The Importance of Clearing Your Cache

21 April 2015

We use web browsers to do all kinds of different things, from viewing online content and checking email, to logging into Facebook or buying a pair of shoes. By default, browser caches store information each time you use them. In many respects this is useful: your browser will remember your sign-in information and passwords if you tell it to.

Typing on a laptop

The Purpose of a Browser Cache

Browser caches were invented to make it easier to view web pages. Most web pages have a lot in common. Things such as logos may appear on multiple pages within the same website, so rather than downloading the logo each time you visit a different web page, your browser stores it on your hard drive.

The browser cache is a local folder on your computer. Information, also known as ‘Temporary Internet Files’, is stored there so that web pages load faster. Once the browser cache is full, the oldest bits of information are automatically deleted so that you never run out of space. The trouble is that information stored in a browser cache can cause problems, which is why they need cleaning out periodically.

Why Do You Have to Clear Your Cache?

Simple formatting problems with web pages can often be fixed by deleting files in the browser cache. You may also experience problems trying to view a recently updated web page because your browser pulls up old information from the cache, and to your eyes, nothing has changed. Clearing out the cache forces your browser to download the latest version of a web page; this is a good thing.

How to Clear the Cache

There is a simple shortcut for clearing the cache in Windows: CTRL-SHIFT-DELETE. Or, if you are using a Mac, try COMMAND-SHIFT-DELETE with the browser open. Alternatively, you can do it manually:

  • Google Chrome – Click on the three dashes icon in the top right-hand corner of the page > Settings > History > Clear Browsing Data > Empty the Cache > Clear Browsing Data.
  • Mozilla Firefox – Click on ‘Tools’ or the three dashes icon in the top right-hand corner > Options > Advanced > Network tab. In the Cached Web Content, click ‘clear now’.
  • Internet Explorer – Click on the small ‘gear wheel’ icon in the top right hand corner > Safety > Delete browsing history > select Temporary Internet Files and Website Files and then hit ‘delete’.

Try and remember to clear your browser cache fairly regularly as a matter of course; it usually fixes annoying problems you may have viewing certain web pages or loading web-based email applications.