What is a cache?
In the field of computing, a cache is a storage strategy that reduces page loading time for users - this is an important consideration when planning how to make a website, as it can mean a site that loads faster and ensures an improved user experience. It does so by using hardware or software to temporarily retain data so it can be recalled more quickly upon the next request.
Caches can be used for web browsers, web servers, applications, CPUs (computer processing units), HDDs (hard disk drives), web hosting, operating systems and other components that make up website infrastructure.
What is a browser cache?
Browser cache, or web caching, is the most commonly referenced term when speaking about caches. In this case, the cache is related to the storage element that allows previously and frequently visited web pages to load faster after the first user visit.
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How does a browser cache work?
When you’re browsing the internet and try to load a website, you’re essentially sending a request to the cache to check if the data for the page you want is already stored there. If so, this is a called a ‘cache hit,’ and the data will be retrieved to allow your page to load quickly.
For example, you might notice that a website you visit regularly loads fast every time that you visit it. That’s because the browser has already saved and pulled the cached version from your first visit, so it’s able to produce the requested page in minimal loading time.
On the other hand, if the data for your web page isn’t found, this is known as a ‘cache miss.’ In this case, the page will not load fast during that browser session. However, the data will be saved in your cache storage so the page will load faster in the future.
Why and when should I clear cache?
Clearing the cache refers to the process of deleting temporary files and data that your computer, smartphone, or web browser stores to speed up future access to websites, applications, or files. These caches include various types of data, such as images, scripts, stylesheets, and other resources that are downloaded from the internet or generated by applications.
The most common customer service response to a web page issues is ‘clear your cache.’ But why is it important and what exactly does this instruction mean?
Clearing the cache wipes your storage clean, so that the next time you load any web page it will be as if no data had been previously saved. As a result, your pages will load slower.
On the surface, that sounds like a bad thing. But clearing your cache can often help alleviate common web page issues, such as web pages that won’t load or are distorted, the appearance of incorrect data, the inability to login to your account from a web page, and more. While these disruptions aren’t always cache-related, it’s always worth first trying to clear your cache to see if that quick fix solves the error before investigating more complex alternatives.
.Here's what clearing the cache does in more detail:
Frees up storage: Over time, cached files can accumulate and take up space on your device. By clearing the cache, you can free up storage space and potentially improve the overall performance of your device.
Improves site performance: Caching is designed to enhance performance by storing frequently accessed data locally. However, if cached data becomes outdated or corrupted, it can actually slow down your device or cause issues with websites and applications. Clearing the cache can help resolve these performance issues.
Resets cached content: Cached data can sometimes lead to display or functionality issues, especially if the cached content has changed on the server-side but your device is still using the old cached version. Clearing the cache forces your device to retrieve the latest version of content from the server, resolving potential mismatches.
Fixes website issues: If you encounter problems with websites not loading correctly, displaying outdated information, or not functioning properly, clearing your browser's cache can often help resolve these issues by ensuring that your browser fetches fresh content from the website.
Clears privacy data: In addition to cached files, clearing your browser's cache might also delete other types of data, such as cookies and browsing history. This can help protect your privacy by removing traces of your online activities.
Resolves login issues: Sometimes, cached login credentials can lead to issues when trying to log in to certain websites or applications. Clearing the cache can help in such cases by forcing you to enter your credentials again, which can sometimes resolve login-related problems.
View website updates in real time: If you're a website developer or designer, clearing your browser's cache can help you see the changes you've made to a website in real-time. Without clearing the cache, your browser might display a cached version of the site, making it difficult to see the latest updates.
It's important to note that while clearing the cache can be beneficial in many cases, it might also result in a slightly slower initial loading time for websites and applications as your device needs to retrieve and re-cache the content. However, this delay is usually short-lived.
The exact process of clearing the cache varies depending on the device and software you're using. Instructions can be found in the settings or preferences of your browser, operating system, or specific applications.
What is browser cache storage?
Caches have limited storage. Luckily, they are designed to maintain their own storage availability by getting rid of old, unused data, so it can be replaced with new, more frequently-requested data. Therefore, your cache might not have the data for every page you have ever loaded stored and ready for quick recall.