How to Clear Your Browser Cache & Why

Are you having problems seeing the latest up-to-date information on some websites? If so, it may be because you haven’t cleaned your cache lately—or ever.

What is a cache and why does it need to be cleaned?

Your cache is basically a storage unit for your Web Browser. It houses a bunch of files that accumulate on your hard drive every time you visit certain websites.  Why? It’s all about making your browser load faster.  Webpages have a lot of stuff – text and images sure, but also media like video feeds and audio players. The cache basically stores some of that data for you, on your computer. When you go back to a site, the browser accesses the cache and can pull up images and form data quickly from your computer, instead of having to re-download it from the Web.

It’s a good thing, but that doesn’t mean it needs to accumulate data forever.  Not only does this take up space, but – yeah – it can be a place where personal data gets stashed, not to mention the fact that the cache basically makes a profile of the websites you visit.

Additionally, if you don’t clean it out or refresh your browser, you might be seeing an older version of the page. In these cases, refreshing the page won’t help because the browser just looks right back into the cache to reload those cached images.  Normally this doesn’t matter, but sometimes the page displays dynamic data: shipping and form updates, as well as some life feeds can be interrupted by the cache.

How do I clean out my cache?

As with pretty much everything else, each browser has its own procedure for cleaning the cache. Fortunately, while some of them can be tricky to find, most of them are fairly quick and easy to do.

In fact, there’s a shortcut key. In any browser you can push CTRL + R to refresh the page. To go further though, you can do a refresh that forces the browser to ignore the cache.

shortcut_CTRL_F5If you’re goal isn’t to simply ignore the cache but to clear it out, follow the instructions below for your browser. You can also use these steps to access the data management and privacy settings of a given browser, letting you have more control over what gets logged and when.

Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE 9)

1.    The keyboard method of cleaning your cache in IE is to press Ctrl+Shift+Del.

If you prefer to use the menus, select Tools > Delete browsing history.

(For older versions of IE, select Tools » Internet options. Click the General tab and then, under Browsing history , click Delete.)

Both methods will bring up the same dialog box.

delete_browser_history_ie

2.    To control more fine-grained elements of what your browser tracks, uncheck “Preserve Favorites website data.”

3.    Then you can check everything that you want to delete. Regarding your online history and privacy, consider checking  …

‣ Temporary Internet files and website files blah
‣ Cookies and website data, and
‣ History

4.    When you’ve made your selection, click on Delete.

After a few seconds (the time depends on how long it has been since you last cleaned your cache), you will see a little window at the bottom of your screen indicating that the process has finished. Click on the little x in the upper right corner to close the window.

delete_browser_history_ie2

Mozilla Firefox

1.    From the main settings menu (it looks like three horizontal bars in the top right of the browser menu) select Options » Advanced » Network.

(If no menus are visible on your screen, hold down the alt key, then click on Tools, then click on Options.)

The following dialog box appears.

delete_browser_history_ff

2.    Under Cached Web Content, select Clear Now.

3.    Under Offline Web Content and User Data, select Clear Now.

Firefox also lets you specify how much disk space to allow for cache and which websites are allowed to store information and which are not.

Opera

1.  From the Opera menu, select Settings » Delete Private Data.

(If no menus are visible on your screen, hold down the alt key and click on Settings, then on Privacy and Security, then on Clear Browsing Data.)

2.  Select the items you want to clear, then click either Delete or Clear Browsing Data.

Google Chrome

1.  You can navigate to the privacy panel by clicking the menu button (the three horizontal bars in the top right of the browser window), and then clicking Settings.

2.  When the settings menu opens, click “Show Advanced Settings” at the bottom.  Then, scroll down until you see the Privacy heading.  Click on Clear Browser Data.

Or … In the browser bar, type chrome://settings/clearBrowserData

3.  When the privacy panel opens check these items if you want to really buckle down on Web Privacy:

‣ Browsing history
‣ Download history
‣ Cookies and other site and plug-in data
‣ Cached images and files

clear_browsing_data_Chrome

4.    In the dropdown menu that says “Obliterate the following items from…” Chrome lets you specify how far back in time you want the delete to go. To clear all of your cache, select – well – “the beginning of time.”

5.    Click Clear browsing data.

Clean Multiple Caches at Once

If you use more than one browser, you can clear all of your temporary files and a few other items at once by using Windows Disk Cleanup. It’s an automatic scanner built into Windows that finds and removes temporary files, including those stored in the browser cache.

1.    Click the Start button.

2.    Click Control Panel » System and Security » Administrative Tools » Free up disk space.

3.    Select the letter of the drive you want to clean up (usually C:).

disk_cleanup

4.    You will see a window and a progress bar showing that Windows is calculating how much disk space you can save by cleaning up. This can take a few seconds to several minutes, depending on the size of your drive and the number of files on it.

5.    Check the items that you want to delete, including Temporary Files and Temporary Internet Files.

disk_cleanup2

6.    Click OK.

7.    Windows will ask you if you are sure you want to do what you just told it you want to do, just to make sure. Click Delete files.

That’s it! Your disk should now be clean of most of its hidden junk.  And – depending on the settings you’ve specified – a lot of that junk won’t come back.

When it comes to the browser cache, it will get repopulated – you want a fast browser after all.  But given these steps, you can routinely go through and clean out that data,