Browser Cache

August 14, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Computers, Internet, Software | Leave a comment

One of the things that can catch people up sometimes is their browser cache. To see a web page and it’s images, they must be downloaded to your computer. To make this process faster, web browsers will save a copy of the web pages it has downloaded for awhile. When you come back to that page, it just redisplays what you already downloaded. These saved files are called the browser cache. In places like settings or the file directory, it may be called “temporary internet files” or similar.

This works well if the pages are pretty static. But many modern web pages change all the time. And if you are doing web development, you want to be able to see the changes, not what it used to be.

One trick you get to know is Refresh. Click Refresh (F5) to reload the page. But to force it to redownload from the web server, click Shift-F5.

If the cache is giving you problems, it can be useful to clear it out. Especially if you got a virus from a web site. Also, if you use a shared or public computer, you may find clearing the cache useful. More on this shortly.

In Internet Explorer, go to Tools, Internet Options. On the General tab, under Browsing History, click Delete. You may want to uncheck Preserve. Then click Delete. You can also use the Safety menu item to get the same form. (assuming current IE)

If you have this sort of issue periodically, you can reduce the size of the cache and thus reduce how old stuff gets. Back on Browsing History, click Settings. Change ‘Disc Space to Use’ down to about 10 to 20 MB. Remember – web pages are small. This doesn’t need tons of space.

In Firefox, Tools, Options, Advanced panel, Network tab. You can clear and set the size there. You can also install an Add-on for a Clear Cache toolbar button.

You can set Firefox to clear when you close the browser automatically. I’ll let Mozilla Help explain that here. Note that they put clearing the cache under clearing History which is not the same thing. But under Settings, you can set cache, history and more. More on this below.

This will slow down your browsing a little but if you share a computer with others, it can be handy. Especially for things like online banking.

Note that if you share a computer with others but use different log-ins, your cache is separated. But if others have Admin privileges, it’s still accessible.

Also note that different browsers store their records in different places.

Other bits:
Your browser also stores a history of sites you’ve visited. This is not the cache, this is just links. Again, if you are on a shared computer, you may want to clear History as well.

IE covers History from the same form as the cache.
Firefox, Tools menu, Clear History. Automatic clearing is covered above.

Cookies are the things that remember your logins and settings. If you get some errors in there, clearing cookies can help. It’s a good idea to clear cookies once in awhile as they can be used inappropriately by others to track your site use.

Passwords are also managed separately. Firefox has optional settings to encrypt your password store, if you save site passwords. ie: you ask the browser to remember your passwords. Just don’t expect this browser convenience to replace your own records of site passwords. It can be corrupted, lost in an upgrade, and so forth.


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