SPSS Kill switch

Device with a switch that sends commands to stop all SPSS processes

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This emergency stop switch is connected to an Arduino Micro Pro configured as a USB HID keyboard. If pressed it will send keystroke commands for Windows to open a command line console and then forefully kill any stats.exe or spssengine.exe processes. This will shutdown IBM SPSS Statistics quickly and cleanly.


Because sometimes the only way to stop SPSS from processing non-existent data is to just kill all its processes. And it takes time to either find them in Task Manager or to type the taskkill command by hand. Also, slamming buttons with fist is fun.

You should be able to complete this simple project in under an hour.

In my daily work I have to use IBM SPSS Statistics a lot. Mainly I run scripts ("syntax files") already prepared for various situations. Sometimes the only thing I have to modify is the list of files that need to be merged or just a path to those files.

But I make mistakes. And SPSS doesn't forgive all mistakes. So if a path to files is wrong then whole analysis will be wrong but SPSS may become stuck in some deep loop or complex aggregation of data that doesn't even exist.

The only way to stop it and recover is to kill it through Task Manager or taskkill command.

Sometimes the SPSS calculation engine dies and only GUI part remains active. Also then it is not possible to just close GUI part. It has to be killed.

This little device does it for me. If I slam the button it will send keystrokes to open Run... menu (Win+R) then type cmd.exe to open command line console and then type taskkill commands to forcefully kill any spssengine.exe or stats.exe processes.

  • 1 × Arduino Micro Pro
  • 1 × Emergency Stop switch The bigger, the redder, the better
  • 2 × pieces of wire To connect the switch
  • 1 × USB cable Electronic Components / Misc. Electronic Components

  • Autohotkey support

    Maciej Witkowiak07/11/2016 at 20:59 0 comments

    This project was mentioned on blog. I read some very insighful comments.

    Following one suggestion I have just added an autohotkey branch in github repository.

    In this version the button press causes unusal key combination: WIN+CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+S. Autohotkey waits for this combination and reacts by killing stats.exe and spssengine.exe tasks immediately. Autohotkey script and compiled script are both included in this branch.

    This is much more reliable and flexible approach than my initial idea. Now it is possible to redefine the button action without reflashing the board.

View project log

  • 1
    Step 1

    Find a proper enclosure. I have used a clear plastic box that originally housed baby's pacifier.

  • 2
    Step 2

    Drill two holes. One larger for the switch and one smaller for USB cable

  • 3
    Step 3

    Wire the switch. I used digital pin 9 and GND.

View all 6 instructions

Enjoy this project?



Maciej Witkowiak wrote 07/10/2016 at 22:05 point

No, you're right. I don't have to run console at all. Both commands can be executed from the run box. Or better yet through autohotkey service.

  Are you sure? yes | no

ben wrote 07/09/2016 at 16:41 point

do you need to use cmd.exe? whynot run taskkill from the run box?

  Are you sure? yes | no

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