What is a Cache?

Perhaps someone has told you that you need to “clear your cache,” but what does this mean and why should you do it? A cache is a folder of recently visited webpages, which is stored on your computer’s hard drive, and maintained by your Internet browser.

The purpose of a cache is to speed up the loading of webpages. Your computer’s hard drive collects data from websites that you visit, so that when you visit them again, certain aspects of the previously visited pages (such as graphics) don’t have to be reloaded the next time, and this makes the loading time a little bit shorter.

But the space your cache has on your hard drive is limited, and over time, it can get congested. Data that hasn’t been accessed for a while gets tossed out to make room for new data from the new pages that you visit.

And sometimes, the cache process doesn’t work properly. The result is an incompletely loaded page, or a page that looks odd because it’s supposed to load new content but it’s showing old content. (Sometimes, page loading problems aren’t caused by a faulty cache, but this is such a common cause that you’ve probably heard people say, “You need to clear your browser’s cache.”)

So, now you know what a cache is, here are some specific steps to clear it on different browsers:

How to clear your cache in Chrome:

  • In the upper right of the browser click the little icon that says “Customize and control Google Chrome” when you hover over it with your cursor
  • Click History
  • Click “Clear browsing data”

How to clear your cache in Internet Explorer:

  • In the upper right of Internet Explorer, click the gear icon or “Tools”
  • Click Internet Options
  • Under “Browsing History” you’ll see a delete button; click that.

If you use another browser, and there are a few, search online for instructions on how to clear your cache.

Another option you have is to use software (free or paid) designed to clean the clutter from your computer and devices. These programs often work well, but sometimes they work too well and clean more than they are supposed to. It’s always a good idea to backup your information before cleaning your computer.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Safety Expert to Intel Security. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!

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