Bad Cache? Try Clearing It!

Author by Leah Shea

8 minutes
Tags: technology
Bad Cache? Try Clearing It!

Have you ever had an unexpected issue when visiting a website? Perhaps a web app displays blank areas when you know there should be something there, or vice versa? Or perhaps auto-fill is not populating correctly?

If you've ever encountered something you weren't expecting when visiting a website or using an app, a bad cache may be to blame. Taking time to clear your cache (and other data) could solve issues without having to call tech support. 

Why would I need to clear my cache?

There are three primary categories of data stored when you visit a website or a web-based application.

1: Browsing History 

What it is:

When you visit a website and depending on your individual browser (i.e. Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc.) settings, the link for that site and any sub-sites you visit are stored in your browsing history. The benefit of having this history is to be able to refer back to it without having to save the website to your "favorites" folder.

Some browsers have a "private" setting that, when activated, do not store the websites you visit or any other data related to those visits.

What kind of data it stores: 

Website links with the date and time accessed.

An example of browser history

Why it matters: 

Generally, it is a good idea to clear your browsing history every once in a while. Links may become broken or need to be updated. If you access a website frequently, save it to your "favorites".

Although it is a good idea to clear browsing history, it typically does not create issues that cookies and cached files can create.

2: Cookies 

What it is:

Queue the digital marketing experts! Have you noticed the "accept cookie" notice that often appears at the bottom of a website?

Many websites use "cookies" that track different types of data on visitors to the website. A cookie is a small file that is placed on your hard drive. This technology is used for many purposes including but not limited to: assessing campaign effectiveness, storing individual preferences, delivering customized content, and analyzing site traffic.

There are first-party cookies (captured directly by the individual website) and third-party cookies (such as Google "tags" and for social media traffic, e.g. LinkedIn and Facebook).

Keep in mind that every site that uses cookies typically has a privacy policy that allows you to understand what cookies are being used and how they are or are not tracking your visit. Cookies can greatly enhance your experience on a website - for instance, if it auto-detects your location to help provide optimal search results.

You do have control over what cookies to accept! The National Advertising Initiative has a resource that can help you opt out if needed.!%2F 

What kind of data it stores: 

It depends and could range from your IP address, language, location, and potentially personal identifiable information such as name, email, etc. (but only if you provide it!).

Website example with cookie notice

Why it matters: 

While it is a good idea to remove this data occasionally, clearing cookie data from your computer may sign you out of websites that have a secure log in. It will also re-prompt you to "accept cookies" for any previously visited websites, as it removes those files from your computer. 

3: Cached Images / Files 

What it is: 

When you visit a website, there are certain types of data, images, and other content that is stored in a temporary file. These files make it easier and more efficient for the website or web app to run.

Have you ever noticed that some websites take a while to load the first time? Caching certain data allows websites and apps to reduce loading time and improve experience. So, cached data does serve an important function.

What kind of data it stores: 

Cached files can include all types of images, videos, text, and other content that is related to a website.

Clearing cached files in Chrome

Why it matters: 

When encountering website issues, cached files are a primary culprit. Why does this happen? In short, when website updates are made, cached files can cause a website to incorrectly load or load outdated content, because it is referencing a temporary file that needs to be replaced.

Website updates that require clearing a cache could include: updates to a form or images and major code changes. It is difficult to tell when websites have been updated, which is why it is recommended to clear your cache frequently, and default to clearing your cache first when experiencing issues.

Clearing your cache is the Internet equivalent of re-starting your computer - it wipes the slate clean and either removes the issue, or alerts you to bigger issues with the site.

4: And Others... 

There are other types of data stored on your computer by websites, including downloads, auto-fill information, and hosted app data. These function similarly to cached files and are typically removed in a similar fashion.

What's the process to clear my cache?

Computer screen with break out appsClearing the above data on your laptop or computer requires you to know two things: your operating system (Apple or Windows) and your internet browser (i.e. Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari, etc.). Depending on these two variables, there are different steps to take to clear your data.

There are many resources out there with detailed instructions on this process, here is our favorite: 

For Windows: 

For Apple: 

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