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Say What: Clearing Your Cache

When you visit a website your browser does something called caching.

You say:
You said you fixed it, but I still see the problem!

The developer says:
Have you cleared your cache?

What it means:
When you visit a website your browser does something called caching. What that means is that your browser stores some of the website assets, like images and styles, so that the website will load faster the next time you visit it.

Let’s say you visit NYTimes.com. The first time you go there in the morning the site may take awhile to load—all those ads, logos, image galleries, and news stories are memory intensive! You then navigate away, google something, and decide to go back. The second time you visit NYTimes.com, voila, the site loads in a matter of nanoseconds, images, logos, ads, and all.

That additional speed isn’t because your Internet connection just opened up, it’s because your browser already loaded most of the NYTimes.com’s assets the first time around, so all it has to do the second time is update any new news stories.

Most of the time, caching is awesome. Your browser takes advantage of the fact that you tend to visit the same websites, and you get a faster, more pleasant web browsing experience.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that when things do get updated, you don’t always see the changes. At least not right away.

Taking the NYTimes.com as an example, this problem doesn’t usually apply to news stories themselves. You will see the latest news no matter what—web caching doesn’t usually cache dynamic content. Instead, if the NYTimes.com were to fix a bug, change a style, or swap out an image asset (like a logo or icon), otherwise known as static content, you probably wouldn’t see the change right away.

Thus, it is very common for a developer to fix a problem, and for you to not see the fix. Frustrating, we know!

Now Try This

Fortunately, all browsers ship with the ability to clear their web caches. Before you even go check for a development change you should do the following:

1. Force refresh the entire page. You can do this by holding down ‘Shift’ while pressing the browser’s refresh button. Sometimes a force refresh is all you need to clear the browsing data. If that doesn’t work go ahead and…

2. Clear your web cache.
In Firefox you go to Preferences > Advanced > Cached Web Content > Clear Now.
In Chrome you go to Settings > Show Advanced Settings > Privacy > Clear Browsing Data > select “Empty Cache.”
In Internet Explorer you go to Settings > Safety > Clear browsing history… > select “Temporary Internet Files.”

Check out wikiHow’s guide for a comprehensive list of instructions for all modern browsers (plus screenshots!).

3. Check again. If the change still isn’t visible, you now have our permission to pester your developer.

PS Another thing you can also try is to open a new browser. As long as you haven’t recently visited the website in question on that other browser, you should see the latest, uncached website content.

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