You probably have heard somebody say, “You should clear your cache” to solve your browser problems, or to solve problems with your website not showing updates.  But do you really know what “caching” means?

“In computing, a cache is a hardware or software component that stores data so future requests for that data can be served faster; the data stored in a cache might be the result of an earlier computation, or the duplicate of data stored elsewhere.”

– Wikipedia

In simple terms, caching means storing a snapshot of the website you are looking at, so that the webpage loads up faster the next time you visit it. (And if you don’t know what a browser is, check out this article “What is a browser” with a very funny video.)

What’s the advantage of having your browser store a snapshot of a website?
One word: ‘speed.

Have you ever thought about everything that happens between the time you enter a URL in your browser’s address bar and when you actually see the content of that website? It might seem like it all happens pretty much instantly (especially if you are using high-speed Internet). However, in actuality, there are so many things happening during that time. And this complicated process sometimes slows down the delivery of the website contents.

What Caching Does

But do all websites change contents that often? Not really. So it doesn’t make sense to make the technology work so hard to get fresh content every single minute, possibly resulting in a delay in displaying the page.

Instead, our smart modern day browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) temporarily store the content of a web page you recently visited, and when you go to that page again, they display that stored content on the screen instead of going through the whole process to recalculate it.

It’s like keeping your dictionary on your desk all the time instead of having to walk to your book shelf every time you need to look up something. (Okay, maybe you are using your SmartPhone instead of a good old dictionary… Well, you still get the idea!)

How to Clear the Browser Cache

One question I often get from my Website Creation Workshop students is, “I made a change to my website in WordPress, but when I go visit the live website in a different browser, the change is not showing. Why is that?” In most of those cases, it’s the browser cache that’s causing the issue.

Clearing the cache is pretty easy to do. I’ve listed below how to do it in 3 popular browsers. (The screenshots below might look slightly different on your computer.)

Clearing the cache in Chrome:

  1. Go to More (3 dots to the right of the address bar) – More Tools – Clear Browsing Data.

    Clearing the Cache in Chrome step 1

  2. Check “Cached images and files.”

    Clearing the Cache in Chrome step 2

  3. Click Clear browsing data.

 

Clearing the cache in Firefox:

  1. Go to Menu (3 bars to the right of the address bar) – Preferences – Privacy and Security

    Clearing the Cache in Firefox step 1

  2. In the Cached Web Content area, click “Clear Now”

    Clearing the Cache in Firefox step 2

 

Clearing the cache in Safari:

  1. If you want to empty cache along with web history, just go to History (from top menu) – Clear History

    Clearing the Cache in Safari step 1
    Clearing the Cache in Safari step 1 - clear history

  2. If you want to empty cache without losing web history, you need to first display the ‘Develop’ menu. To do so, go to Safari – Preference – Advanced and put a checkmark for “Show Develop menu in menu bar.”
    Clearing the Cache in Safari step 2
  3. Then go to Develop – Empty Caches
    Clearing the Cache in Safari step 3

 

Alternative to Clearing Cache: Using a Private Window

Still nervous about clearing your browser cache? Here is an alternative:  simply use  a private/incognito window. Private windows supposedly do not use cached data nor get affected by your past website visits. Here is how to access a private window in the major browsers:

Chrome: File –>New Incognito Window


Firefox: File – ->New Private Window


Safari: File –> New Private Window

 

So whether you clear your cache, or use a new private window, knowing how to use these tools should help you when building your WordPress website.

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