode” where it does not suck down resources.

Tombstoning on Windows Phone

Want to see an example of tombstoning for yourself? Open the IE10 Windows 8 App to play a YouTube video then switch away to a different application – the audio stops.

Windows 8.1 now tombstones applications that you close instead of actually closing them. This way, if you decide that you need to reopen the app, you are dropped in right where you left off. Some of you may be concerned that this new change will be negative on your resources – it won’t be. The operating system will tombstone your apps until the resources are needed again; at which point, the application will fully close.

A perfect analogy is if you know how a hard drive deletes files. When you delete a file on a computer it really isn’t gone – it just appears gone, but remains on the drive until the space is needed.

We do expect some users to face confusion of why dragging and “closing” their apps seems to work sometimes and other times doesn’t, but it shouldn’t be the issue of the century.

If you really do need to close an application completely, simply drag it to the bottom of the screen and wait for the app’s logo to appear before letting go. For those who need to aggressively kill applications, you always have the ability to terminate an application via Windows 8.1’s task manager.

What do you think of Microsoft’s approach - do you think it is a good idea to tombstone all closed apps until system resources are needed?

Michael Archambault
  • Oh so it's kinda like wp8 right ?
  • Yes. It is.
  • Cool
  • You just gotta be careful at what you were surfing through on IE cuz when reopening the app, it'll reopen all tabs that were active before closing it
  • LOL! Sounds like someone had an awkward business meeting situation arise. Speaking from experience?
  • lol +1
  • InPrivate mode! These tabs are removed when the app is tombstoned ...
  • do windows 8 apps not run in the background even on full windows? didn't know this was how they worked
  • Some apps like Skype can run in the background.
  • Certain API's allow for running in the background, such as music playing or GPS (like on WP8).  But in general, when a metro app isn't in the foreground, it is in a paused state so as not to waste battery.  This doesn't apply to desktop programs, just metro.
  • it depends on the app! but of course most apps dont need to run in background. and also running in background can be different from app to app.
    but its up to developer. its like music app, it will play music even if you switch, but IE will stop the audio.
  • Ok I didnt know what was going on, this sounds good though.
  • Great explanation and comparison to deleting a file from a hard drive. As long as it truly works that way, sounds like a great idea.
  • +1
  • I want to close my apps complete I prefer the "old" 8.0 way of life :)
  • Why?
  • Example: Spouse opens side bar, notices currently open apps... "Honey, why do you have the Travel app open?  A trip for our anniversary?!  Where are we going?!  Hawaii, Paris!!?"
    So much for the surprise trip, but I guess there is a way to close the apps completely... just a different way than before.
  • Tombstoned apps will not show up in the sidebar. So all those trip sites (yeah that is what I call them too :) ) are safe from prying eyes. But, if she loads up a tombstoned app she will see the app in its current state.
  • Solution. User accounts.
  • Your wife is supposed to have her own separate log in and you your own password. Problem solved.
  • You still can!
    Swipe down on the apps and hold it at the bottom until the window icon changes. Then the app is completely closed, not just tombstoned!
  • Hey Kay, I just updated the article to demonstrate how to truly close a Windows 8.1 application. Check the second to last paragraph. Enjoy. -Mike
  • Thanks :D
  • I like it. Makes a lot of sense. But I've noticed games running much faster on Windows 7 compared to windows 8. I haven't tried that with 8.1 yet. So hopefully it fares well there too
  • Games as in desktop games or app store games? Its been proven plenty of times with benchmarks that windows 8 makes next to no difference - a alight difference for some AMD FX processors (which nobody should be buying for gaming until at least Kaveri/Steamroller :P)
  • Do you have apps in windows 7? :P Lol.. I've noticed a at least 3-4 frames drop in win8. After testing quite a few games, i decided it was win7 for me right now for gaming. Esp if your rig ain't top notch, you're bound to notice it. I use windows 8 for everything else.
  • Well i noticed 8 fps plus with windows 8 in arma 3 beta
  • I'll have to try this, because I stream from soundcloud while playing league ....
  • How do you kill a misbehaving app then, task manager?
  • Sorry, the article wasn't clear on this. Fixed now. You can still close apps, you just have to hold them for an extra second near the bottom. You'll see it flip around to show the Tile and then you can close it.
  • Yup. Each tombstoned app will show as a running task that you can end, if you really want to. Not much need though, if the system is actually designed as they say it is. I prefer having my frequently used apps instantly available.
  • You can still completely close apps if you want to. Swipe the app down to the bottom and hold it there before you let go of it. Once the icon changes then it will completely kill the app and not tombstone it.
  • Drag to the bottom until the window shrinks, and then hold it there. When it flips and shows the app icon (takes a few seconds), it will close instead of tombstoning.
  • As long as I can kill a misbehaving app, tombstoning is fine with me. On the phone, I have had to kill a few apps by opening others until the offender is finally closed for good.
  • Is anybody else having problems with 8.1? Alot of my apps crash or don't work at all... I know its an consumer preview.. But I was wondering if anyone has any advice :)
  • I prefer windows 8 version because it restart completly the app, for exemple on ie11, when i close it and reopen it later, it show me my last session ... It s boring if i have to close everything before closing the app ...
    Is there a way to kill the app ??
  • Drag the app to the bottom of the screen and hold it there for a few seconds. Once the app flips to its tile, it's closed.
  • seriously if i'm playing youtube video and it stops, then no!
  • Not a fan... Sure, it gives a more seemless impression, but when I close an app I normally had reasons to close it.
    Otherwise I would leave it open, as it tombstones anyway.
    And I'm really not a fan of this kind of automatic memory management. Especially as it makes the task manager even more unreadable - If tombstoning fills the RAM, it will look like an Adobe Product is running on my PC.
  • You can still completely close apps if you want to. Swipe the app down to the bottom and hold it there before you let go of it. Once the icon changes then it will completely kill the app and not tombstone it.
  • But that goes right into another issue.
    When you want to close an app from the app list via touch, you need to move the app to the very top and then swipe down. Which often ends with my finger going too far up, which causes the app to turn active instead.
    This solution sounds like it would fall into a similar issue, depending on how the tolerance on the down-swipe is. From memory it would likely be better than the former case, though.
  • @Robert use task manger if it is a serious problem for your finger.
  • That's kind of missing the point.
    I could also put the app into focus and THEN swipe down. The issue is efficiency, not doing it at all.
  • I'm picking up what your puting down and I agree with you.
    I prefer to just slide down to close it. Would be nice if we could enable that as an option or something.
  • To close an app in windows 8.1, just drag and hold the app on the bottom of the screen until the app flips back to its tile. When you let go, it's closed.
  • ^^ this everyone. I don't know why this wasn't researched before the article was published....
  • What if I want the music to keep playing? Use a YouTube movie a background music?
  • Xbox music works in the background
  • Apps can be programmed to run sound in the background. All music apps work this way. The better Youtube apps also use this feature. Unfortunately internet explorer does not. And not everyone is a fan of apps. So if I were Microsoft I would add this feature to internet explorer as well.
  • What about when a app is misbehaving? Going to be annoying.
  • Its not as easy or elegant, but you can always open up task manager and end the task.
  • I've checked - tombstoned applications consume around 1-4 megabytes... So it won't use much resources.
  • I'm not sure I am convinced by this change.
  • So decide, than write ;)
  • Still can't get 8.1 to recognize my phone in the WP App, WMP or File Explorer. Anybody?
  • Me too, but i don't know how to fix it ... You got a lumia 920 too ??
  • Can IE11 windows now continue in the background if we want them to then? I hate how switching to a different app pauses the audio of the videos I watch on it...
  • Guys if you want to fully quit an app in windows 8.1 drag it down but don't let go until the app changes back to an icon then let go.
  • It's like desqview all over again!
  • I would also, with a mouse, bring up the side bar of open apps, and right click on one, clock close. Does that still work in 8.1?
  • no, it only suspends apps. only alt+f4 or drag App to bottom and wait the time it changes to its icon. closes the App. or well task manager+end task :P it also works
  • here's how to fully quit an app
    (warning if you do this and then decide to let the app run instead you'll basically have restarted the app and your unsaved data will be gone :). )
    Its a 8mb GIF so that you know. :)
    Courtesy Nokia's of CinemaGraph   
  • I hate this. I still can't watch a video or Netflix side-by-side with another app without having it pause every time I jump back to the Start screen to open said app. It's really annoying.
  • If you've used the app recently you can. Just bring up the switcher on the left side and then drag the app to the window position you want. You should also be able to launch an app from Search now without going to Start.
    I agree it is unfortunate that there's no "small Start" option, though.
  • I just wish there was a way to have running metro apps in the desktop taskbar. It feel likes kind of disjointed on a desktop pc having a seperate way to switch metro and desktop apps. I'm just saying cause 8.1 one was suppose to make windows 8 more desktop friendly.
  • Stardock software do a suite of programs for win8. ModernMix is one where you can run metro apps as a window in desktop mode. Might be worth a look for you.
  • Why drag when Alt-F4 solves everything?
  • Exactly
  • Good point..the article (and comments) only talk of using gestures to close apps. Unless I hear differently, I will assume that Alt-F4 will continue to (fully) terminate a running program (both metro ui programs and not).
  • All of this "one app at a time" rubbish kinda makes me think windows is taking a step back rather than forward, i'll decide when i close an app thankyou very much!
  • Having used the 8.1 preview since iso release and It does get rather tedious drawing down to bottom of the screen and holding it for 3 seconds but you can right click close apps when they are in thumbnail view on the left handside which takes more less two seconds via mouse or trackpad.. I guess you would press and hold on a touch screen?
  • apps closed from app switcher doesnt close them. only suspends them. the only ways to close apps are, wait until app changes icon, alt+f4 and task manager
  • Smart.
  • I mentioned this in last article about how charms stuff worked in 8.1. someone mentioned this was a bug and i explained it wasnt... but almost everyone ignored me! hate you all!
    anyway this new way of closing apps can have positive and negative things. its nice ot be able to tombstone apps without filling your app switcher. but some people dont want to wait to close their apps and if they are watching pr0n they dont want other people to open IE and then see what they were watching because it didnt close completely.
    but also apps switch fast, again, without filling any app switcher. and its faster to restart apps now, since you can hold the app on the bottom and when it closes (when it changes to its icon) you can drag it up and reopen it faster than go to start menu and finding the app and stuff.
    so it has nice things and negative things. but these apps take few memory that its not like computer will be slow for suspending apps in background. and if windows needs memory, it will still close the apps to gain memory. so its not like too bad. but some people might complain about this.
  • Shhhh...
  • Very very good to know, wondered what was going on. Wish you didn't have to hold at the bottom for as long as you do though.
  • This is not helpful to new XBOX MUSIC when in process of tombstoning I guess, because it makes it even SLOWER.  I don't appreciate that, but also recognize this is preview.  I also don't like that I can't close IE quickly when viewing objectionable material only to see it up pop when I reopen.  ;)  Maybe we can change default behavior? 
  • the memory will shrink drastically after some time. for example, SkyDrive is now using only 800KB of memory. it was at 23MB  when I first launched it. News is only using 1.6MB even though it started over 100MB. so, there's really no need to close apps unless they are misbehaving.
  • Is the download/upgrade available and where can I get it?
  • So what would ALT+F4 do now? Close or tombstone?
  • close
  • I just tried, it tombstones.
  • This article is going to confuse people. It's describing the Windows Phone model, not the Windows 8 model.
    Windows 8 does not close or "tombstone" applications. It suspends them. When you leave an app, unless it is part of a background execution contract (like background audio), it will be notified that it's about to be suspended. It will have a few seconds to persist its state, and then it will be frozen in memory. If the user returns to the app, it will resume exactly where it left off. If the system needs to free up memory, it may page the suspended app's working set out to disk, or it may terminate it entirely. In the latter case, the next time the app launches, it will be told to reload the state it saved before it was suspended.
    The drag-to-bottom action used to trigger a suspend operation (giving the app time to save) then immediately terminate it. It was meant to be rarely used. But apparently enough folks used it for the behavior of getting an app out of their "back stack" that it became more common than expected. This has the unfortunate effect of making the machine seem slower, and probably complicates the new multi-window cases. So the new behavior of this action in 8.1 is to suspend it and otherwise follow the normal rules. However, unlike other ways of leaving an app, this will still remove the app from the user's "back stack" so they won't see it in the app switcher or if they do the "swipe back" gesture (or click in the upper left).
    At Build I was shown that there is a new gesture for fully forcing an app closed, but this is mainly for debugging/troubleshooting purposes. More importantly, if you do the existing close gesture, then immediately try to launch the app again, the system will assume something was wrong and will kill and restart the app (instead of resuming it). I think this was a clever way to handle that problem.
  • If it's good enough for WP8 then it's good enough for Windows 8.1.
    But I currently use WP 8 as my phone OS Nokia Lumia 925, Windows 7 Ultimate on the only Windows machine in the house as it's needed for syncing my Lumia and the wifes iPhone 4S to iTunes etc and Ubuntu 13.10 x64 as my main machine.
  • There is a big problem with this "tombstoning" and nvidia optimus technology. Since the App doesn't really close the pc doesn't switch back to the low power integrated graphics, and stays with the discrete gpu active as long the app is "tombstoned". Now users have to the drag the app to the bottom and wait a few moments for the app to close completely and only then optimus will switch back to integrated graphics properly. Anyone knows how to force the integrated graphics for windows apps?
  • So how does one person turn off Tombstoning? If you don't know, just say it. Don't ask questions.
  • The most annoying Win8 bug of all is that apps tombstone when you switch to another app, and then are unable to continue where you left off. that means if you're writing a message on the facebook app, and you need to check the time of an event on the calendar app, when you come back to the facebook app to finish your message, THE FACEBOOK APP GOES BACK TO THE MAIN SCREEN AND HAS ERASED YOUR MESSAGE! start over (and don't you dare forget the time of that event again, or you'll have to start all over again)! This is true of any app! it basically means Windows 8 is incapable of multitasking!
    Does anyone know how to tell Windows "KEEP APPS RUNNING IN THE BACKGROUND! don't tombstone them!"? after all, no traditional program has ever stopped functioning automatically just because you minimize it to the task bar!