What is cache? Simply, the cache is a temporary storage area in your computer browser that holds website data such as images, scripts, and other multimedia elements.
When you visit a website, the browser downloads these elements and stores them in the cache for quicker access the next time you visit the same website.
However, over time, the cache can accumulate a large amount of data, which can slow down your computer's performance, compromise your privacy and cause errors to show up on your website.
Regularly clearing the cache on your computer browser can provide a number of benefits, including improved browsing speed, increased storage space, and enhanced privacy.
In this blog post, we'll explore the advantages of clearing your browser's cache and best practices for maintaining your computer's health.
Advantages of clearing your browser's cache
Increase your storage space
Cache data can take up a significant amount of space on your hard drive. By regularly clearing your browser's cache, you can free up storage space on your computer, which can be especially helpful for those who have limited storage space available.
Enhance your privacy
Your browser's cache can also store sensitive information. This information can be accessed by someone with access to your computer, putting your privacy at risk. By clearing your cache, you can remove some of this information and protect your privacy.*
*Important Clarification: Clearing your cache is different from clearing your history. It's not true to say that form inputs, passwords, and credit card data are stored in your browser cache. If you want to get into more detail about cache and history, get in touch with a Snyder Group expert today.
Identify and address any website issues
Is it because of your browser cache? For most websites, there is a server cache (we control), a browser cache (the user controls), and in some cases a network cache (your IT controls).
At Snyder Group as a best practice, we always clear the server cache after a code update. However, only the user can clear the browser cache, and in most cases simply refreshing the page will do the trick.
If you have a network cache, there is nothing we can do on our end to refresh the files—the local network will refresh on its own schedule.
When we make changes to a file we clear the server cache to make sure we send the latest version of the file. In the case that a user has been to the site recently, they may already have a cached version of the file, and their browser will use that version without asking for a new one.
After a certain period of time, the browser or network will check for an updated version of the file and refresh it in the local cache. This is standard practice and best practice.
Caching is a critical part of performance and energy conservation.
A new visitor to the site or someone that hasn’t visited the site within the cache period will always see the latest files. Typically, the only people that experience what you are seeing are those within the organization.
Can we turn off the cache?
Sort of. It’s possible for us to ask a browser not to cache a page or site, but it's up to the browser to honor the request.
Why don’t we typically recommend this:
Because the benefits of caching outweigh any temporary conflict between cached files. If you want the site to load quickly and be indexed favorably by Google, caching must be enabled.
What happens if you don't clear your browser's cache?
1. You may load older versions of a website, and not the latest version
As mentioned earlier, a full cache can significantly slow down your browsing speed.
When there's too much data stored in the cache, it takes longer for your browser to retrieve the information it needs to load a website.
2. You're increasing your security risks
As we also mentioned earlier, the cache/history can store sensitive information such as login credentials and browsing history. If someone gains access to your computer, they can potentially access this information, putting your security at risk.
3. You may experience compatibility issues
A full cache can also cause compatibility issues with websites that have been updated since the data was stored in the cache. When your browser tries to retrieve data from an outdated cache, it can cause errors and prevent certain features of a website from working correctly.
What are the different types of cache?
There are several types of cache in a computer system, each designed to store and retrieve different types of data efficiently. Here are just some of the main types of computer cache:
The disk cache is a portion of a computer's RAM that is used to store data from the hard disk for quicker access temporarily. The disk cache helps speed up file access times by reducing the number of times data needs to be read from the hard disk.
The browser cache is a temporary storage area in a web browser that stores web page elements such as images, scripts, and multimedia files for quicker access the next time the user visits the same website. The browser cache helps speed up web page loading times and reduce network bandwidth usage.
The DNS cache is a temporary storage area that stores domain name system (DNS) lookup results for faster access the next time the user requests the same website. The DNS cache helps reduce the amount of time it takes to resolve domain names into IP addresses, which is necessary for accessing websites on the internet.
The memory cache is a type of cache used by applications to speed up data access times by storing frequently accessed data in memory. The memory cache can be used for storing data such as database records, file system metadata, and web page content.
In summary, the different types of computer cache all serve the same purpose of improving system performance by storing frequently accessed data for faster access. Each type of cache is optimized for a specific type of data and has unique characteristics that make it suitable for different applications.
How do you clear your cache?
It's true that a cache filled with years and years of data could impact your browsing speed, but generally you're cache is improving the speed of your browser—it's the purpose of the cache.
Here are a few helpful resources on actually clearing your cache on different browsers: