Clearing your Cache 101

Oh, the cache.

That mysterious ‘thing’ that is the cause of so much confusion and angst in the world of websites. What is a cache? Where does it come from, where does it go? What does it mean to ‘clear’ your cache? Why do you have to keep doing it?

For everyone who has ever wondered, and anyone who’s standard answer to a web-related query is “have you cleared your cache?” This is for you.

Definition

Cache: [kash] meaning “Hidden”
Originated from the late 1500s; French, noun derivative of cacher, or “to hide”
Vulgar Latin *coācticāre: “to stow away,” orig. to pack together.

Cache: Meet Computing

In the world of computers, a cache is simply a temporary storage place or memory that allows data to be quickly accessed. Pretty much all applications use some form of caching to improve performance. Your browsers (Chrome, Safari, etc) create a cache of your user history, so that as you flick back and forth between pages, or start to search for something you were looking at the other day, it can quickly retrieve the key data from your cache instead of looking for and reloading it all again. So in your day to day it is actually a good thing, as it allows for faster speed and higher performance.

However, this can potentially prove confusing for people who maintain an online store, are upgrading their websites, or virtually anything that requires online updates.

For Example: you have added new products to your site or commissioned an upgrade, but they are not showing up on the front end of the site. You refresh and refresh your page, but to no result.

Enter: Panic. (let’s face it, we’ve all been there).

But really, it’s likely just your cache.

This is because your browser is automatically pulling up an older version of your site from your cache that isn’t reflecting the changes just implemented. So before you have a complete meltdown wondering why your site is broken, pause, take a deep breath, and clear your cache.**

And there you have it! (And should you ever need to reference this guide, your computer will keep a cache ready and waiting).

In summary:

– A cache is built into your individual browser, not certain websites, irrespective of location, time or device.
– Unless you are in an ‘anonymous’ browser, your computer is constantly creating a cache.
– If you are not seeing an update reflected in a site, don’t panic, clear your cache.
– As soon as you clear your cache, your browser will automatically start to create one again.

**Just as it’s almost any IT person’s automatic response to get you to restart your computer, it’s ours to ask you to clear your cache.