As you view web sites in your web browser, the browser accumulates files from those sites and stores them on your computer's hard drive. This store of files is called the browser cache. The browser, as it troops along through the web, also picks up web cookies. Now and then it is useful to manually delete files and cookies that your web browser has accumulated.
What files does the browser place in its cache?
In the main, the browser stores HTML, image, and multimedia files in its cache.
Why does a browser cache files?
When you visit a web page, the browser will cache that page on your hard drive, so that when you return to the page, the browser can choose to show you the cached version of the page. The idea is that the browser can display a cached page much faster than it can retrieve the page from the remote server, and, if the version on the hard drive is the same as that on the server, why not simply display the cached version?
That sounds fine. Why would I ever want to delete my browser cache?
Sometimes a browser cache will display an outdated page. If you believe that you are viewing a cached, outdated version of a web page, then you can refresh the page in the browser window. In MS Windows, this is done easily by hitting the F5 key on your keyboard. F5 is the key that refreshes a browser page in MS Windows. That's a useful fact to know. I use F5 many times every day because in my work I need to know that I am viewing the most recent version of a web page on a server, rather than a version that is cached on my hard drive. You can also manually refresh a web page by clicking the reload or refresh button in your web browser interface.
Trouble can start if the browser insists on showing you the cached version of a page even after you refresh the page in the browser window. When that happens, it is time to clear out your browser's cache. That is easy to do, and I'll get to that in a moment. First I want to discuss cookies. Web cookies, not the tasty, edible kind.
What is a web cookie?
A web cookie (or HTTP cookie) is a small file that your web browser downloads from a web site. The cookie contains information that the web site uses to customize your visit. In this way, a cookie can track your some of your online behavior as you navigate through a web site. A cookie can make a note of which pages in a web site you view, when you enter and leave a site, or when you log in and log out. A cookie can retain information about the contents of a web site's e-commerce shopping cart. Most often, a cookie is used simply to record your web site viewing preferences, such as a number of search listings to display.
Are cookies dangerous?
No. Well, mostly no. The use of web cookies is criticized because they do record private information (like, the number of search listings you prefer to see at one time when you use a search tool, or any other persistent web site setting or preference). A cookie reports a profile of a web user. Privacy advocates object in particular to persistent cookies, which can be used to store login information or other sensitive information for an extended time.
How can I delete web cookies and empty my web browser cache?
In modern browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE), Firefox, Opera, Safari, Maxthon, and Chrome, it is easy to find the interface for managing browser cache and web cookies. Open the browser, look in the Tools menu, and choose Options or Preferences. Look for an option to delete browsing history. You should see options to delete cache and cookies.
Deleting web cookies and browser cache can resolve many web page errors.
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