How to clear browser cache?

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Before I tell you how to clear browser cache, I am sure you would like to know what is cache and why do you need to clear it?

So let us go straight to it. When you view a web page through your browser, the browser makes a copy of it and stores it in a special folder in your computer's hard drive, so that it can display the page to you quickly next time you visit the same site. To help you understand it better, let me tell you every time you visit a new web page, the browser has to download the page for you from another computer. This downloading process takes a little time (some times a long time if the page has many graphics on it). That is why, you must have observed, when you click on a new link, you normally have to wait a little for the new page to appear. How long is the waiting period depends on several things, namely the file size of the page, the speed of your modem, and how busy is the Internet at the time. Admittedly, if you have DSL or cable connection your page will download much faster, but still it takes some time.

When you try to visit a web page that you have visited before, while the actual web page is being downloaded, the browser displays a copy of the page that it saved when you visited the page last time. This copy is called the cache. In the cache folder of your computer's hard drive, copies of all web pages that you visit, gets stored. These temporary Internet files or cache that the computer saves for quick viewing later, can grow rapidly if you surf the Net a lot, and that means it uses up a lot of your hard drive space. That is one very important reason why you should delete these temporary Internet files or clear cache from time to time.

There is another important reason. If you read online news, say from http://www.cnn.com, unless you clear your cache regularly, the next time you visit that site, you may be looking at old news because what you are seeing is actually a cached page from your last visit to the site. Normally, if you click on the Refresh (in IE) or Reload (in Netscape) button, the browser displays a freshly downloaded page which you will observe is different from the page you saw before, and it will have all the updated news of the day. But if you never clear your browser cache, the browser may get clogged. In this case even Refresh or Reload button may not be able to display a freshly downloaded version for you. To correct the situation, you must clear your browser cache.

Now that we have learnt what cache is, and why we should clear it from time to time, let us discuss how to clear it.

If you are using Internet Explorer, on the menu bar, click on Tools. In the resulting dropdown menu, click on Internet Options. You will get a dialog box like the one shown below.

Internet Options dialog box.

Internet Options dialog box.

It is a multi-tabbed dialog box. Under its General tab, under Temporary Internet files, click on Delete Files, and then click OK on the next dialog box that appears. If you had opted for making web pages available off-line at any time earlier, in the second dialog box you will get an option of deleting them too. Just put a checkmark in front of that option (by clicking on the box once) before hitting OK. All of your temporary Internet files will be deleted. It might take a few seconds if you do not delete your temporary Internet files regularly, and allow your cache folder to grow big in size (measured in kilobytes or KB).

Delete Files dialog box.

Delete Files dialog box.

After deleting the Temporary Internet files, delete your History of visited web sites too. This also takes up disk space. To do this click on Clear History button in the Internet Options dialog box, and then click on Yes in the next dialog box that appears. After deleting History, click on OK on the Internet Options dialog box to close it. Now restart your computer for all these deletions to take effect.

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The above method (and screenshots) applies to earlier versions of Internet Explorer. With the latest version of Internet Explorer (IE 7.0), the process is essentially the same, but the location of the Tools button and the dropdown menu that you get when you click on Tools button, and also the subsequent dialog boxes, are slightly different. An experienced Internet Explorer (IE) user can easily figure things out, but since I received a few e-mails from my senior learners I am adding the following four (4) screenshots to walk you through the process.

Screenshot #1
Click on Tools button to see this dropdown menu.

In IE 7.0 click on Tools button
to see this dropdown menu.
Now click on Internet Options
on the bottom of the menu.

Screenshot #2
You will get this dialog box when you click on Internet Options in the above dropdown menu.

In IE 7.0 you will get this dialog box
when you click on Internet Options
shown in Screenshot #1.

Screenshot #3
You will get this dialog box when you click Delete under Browsing history in the above dialog box.

In IE 7.0 you will get this dialog box when
you click Delete under Browsing history as
shown in Screenshot #2. To clear browser cache,
click Delete files under Temporary Internet Files
as shown in Screenshot #3.

Screenshot #4
Delete Files confirmation box.

In IE 7.0 you will get this Delete Files confirmation box.
Just click on Yes to clear browser cache
as shown in Screenshot #4.

Internet Explorer 7.0 also gives you options to delete cookies, delete history, delete form data, and delete passwords as shown in Screenshot #3. These are all self-explanatory and I am sure now you can do all of these, if you want to. Just click on the respective Delete button. In each case you will get a confirmation box similar to the one shown in Screenshot #4. Just click on Yes in the confirmation box if you want to perform the action. If you made a mistake or change your mind, click on No. Remember, once deleted you cannot reverse the action. As you can see from Screenshot #3, IE 7.0 gives you options to delete five different kinds of things from your browser. If you so desire, you can delete all of these at once by clicking on the "Delete all..." button on the bottom of the box. You will, of course, get a Confirmation Box before the irreversible action is performed.

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Deleting History, of course, will mean if you have not put important sites in your Favorites folder, you will not be able to find them easily in future by clicking on the History button. Another note here. Have you noticed how the color of the links in many web sites change permanently after you have clicked on those at least once? These changed colors are called visited link color. After you clear History of your visited web sites, the link colors will be restored to their original color (usually blue), called link color. How do you like this additional information?

If you are using AOL, the easiest way of clearing browser cache is to right-click on the AOL icon on the tray part of your start menu bar. You will get a small menu. Click on System Information on that menu. AOL System Information dialog box will open. In that box, click on the Utilities tab. There you can actually see the current cache size in KB. Click on the Clear Browser Cache button and wait a second to see the current cache size becoming 0 KB. Now click on the Close button to close the AOL System Information dialog box.

The AOL System Information dialog box can also be brought up by clicking on the Start button, pointing to Programs, pointing to America Online, and then clicking on AOL System Information.

Just like Internet Explorer, you can also open the Internet Options dialog box in AOL and delete Temporary Internet Files and clear History from there. The location of the Internet Options dialog box varies with the AOL version you are using. In older versions (I have experience with AOL version 4.0), if you click on My AOL, click on Preferences, and then click on Internet Properties you will find that box. In AOL version 7.0, you have to click on Settings, click on Preferences, and then click on Internet Properties to open that Internet Options dialog box. Once you open that dialog box, you can delete Temporary Internet Files and clear History by following the procedure described earlier in connection with Internet Explorer. Did I not tell you that AOL browser is nothing but a modified version of Internet Explorer?

It is best to clear browser cache and clear history after you sign off. I think it is easiest if, at the end of your computer session for the day, you sign off from the Internet, delete Temporary Internet Files and clear History, close all open programs, and then shutdown your computer. File deletion does not take effect until you restart your computer. So instead of restarting your computer in the middle of your work, clear browser cache at the end of the day, and shutdown your computer. The next time you start your computer you will begin with zero browser cache.

How often should you clear the cache of your browser? I do it almost everyday before I end my computer session for the day and shutdown the computer. That may not be required. You can do it every few days, or at least once a week, if you use your computer daily and surf the Net a lot. The idea is to do it often. And clearing browser cache daily, if anything, will only do good to your computer.

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