How Often Does a Browser Cache Refresh?
Whenever people discuss browser cache, they tend to stick to a single topic – clearing the cache. But they don’t often talk about the importance or mechanics of the process. In reality, some browsers refresh their cache or delete it automatically.
Granted, it doesn’t happen as often as we’d like. Otherwise, manual user intervention wouldn’t be necessary. The cache is immensely useful for websites, cloud services, and web applications. It can make everything run faster and smoother.
The downside is that it can make things slower too. Hence the need to understand how cache works, how it’s stored, and what to do about it if it does more harm than good.
Cache Refresh Times
Although most browsers perform the same essential functions, no two internet browsers are identical. Each software has its own policies, default settings, and user preferences. That means that there’s no preset timeframe for browsers to automatically refresh the cache of an individual website.
For example, some browsers only refetch the latest cache files after the old files expire. This can vary between a few minutes to days or years. It depends on how often a person visits a specific website or uses that browser.
However, browsers can keep items in cache indefinitely only in theory. Many cached files have HTTP headers like “Last-Modified,” “Cache-Control,” and “Expires.” Based on the headers, the browsers set precise expiration dates for the content.
They can either fetch a new file after the expiration date or simply delete the cache automatically.
Force Cache Refresh
To understand why refreshing the cache or deleting it is essential, it’s important to know the difference between refreshing a page and refreshing the cache manually.
Most browsers have the same page refresh button. Pressing the “F5” key, clicking the refresh button, or right-clicking a tab and selecting the refresh option will perform a standard refresh. The browser will reload the page using the same cache file it had in storage.
Unfortunately, this won’t always make a website load faster or work better. It happens when the cache file is outdated. Sometimes, users must force a cache refresh.
This action forces browsers to retrieve the latest webpage information from its servers instead of whatever cached files the browser has in storage. In other words, the server sends a completely updated page version to the browser.
Forcing a cache refresh can work differently in some browsers. For instance, many Windows browsers, like Opera, Edge, Firefox, Chrome, and others, issue “Cache-Control: no-cache” commands to the server. In return, the browsers get the page directly from the server.
But on OS X systems, initiating a force cache refresh will delete the cache and then reload the page. Again, with a clear cache, the browser can retrieve the page straight from the server, not needing locally stored, cached files.
Force Refresh Cache in macOS
If you’re using a Mac, you probably use Safari for most browsing activities. The following commands will help you perform a force cache refresh:
- Press “Option+⌘.”
- Press “Command + E.”
- Hold down “Command + R” to refresh the page with a clear cache.
Force Refresh Cache in Windows
Edge, Chrome, Opera, and Firefox use the same keyboard hotkeys to force cache refresh. Press “Ctrl + F5” instead of the standard “F5.” It will send the “Cache-Control: no-cache” command and force the browser to use the files coming directly from the server to load a page.
Clearing the Cache Manually
There’s no consensus on how much time is too much to keep cache files. Some applications and websites tend to work slower after a while. But others do just fine after months of using the same cache files.
That said, clearing the browser cache manually is an excellent habit to have. And depending on your browser, the process might look a bit different.
Clear the Cache in Chrome
Most users should know how to clear the cache in Chrome. But let’s recap the process anyway:
- Launch Chrome.
- Click on the three-dotted button in the upper right corner.
- Go to “More Tools.”
- Select “Clear Browsing Data…”
- Tick the “Cached images and files” option.
- Select a time range and hit “Clear data.”
Note that this won’t delete the browsing history, autofill data, or cookies unless you choose to give Chrome a clean slate.
Clear the Cache in Firefox
If you want to clear the Firefox cache, you must do it from the “History” menu.
- Launch Firefox.
- Go to “History.”
- Select “Clear Recent History…”
- Tick the “Cache” option.
- Click on “Clear Now.”
Again, this will only remove cached files from local storage. You need to add other selections to clear cookies, login information, site preferences, offline data, etc.
Clear the Cache in Safari
The Safari cache cleanup process is pretty simple but may delete more stored information than you want.
- Launch Safari.
- Go to the “History” tab.
- Click on “Clear History…”
- Select websites or the entire browsing history.
- Click on “Clear History.”
Note that clearing the history in Safari deletes everything, including cached files, saved passwords and user credentials, cookies, and other elements.
Clear the Cache in Edge
Launch your Microsoft Edge browser and follow the next steps to delete the cache and make room for new website files.
- Click on the three-dotted menu button.
- Go to “Settings.”
- Select “Privacy & services.”
- Go to the “Clear browsing data” tab.
- Tick “Cached images and files.”
- Select cookies and other elements you may want to delete.
- Click on the “Clear” button.
Clear the Cache in Opera
Opera has a different process to clear the cache, but it’s similar to Safari’s process.
- Launch Opera.
- Go to the main menu.
- Navigate to “Settings.”
- Go to “Privacy and security.”
- Click on the “Clear browsing data” option.
- Click the “Advanced” menu in the right panel.
- Hit “Clear Data.”
You can force Opera to automatically clear its cache when closing, which is pretty cool:
- Go to “Settings.”
- Go to “Privacy and security.”
- Select “Cookies and other site data.”
- Move the “Clear cookies and site data when you quit Opera” slider to on.
Enabling this option will prevent Opera from storing local cache files. Therefore, whenever you visit a website, you’ll get the page directly from the host server. It may not always make your navigation smoother, but it should eliminate connection issues and cache overflow.
Main Reasons You Need a Browser Cache Refresh or Full Clear
Whenever users access websites, the browsers store various data like site information and cached files. But even if something changes with the website or server, users may still access them using older files and information.
This can create a couple of issues.
For example, people may access websites using old or expired forms. Doing so can compromise the connection and data transfer security.
Moreover, using old forms can create incompatibility issues. Therefore, although you can still access a site, it may not run smoothly or as intended. Some users may encounter accessibility issues, display problems, login errors, etc.
Furthermore, less secure old forms won’t always protect the user’s personal information.
Don’t Sleep on Your Browser Cache Management
Data collected by browsers and devices can help or make things worse for the average user. Unfortunately, you can’t fully automate cache management using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Manually forcing a cache refresh or clearing the entire cache history is often needed. Luckily, the process is user-friendly across all browsers, and you don’t need technical expertise to do it. You can clear the cache whenever necessary, or not if you don’t encounter problems.
Tell us what you think about the state of browser cache management today. Do you regularly delete the cache or not? Do you prefer forcing cache refreshes on individual websites? Head to the comment section below and let us know.