Everything You Need to Know About the Browser Cache [MakeUseOf Explains]

Tina Sieber 10-04-2012

Whenever you have an issue with a website, one of the first suggestions you will hear from IT support is “try to clear your browser cache” along with “and delete your cookies“. So what is this ominous browser cache? What does it store and what is it good for? What your browser cache does, why you would want to clear it, and how this is done are the questions addressed in this article.


What Is a Browser Cache?

The browser cache is a temporary storage location on your computer for files downloaded by your browser to display websites. Files that are cached locally include any documents that make up a website, such as html files, CSS style sheets, JavaScript scripts, as well as graphic images and other multimedia content.

When you revisit a website, the browser checks which content was updated in the meantime and only downloads updated files or what is not already stored in the cache. This reduces bandwidth usage on both the user and server side and allows the page to load faster. Hence, the cache is especially useful when you have a slow or limited Internet connection.

Everything You Need to Know About the Browser Cache [MakeUseOf Explains] Hands Holding Cache

Why Do I Need to Clear the Cache?

The browser cache can get quite large and take up a lot of space on your hard drive, filled with data from websites you will never visit again. While you can limit how large it can get, it is still useful to occasionally clear it to fix problems and speed things up again.

Sometimes, cached versions of a website can cause issues, for example when the browser does not download a fresh copy, even though the site was updated since last caching it. Another evidence for a cache issue is when a website only loads partially or looks like it’s badly formatted. Since the cache lies at the heart of many website-related problems, IT support will recommend that you clear your cache when you report respective phenomena.


Moreover, cached data reveals what websites you have visited in the past. This may be a privacy concern, depending on who has access to your computer or how other websites you visit use this information.

Everything You Need to Know About the Browser Cache [MakeUseOf Explains] browsercache

For more information on the privacy matter, check out these articles:

How Can I Easily Bypass or Clear the Cache?

An easy way to reload a page and bypass the cache (force-reload page) involves using keyboard shortcuts. Generally, the keyboard shortcut [Ctrl] + [F5] will work. But ultimately, this depends on what browser you are using.


A thorough list of keyboard shortcuts sorted by browser can be found in this Wikipedia article. Below you will find shortcuts for the most common browsers.

Mozilla Firefox

  • reload page and bypass cache: [Ctrl] + [F5] or [Ctrl] + [SHIFT] + [R] or [Shift] + browser Reload button
  • clear cache: [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [Del]

Google Chrome

  • reload page: [Ctrl] + [F5] or [Shift] + [F5] or [Ctrl] + browser Reload button
  • reload page and bypass cache: [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [R] or perform above page reload twice in a row
  • clear cache: [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [Del]

Find out about all of Chrome’s privacy settings 7 Essential Privacy Settings for Chrome OS and Google Chrome Using a Chromebook, but concerned about privacy? Tweak these 7 settings in the Chrome browser on Chrome OS to stay secure online. Read More here:

Internet Explorer 9

  • reload page and bypass cache: [Ctrl] + [F5] or [Ctrl] + browser Refresh button
  • clear cache: [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [Del]

You can also clear the cache by going through the browser menu. Again, the exact path depends on which browser you are using. A thorough walkthrough for almost any browser can be found in this WikiHow article.

To avoid storing cache for a session, check out how to enable private browsing How to Enable Private Browsing in Your Browser Want to keep your online activity a secret? Your best option is Private Browsing, so here's how to enable it on any browser. Read More .


Image source: System Refresh Image via Shutterstock, Hands Holding Cache via Shutterstock, Puss Image via Agent-X Comics [Broken URL Removed]

Related topics: Browsing History, Online Privacy.

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  1. Bapan Biswas
    January 6, 2018 at 9:21 am

    Your content is good and helpful.Thank you

    • Tina Sieber
      January 21, 2018 at 2:39 am


  2. bradley goodier
    August 20, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    hi why is this website totallly shit

    • Tina Sieber
      August 20, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      Hey Bradley! Interesting comment. Glad you found this random old article from 4 years ago!

  3. Azariah
    September 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    I was wondering why my computer goes so slow, I checked my network connection and it says everything is fine except the DNS server not working or something like that.

  4. Ali Khan
    September 27, 2012 at 6:14 am i realize the problem i am having with couple of websites .
    Thanks for sharing the information.

  5. bonioloff
    September 19, 2012 at 6:53 am

    ctrl +F5 is a must know shortcut for web developers, it gives a fresh copy always if you want to see changes you made :D

  6. HildyJ
    April 11, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    With Firefox, you can set it up to automatically clear the cache (and other items). Click on the Privacy icon within Options. Near the bottom is the checkbox "Clear history when Firefox closes". If you click on the Settings button next to it, a screen is displayed with options for clearing history including erasing the cache.

  7. Zack Attack
    April 10, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    What, no Opera love...??? Booooooooooooooo!!!

    • potny
      April 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm

      Or Safari... [Option] + [Command] + [E]

    • Tina
      April 11, 2012 at 6:19 am

      There wasn't space to add shortcuts for all browsers, so I went with the top 3, which presently doesn't include Opera. However, I added a link to a Wikipedia page which covers many more browsers.