If you’ve spent any time making changes to a website, you’re probably familiar with your website provider or IT team suggesting that you “clear your browser cache” or “delete your cookies” to correct an issue. So, if you’re constantly having to clear your cache because of the headache it’s creating, why is this feature enabled in the first place? What exactly IS browser cache? What is a website cookie and why do I have to get rid of them?

These are all frequently asked questions that we’d like to address in this article, so that you can easily clear your cache, and understand the logic behind this process the next time it’s required.

What is a browsers cache?

All browsers, like Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, temporarily store files on your computer when you visit websites. A browser cache is a temporary storage location on your device. The files that browsers store range from html files, CSS style sheets, JavaScript scripts, as well as imagery and other media.

Why do browsers cache?

In your browsers defence, they’re caching these files on your device in an attempt to help you. Browser caching allows websites that you’ve visited before, to load faster. The reason is that certain content can be pulled directly from your machine, instead of from the server hosting the website. This is a much faster process and is particularly handy for those with slower internet connections.

Why do I need to clear my cache?

The first issue is that these temporary files can take up space on your pc, and bearing in mind the fact that you may never visit a cached website again, this is a waste of resource on your machine. The second and more commonly experienced issue is of course that you can be delivered out of date information. Since your browser isn’t always fetching the most current files from the server hosting the website, there’s the chance that you can see old data. This is because the file stored in your cache can be out of date. There are varying expiry settings depending on the technology used on each website, so it’s easy to be caught out by this, which is why knowing how to clear your cache can be a huge help.

What is a website cookie?

Cookies are text files that store information about your browsing experience, again, to contribute positively towards your browsing experience. There is a lot of negative associations with cookies, but many website features actually cannot function without them. Cookies are used to remember your preferences, to improve your browsing experience, like which currency you’d like displayed on a website while shopping. Cookies are also responsible for controlling whether you experience something every time you visit a website, or just once per visit, like closing a pop up box encouraging you to subscribe to a newsletter. Many websites use cookies to allow you to login to their website – if a page is secure and only accessible if you’ve logged in, the website needs a way to know that you’re already logged in.

You’ll also like: There’s also a handy shortcut you can use to quickly clear your cache.

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