Whenever a website is updated, especially if there’s an image change or an update to style or scripts on the page, the changes aren’t always reflected immediately in the web browser.
That’s because web browsers use a technique called caching: temporarily storing files on your computer’s hard drive. When you visit a website, your browser takes pieces of the page and stashes them in a cache folder so they load faster the next time you want to access them.
Some of the assets your browser will cache are:
- images — like logos, photos and backgrounds
- HTML — code that webpages are built with
- CSS — code that tells HTML pages how to look
Essentially, browsers typically cache “static assets”, parts of a website that don’t change from visit to visit… until they do.
Caching isn’t a new technique. It’s been around, well, since possibly the dawn of computing. But unless you’ve run into cache-related problems yourself, you’ll probably never hear about it. So if you find yourself wondering why a page isn’t looking right or unchanged after a recent update, try clearing the browser cache.
When should you clear your browser cache?
What files to cache, and for how long, is determined by the website and its hosting environment. Some assets are configured to be removed from your machine within just a few days of you visiting the site, while others may remain in your browser cache for up to a year.
When you make certain website changes, chances are they’re immediately available online, but your browser doesn’t realise it needs to grab an updated copy of the information from the web. If you know you’ve made a change, but don’t see it immediately — or if something looks unusual, askew or “broken” — don’t panic. Try clearing your cache.
Without the outdated set of files in the cache, your browser will be forced to fetch the latest version from your website, including your updates.
Clearing your cache — a quick reference
Chrome – File > New Incognito Window
Safari – File > New Private Window
Firefox – File > New Private Window
Microsoft Edge – File > New InPrivate Window
Opera – Opera logo > New Private Window
If you’d like to go one step further and clear your cache entirely, we’ve covered the steps below for the most popular desktop web browsers:
1. Select the three dots in the top right corner and navigate to History > History.
2. Select Clear Browsing Data from the menu on the left.
3. Tick the boxes for Cookies and other site data and Cached images and files, then hit the Clear data button.
1. Select History > Clear History from the application menu.
2. Select All History in the menu, then hit the Clear History button.
1. Select History > Clear Recent History from the application menu.
2. Select Everything in the time range menu, tick the boxes for Cookies and Cache, then hit the Clear Now button.
1. Select the three dots in the top right corner and navigate to History > Clear History.
2. Tick the boxes for Cookies and saved website data and Cached data and files, then hit the Clear button.
1. Select Opera in the top left corner, then navigate to History > Clear Browsing Data.
2. Select All time in the time range menu, tick the boxes for Cookies and other site data and Cached images and files, then hit the Clear data button.
If you have cleared your cache and you still don’t see the update or it still doesn’t look right, let your web developer know and if it’s visual, send a screenshot and this browser report to help with troubleshooting.