“Have you tried clearing your cache?”
Maybe you’ve heard this question from well-meaning peers when your browser or software isn’t acting right. But what is a cache and what does clearing it do? I’m here to help you understand this topic with some fun metaphors and give you some links with more specific resources. Read on to learn more about cookies, cache, and what clearing them does - or jump to the links at the bottom of this post for instructions on how to clear your cache in any browser.
Think of yourself as an explorer of the Internet, and that your browser is your flashlight of choice. Most flashlights will light up the way with no trouble, but sometimes it can help to switch flashlights or change out the batteries if you’re not seeing things clearly. One thing to try before you clear your cache is switching to another browser, such as hopping from Safari to Chrome.
Cookies are little files that download to your computer when browsing sites on the internet. These files can track your activity and preferences, so the site welcomes you back next time you visit by recalling what you did there. Sometimes, cookies are monitored by third parties, and it’s recommended that you clear your cookies every few weeks to keep your machine and browsing experience cleaner. I like to think of cookies as wrappers. They contain information, sometimes a few leftovers, and are ultimately discarded after use.
Browser caches are also known as temporary internet files, and they download content like images, data, documents and other bits of information that make browsing more efficient. When you’re at a campsite, it’s nice to have temporary chairs and a tent that can be used when visiting the site, but are later put away for use again later. Like taking down camping supplies and refreshing them before setting up again, it’s good to occasionally clear your cache too.
However, clearing cookies and cache sometimes means your passwords and other preferences will need to be re-entered or selected. In some browsers, like Chrome, you can log in and request that passwords and other personal information show up when you are signed in.
If you’d rather test something without clearing your data, do so by opening up an incognito window and trying the link there. A new incognito window has no cookies or cache stored, and is a quick way to see if you can replicate a strange behavior without emptying your cache.
In sum, clearing your cookies and cache can certainly help your machine and internet run more efficiently by removing unnecessary data. If you would like to learn how to clear your cache, we recommend checking out:
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