What is my browser cache and why should I keep it clear?

As an internet user, one of the terms you might have come across more than once is ‘clearing your browser cache’. Despite it being a popular quick fix for a number of internet related problems, it’s not always clear what emptying your cache actually means.

Here we explain what you cache is and why keeping it clear is so important.

So, what is your browser cache?

In short, your cache is a place on your computer’s hard disk where the browser – i.e. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome etc – keeps things it has downloaded once in case they are needed again. It works alongside the record of what you’ve been looking at (your history), the cookies from the websites you visit and the form data that can be used to autocomplete online forms later, like your shipping details at e-retailer checkouts. To find out more about staying private when searching online, check out our post here.

The rationale behind having a cache is simple. Your computer tends to be quicker than the internet, so browser designers added a cache – or storage space – for items instead of them needing to be downloaded every time you went on the same page. You see the JustAskThales at the top of the page? That will already be stored in your cache, so it doesn’t need to be downloaded every time you move to another of our insightful help pages 😊.

In effect it is a clever workaround that means your internet doesn’t have to work hard to carry out the same repetitive tasks.

Why should I keep my cache clear?

As your cache serves such a helpful function, then why is it important to keep it clear?

Well, there are a few compelling reasons to regularly clear out your browser cache. First of all, sometimes your cache can hang onto old web forms or scripts that mean you’re not seeing the latest version of a certain webpage i.e. once a website has been redesigned. This can obviously have an impact on your user experience.

Secondly, your cache also might store personal information that you have entered on the internet. This is important to remove, especially given the rising incidence of internet fraud in recent months.

Thirdly and quite simply, it can help applications run better on your computer.

How do I clear my cache?

Clearing your cache differs depending on which browser you are using. But typically the process follows a similar formula. We’ve provided links to the owners of the most popular browser operators to help guide you through this process:

As a rule of thumb, it is important to close the current session and your browser before leaving your computer unattended. This will prevent other people from gaining unauthorised access to your personal information.

Want to learn some more tips and tricks when online? You might be interested in these JustAskThales features: