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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 creating 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) and operating systems.

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.

The purpose of clearing the browser cache

The most common customer service response to 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.

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.

Related Term


Related Term

Business-to-Business (B2B)

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