In order for websites to run as efficiently as possible and to reduce the time it takes for webpages to load on the user’s end, most internet browsers will store bits of information about the website on your machine so the next time you visit the site, or when you visit another page on the same site, it can load that data from your machine and not have to send the request to the site’s server and wait for it to download again. This caching practice dramatically improves the average user’s internet browsing experience, and is something that runs seamlessly behind the scenes.
Why did my web developer ask me to refresh the page or “clear my cache?”
Although caching is great for browsing the web and for general internet use, when a website is being developed or modified this caching process can be a nuisance. As web developers, sometimes we are required to modify files on a website that may have already been cached. This can result in the end user — one having previously visited the site and caching certain data — viewing old content, which can affect everything from changes in the text to whether or not the site displays properly. When a developer asks you to refresh a page or clear your cache, what he’s trying to ensure is that you are viewing the most current site data, and not something from last week.
In most cases, a simple page refresh (pressing the “refresh” or “reload” button toward the top of your browser window) is enough to update the old information. In other situations, it may be necessary to clear the browser’s cache altogether. Often, this is determined by the nature of the change, as a “refresh” will only affect the page you’re on and any files that are used to display that particular page. If many changes were made throughout the site, it can be more sensible to clear the browser cache instead of refreshing every page on the site.
How do I clear my cache?
The specific process for how to clear your browser’s cache unfortunately differs from one browser to another. For detailed instructions on how to clear the browser’s cache in many of today’s most popular browsers, visit the wikiHow article on How to Clear Your Browser’s Cache (article opens in a new tab).