After seeing one too many infomercials, just about everyone is of the thought that cache is evil and is the sole reason behind their computer's recent slow down. But cache really doesn't deserve the bad reputation it has with many computer users.
Believe it or not, cache's reason for being is to speed things up. Instead of processing tasks, like opening a webpage, from square one each and every time, a chunk of information called cache is created, like an earmark in a book, except on your hard drive. That way, your machine is always at the ready to visit the sites you like to visit and making those run the fastest.
While cache may have a somewhat exaggerated bad rep, there are benefits to clearing it on occasion. Cache is your friend, and while clearing it won't necessarily help your computer perform much faster, it also won't hurt. At worst, your computer will diligently rebuild any cache you wiped out that you shouldn't have.
So, what's the point of clearing your cache? It has its perks if you're working with sensitive information that you'd like to wipe out. Clearing it can also be used as an effort to fix any nagging performance problems with scripts that you're experiencing online. Lastly, if you really love that "New PC" smell, clearing the cache at least offers peace of mind that your stuff is clutter-free.
Here are a few different ways to clear out your system's cache.
How to clear your cache in Google Chrome
To clear out the cache created in Google Chrome, the process is simple, fast and essentially the same on both PC and Mac computers.
First, navigate to the Settings menu. You'll find it within Chrome's menu, which is wedged next to the address bar at the top right corner of the screen.
Once you click Settings, a new tab will open up within the browser, offering a view of all the options you can tweak. Don't be intimidated, we're only after a few things in particular here. Head all the way at the bottom and click Show advanced settings…
Once you click here, a ton of new options will open up at the bottom of this tab. You should see the word "Privacy," indicating you're in the right place.
From here, you have a few options. Clicking Content Settings opens up a new window that gives you some flexibility in how you can moderate or delete Chrome's browser cache. You can elect to keep stored data until you manually choose to delete it later, or you can have Chrome automatically toss it all when you close it.
Backing out of Content Settings and exploring the option next to it, Clear browsing data…, gives us another way of clearing out the data stored in the browser and, by extension, your hard drive. It's totally up to you as to what gets the boot and what stays in your cache. You can even choose how far back in time you'd like to erase the cache items from.
Websites install cookies in your browser's cache, which are like handshakes between your machine and that site in particular. If you're choosy, like me, you'll want to manually pick and choose which cookies you keep and the ones you eliminate. Chrome makes it easy with allowances. Just add your favorite sites and Chrome will keep cookies on hand to make those pages load extra fast.
Not a Google Chrome user? Next up is Firefox.
How to clear your cache on Firefox
Similar to Google Chrome, Firefox makes it easy enough to clear out pesky cache from your machine. To navigate to the Preferences menu, click into the menu button that's right next to the web address bar and there you'll find it.
Once the Preferences menu pops up, click over to the burlesque mask, which playfully represents the Privacy category. Here, you'll want to switch Remember history to Use custom settings for history so that you can adjust various cache-related settings.
Several new options open up, which give you better control over the cache stored on your system. Set to its most aggressive cache-disposing behavior, Firefox can ditch anything stored in the browser every time you close it.
Inside the Privacy menu, clicking the Settings button opens up more options that let you more of a micro-level grasp on your data.
Oh, you don't use Firefox or Google Chrome? Next up is Apple's Safari browser.
How to clear your cache on Safari
Apple's Mac-exclusive Safari browser offers the standard offering of ways to eliminate cache from your system. Unlike the other popular browser options, it also provides some appreciated shortcuts to these settings. To get started, click "Safari" in the upper left corner and select Preferences.
A new window containing the browser's settings will pop open that looks very familiar to the settings in Firefox. From here, you can navigate over to the Privacy category, represented by a mysterious figure shrouded in darkness.
Once you click it, you can hit Remove All Website Data… to get rid of everything stored on your computer. This is the easiest way to clear cache on Safari, but you can also drill down and customize your cache storage preferences. We can't tell you what to do, but if you're looking to wipe out as much cache as possible, click into the Details button to manage exactly which sites are taking up space on your machine.
Lastly, users can quickly get rid of all the data stored into the Safari browser by clicking into Safari in the top left corner. From there, click Reset Safari… and then check off each item you'd like to eliminate.
You're all set! Your cache should now be gone. If you aren't seeing huge performance gains, don't sweat it. You've definitely helped your computer out in a few meaningful ways. The first thing you should notice is that the sites that used to crashed your browser or slowed it down to a crawl will work better now. Also, clearing out the cache from webpages you don't visit frequently puts some precious hard drive space back in your hands, which can be used for extra music, games or movies.