As a web designer, I am often asked what cookies or caches are, and what purpose they serve, so today we are going to look at browser cache and cookies, and if we need to clear them.
A cache is defined as a hidden storage space. When it comes to computers, a browser cache is something similar but not so hidden.
A browser cache is a special folder that stores web page elements that the browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, etc.) thinks it will need again. These could be image files, script files, or even complete web pages.
Browser caches are not rubbish bins but a clever way of speeding up the way we browse the web. Every website we visit has common page elements such as logos, navigation buttons, images, script files, etc. It is inefficient for the browser to download every element (commonly called Temporary Internet files) each time we go from page to web page and back again.
These common page elements are downloaded when we visit a website and immediately the browser checks its cache folder for copies of each file. If a copy exists, then the browser doesn’t download the same file again, therefore speeding up web browsing speeds.
No, not a sweet treat! In computer talk, a cookie is a short line of text that a website puts on your computer’s hard drive when you access a website. Cookies are simple text files – they cannot carry viruses or any other malicious code. Cookies are used to track your movements online, what adverts you have seen and your preferences for each website you visit.
Should I clear my browser cache and get rid of cookies?
The simple answer is yes, but you need not do it too frequently if your browser is running smoothly.
The cache folder has a definite size and limit. If the number of items it stores gets too large, then your browsing sessions could suffer. Also, although your browser should show you the latest version a web page, I have found that a few of our clients have to clear their cache to see any changes we have made to their websites. Old cache files and cookies also need to be cleared before you visit secure areas like payment portals or a shopping cart. “Session expired” is a common notification you may see if old browser cache & cookies haven’t been deleted.
Deleting caches and cookies
To delete cookies and cache, you will need to look in your browser settings. Each browser has a different way of clearing cache and cookies, but all of them should be straightforward and simple. If you cannot find out where to delete the cookies or cache, a search on Google will quickly give you the answer.
Happy web surfing!
This ‘Technology’ article was written for an expat magazine in Spain. The readers of this magazine are often middle to old aged and not very technology minded so we have designed the articles with these people in mind, however they can be enjoyed by everyone, and perhaps even the most up-to-date techie may find them of interest too!