How and Why to Clear Your Browser Cache
November 9, 2009 / Updated: October 9, 2020 / Lena Shore
What is cache?
Cache Memory (pronounced “cash”) is quick memory that is used to store files you frequent so that your internet experience is quicker.
The first time you go to a website to view it, all the images and words are stored on your computer. The next time you go to view that same site, it will seem to come up faster. That’s because you already have it on your computer.
Why would I need to clear it?
Imagine you are in your kitchen and need to bake four batches of brownies for a party. Your mixer is only going to hold one batch at a time. So you go to your cabinet and pull out the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. You go to the fridge and grab the eggs, milk, and butter. You place all the items on the counter. (This is your cache.) You make your first batch of brownies. After you are done are you going to put up all the ingredients? Of course not. You have three more batches of brownies to make and putting everything up would waste your time! You leave everything out on the counter until you are done making all your brownies.
This is similar to how your cache saves you time. By saving all those files (ingredients) on your computer (countertop) that make up a web site, when you go back to view it again, it comes up quicker for you, saving you time.
Now, imagine you left all of your ingredients out on your counter for every meal you ever cooked in case you wanted to go back and cook that same meal. At first, it might be more convenient (if nothing spoiled). But, after a while, it would be come a mess and you would begin to work slower for having to maneuver around all those ingredients… all the while looking for open counter space.
Reasons to clear your cache
- Your cache file gets too big you may need to clean it out to improve the speed of your browser
- Your cache file gets corrupted it may affect your computer’s workings and need to be deleted
- Your browser isn’t displaying a web site properly and is showing an old file
- Your web designer swears they made the change and you just aren’t seeing it
Let me explain that last one a bit. Sometimes when you are working with your web designer (or making changes yourself) on your website you may not see the that the changes are reflected after uploading the new files. This is due to your cache being stuck. Most of the time if you just refresh the page, it will fix the problem. But, sometimes you need to clear the cache.
Will clearing my cache mess anything up?
Clearing your cache will just dump those temporary files and won’t affect you. The only exception is some of your websites may seem to come up a bit slower that first time after. But you won’t lose your bookmarks or anything like that.
Okay. Great. Get on with it. How do I do it?
From within the browser you are using (choose from list below) follow the path to the link. After clearing the cache it is a good idea to restart your browser.
- Safari 4.0 : Go to Safari –> Empty Cache
- Firefox 3.5 : Go to Tools –> Clear Recent History (adjust details as needed)
- Internet Explorer 8 : Go to Safety –> Delete Browser History (Check Temporary Internet files, Cookies, and History, and then click Delete.)
- Internet Explorer 7 : Go to Tools –> Delete Browser History (Next to “Temporary Internet Files”, click Delete files)
- Internet Explorer 6 : Go to Tools –> Internet Options (On the General tab, in the Temporary Internet Files section, click the Delete Files button.)
- Firefox 3.5: Go to Tools –> Clear Recent History (adjust details as needed)
- Firefox 3.0 : Go to Tools –> Clear Private Data (check Cache and Cookies. Click Clear Private Data Now.)
Many of the options above will also allow you to clear your “cookies”. These are not the same kind of cookies we talked about in the second section. They are little bits of memory that store things that are specific to websites and your interaction with them. If you go to a site and it remembers your name or you login information – that’s a cookie. Feel free to delete those if you would like. Just know that you’ll have to enter that information again the next time you go to the site.