For most of us, browsing the internet is as simple as logging on to your phone, tablet, or computer, opening your favorite browser, and enjoying all the internet offers. However, for you to have such a seamless experience, your computer (or whichever connected device you're using) is working in the background to save data related to your web activity.
In most cases, this isn't a big deal. Still, sometimes all this data can clog up your computer, slowing it and your internet experience down while potentially exposing you to unnecessary security risks.
Clearing your internet browser's cache is an easy way to avoid these problems while also ensuring that you're fully protected from the many prying eyes lurking out there on the internet. Doing so is quite simple and does not require much tech knowledge at all. Below you'll find everything you need to know about clearing the cache in your internet browser.
What is a Cache?
Cache - which we pronounce "cash" - is data about your browsing history that your computer, phone, tablet, etc. saves on its hard drive. It does this so that when you visit a website for a second time, it already has a lot of the important information it needs, reducing the amount of time it takes to display the data you're trying to access.
Without a cache, browsers would need to download all of the information present on a website each time you visit it, putting extra strain on your network and leading to slower load times and a more frustrating internet experience.
Why Clear Your Cache?
Your cache serves a particular purpose and also helps you have a better internet experience, so you may be wondering why you would ever want to clear it in the first place. Well, there are several good reasons you should clear your browser's cache every so often, such as:
- Clear up your hard drive - The data stored in your browser's cache does not take up much space on its own, but, over time, it can grow and clog up your device's storage capacity, which can interfere with other functions. Clearing the cache can recover some of this space and help improve device performance.
- Remove malicious software - A common tactic cybercriminals use is to install malware or other types of computer viruses into your browser's cache, a place most people don't look for these types of files. Clearing the cache can remove these harmful programs and any of the performance issues they bring along.
- Stop Errors - If you're receiving lots of 404 and 502 errors when trying to access websites, then there's a chance your browser cache is corrupted. Clearing it can fix this and stop these error messages from appearing so often.
- Access the most recent version of a website - Browsers are designed to look for new data when accessing a website that you've already visited. Still, sometimes, especially if there is a lot of cached data, this doesn't happen, and you will continue to see an outdated version of the page. Clearing your cache ensures that all the websites you're trying to visit are displayed the way they designed to.
- Improve privacy - It's no secret that tech companies are tracking nearly everything we do. Some people like this as they believe it helps them access more personalized content, but others do not. Clearing your browser's cache, history, cookies, and other data reduces the amount of information others can access, though it does not provide complete privacy.
Things to Know About Clearing Your Cache
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why it's a good idea to clear your browser cache, but before we go forward with walking you through how to do it, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
- The cache is not browser history or cookies - The latter is a record of all the websites you have visited, and while you will have the option to clear it when you get to the clear cache screen, these two things are not the same. If you clear just the cache, the data stored on your hard drive will go away, but other data will stay. To wipe everything clean, you need to eliminate all data. All this requires is clicking a few more boxes, which we will discuss in a bit.
- Search history and auto-complete may be impacted - Depending on the browser you use, clearing your cache may also delete your search history and any saved information your browser usually auto-completes. In most cases, you should have a choice as to whether or not you want to delete this stuff, but just be aware of this to make sure you don't accidentally delete data you intended to keep.
- Passwords and bookmarks will remain -Don't worry about losing saved passwords and bookmarked pages. This information is stored somewhere else and won't go away when you clear your browser cache. You will have the choice to do this if you want, but it's never the default option, so don't worry about losing saved passwords and getting locked out of your accounts.
- Cache isn't everything - Periodically clearing your browser cache can improve computer performance and improve privacy, but it's hardly a silver bullet solution to a slow internet connection or device. Erasing data on your computer will free up some space, but not much, so don't get your hopes up that doing so will make your computer much faster. And if privacy is really a concern, you will want to use a VPN and/or other security tools to ensure you're completely protected.
How to Clear the Cache in Your Internet Browser
We're going to walk you through how to clear the cache in each of the most common browsers (desktop and mobile versions) but if you're up for a quick fix, try the following:
- On Windows computers, press "Ctrl + Shift + Del." This will take you to a window where you can select "clear cache" or something similar.
- On Apple computers, press "Command + Shift + Del." This should take you to the same place and allow you to clear your browser's cache quickly.
For those who are using browsers that don't allow for these commands (or who simply aren't into keyboard shortcuts), here's how to clear the cache in each of the most popular browsers available today.
For Google Chrome users, deleting your cache is easy. You can either use the keyboard shortcuts mentioned above, or you can follow these steps:
1. Click on the three dots at the top right-hand corner of the browser window; or type chrome://settings into your URL bar.
2. Scroll down the settings page to the "Privacy and Security" box. Click on "Clear Browsing Data."
3. Decide what you want to delete. If you're going to delete just the cache, you'll need to uncheck everything except "Cached Images and Files." Google is helpful and tells you how much space you'll be freeing up, which should give you an idea of how much of an impact this will have.
4. Click "Clear Data."
Some things to note:
Make sure you've set the time range to "All Time," which will get rid of your entire cache. If you don't want to delete everything, you can customize the time period.
If you only want to delete data from the device you are using at the moment you access this screen, make sure you are signed out of Google. Otherwise, you will delete the data Google Chrome has on all the devices you use it on, such as your phone, tablet, work computer, etc. There is a sign-out button at the bottom of the window you get to in step three.
Clicking on "Advanced" will allow you to delete passwords, autofill form data, site settings, and more. This data will not be deleted automatically. You need to actively choose to remove it.
For those using Google Chrome on a smartphone or
tablet, the process for deleting your cache is very similar. As mentioned,
though, if you delete it on your desktop while signed in to Google on both
devices, you will delete the data in both places. However, if you want to know
how to clear the browser cache on the Google Chrome app, here's how to do it:
1. Click the three horizontal dots at the bottom right (for iPhone users) or at the top (Android users) of the app's screen and choose "Settings."
2. In the settings window, select "Privacy."
3. Click "Clear Browsing Data."
4. Choose which data you want to remove and then click "Clear Browsing Data" at the bottom of the window.
For those using Mozilla Firefox, the process is quite similar to that you would use with Google Chrome. The easiest thing to do is to use the keyboard shortcut. If you don't want to, getting to the clear data screen is a bit wonky. Here are the steps:
1. Start by clicking the three lines at the top right of the screen. Then click on "Library."
2. Click on "History."
3. Select "Clear Recent History."
4. Select "Cache" and click "OK."
You can also click on the three lines, choose "Options," select "Privacy and Security" from the menu on the left, and then scroll down and click "Clear Data."
However, in either case, simply using the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl + Shift + Del (Windows) or Command + Shift + Del (Mac) is the fastest way to get to this screen.
Firefox Mobile App
To delete your browser's cache from the Firefox mobile app, follow a very similar process:
1. Click on the three lines on the top of your screen (Android users) or the bottom (iOS users).
2. Choose "Settings."
3. Select "Clear Private Data" for Android users or "Data Management" if you're on iOS.
4. Make sure the "Cache" box is checked.
5. Press "Clear Data" if you're using an Android device or "Clear Private Data" if you're using an Apple product. Then click "OK."
Microsoft has been pushing their Edge browser for some
time, and the last update has it looking more like Google Chrome than ever
before. As such, deleting the cache on Microsoft Edge is very similar to that
of Google Chrome. The keyboard shortcuts we've been discussing will get you
right to where you need to be or follow these steps:
1. Click on the three dots at the top right corner of your screen; or type edge://settings into your URL bar.
2. Choose "Privacy and services" from the menu on the left and then scroll down to where it says "Clear Browsing Data" and then click on "Choose what to clear."
3. Make sure "Cached Images and Files" is selected and any other data types you want to delete. Also, make sure you're removing data from the right time period. When you're happy with the settings, click on "Clear Now."
For Safari users, clearing your browser cache is slightly different from other browsers, but it's still a rather simple process.
First, you can use a keyboard shortcut, but it's slightly different from the other browsers we've discussed. You will need to press "Option + Command + E."
The other way to do it is to choose "Develop" from the menu at the top of the screen. About halfway down is an option that says "Empty Caches." Select it, and voila, your caches are empty.
Notice, though, that with Safari, you have fewer options. For example, you cannot choose the specific time frame you want to delete; the only choice is to delete all data. If you want to clear other browsing data, such as history, autofill data, passwords, etc. you will need to do so in other places. For example, you can clear browsing history under the "History" menu item.
Yes, this is a bit more complex than on other browsers, but if deleting the cache is what you're after, it's pretty straightforward.
Safari Mobile App
To delete the cache on the Safari mobile app, follow these steps:
1. Open the Settings app, the one that controls the settings for the entire phone.
2. Scroll down and tap Safari.
3. Choose "Clear History and Website Data" from the menu.
4. Adjust the settings and then tap on "Clear History and Data."
As you can see, the Safari app doesn't give you too much choice as to what you are going to delete.
It's pretty much all or nothing, but, again, if what you want to do is clear your cache, this process will get the job done.
If you happen to be using a browser not on this list, such as Opera or an older version of Microsoft Internet Explorer, then know that the process is more or less the same. Simply navigate your way to the "Settings" tab and look for something related to clearing data or privacy. From there, you should be able to figure out how to delete the cache. Or, if you are having trouble, just try the keyboard shortcut we've been discussing.
As you can see, clearing the cache on your browser is an easy way to improve browser and device performance while also addressing security and privacy concerns. It's a good idea to routinely do this, especially if you're concerned about the amount of data being collected about you and shared with the many different entities interested in using it. Hopefully, you now see this is an easy thing to do and will have no trouble with the process moving forward.