Does Clearing the Cache Fix a Computer?


One of a Web browser’s greatest features can also make people think that their computers are broken. Modern browsers have data storage areas called caches that help you surf the Internet faster. Under certain conditions, the information in your cache may cause you to experience problems that range from mild to severe. You can fix those problems after learning how browsers use caches to manage Internet data.

Life Without Caches

  • If your browser's cache vanished, the browser could still download content the way it always has; Web pages would appear and videos would play. However, without a cache, your browser would have to download a website’s data files every time you visited the site. That could take time, because your browser must download images, text, scripts and everything else it needs to construct your Web page. When your browser stores that information the first time you visit a site, the browser can build your Web page using data from the cache, instead of downloading that information again from the Web.

Cached Data Can Fool Your Browser

  • When a website that you visit regularly has a software glitch, you may have problems viewing Web pages or performing certain tasks. Visit the site later, and you may still experience those problems even after its developers have resolved them. This scenario can happen if your browser uses the outdated cache information instead of the newer data that resides on the updated site. When you clear your cache, your browser uses that refreshed data to build the Web page.

Refreshing Individual Web Pages

  • If a website adds a useful new widget, you may never see it until you clear the cache. You may also view outdated information, if a site a updates a Web page and your browser shows you an older cached version. To ensure that you're viewing live information, press "Ctrl-F5" to reload the current page. Your browser's toolbar may also have a Reload or Refresh button. The "Ctrl-F5" key combination is especially useful when viewing sites that update frequently. An auction site, for instance, might refresh its current bid prices every few seconds. Press "Ctrl-F5" to keep up with those changes as they happen.

Nuke Your Cache to Start From Scratch

  • You can delete all of your cache's data any time you like. You may want to do this to guarantee that your browser presents a real-time view of every site you visit. Clearing the cache also frees up hard drive space. Consult your browser's documentation to learn how to delete the cache manually and adjust other settings. When you clear your cache, ensure that you don't also delete passwords, form data or history records accidentally. You'll often see options to delete those as well, and you may click the wrong button if you're not paying attention.

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