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Understanding Browser Cache

Sandra Prior
Jun 5, 2008
Your cache plays a crucial role in your Web browsing activities, so it makes sense to understand what it is and how you can use it best

Your cache is a clever creature. It stores the web pages - text, pictures, sounds, objects - you visit on the Internet, so that when you revisit the same pages your browser pulls them from its cache instead of hauling them across the Net again.

This speeds up your web browsing - downloading web pages can be a slow process. A small cheer for the cache. Microsoft named the cache in Internet Explorer 'Temporary Internet Files'.

Keeping Updated

Having a cache doesn't mean that you're viewing old and out-of-date web pages. Clearly that wouldn't be any good for anyone. Instead, your browser checks with the server hosting the web page to see if the page has changed since the last time you visited. If it hasn't changed, you'll see the page in your browser's cache.

If it has changed, your browser will display the new page and substitute this for the old one in your cache. If you reload the page using the Reload option in your browser, this will download the web page, regardless of whether or not it has been updated since your last visit.

Size Matters

The efficiency of your cache is largely determined by its size. In Internet Explorer go to Tools - Internet Options - Temporary Internet Files - Settings. This is where you modify your cache settings. Your memory cache is where pages are stored during your browsing session. It's quicker for Internet Explorer to pull pages from the memory cache than the disk cache, but when you close your browser, everything in your memory cache is lost. Your disk cache is where files are permanently stored.

Increasing the size of your disk cache can help speed up your browsing because more files can be stored. When you're browsing you'll occasionally notice that your viewing is halted while your browser removes some cache files. This means your cache is full and your browser needs to empty the oldest, least-used cache files to make space for new ones. If this is happening regularly, you should make your cache bigger. It all depends how fast your computer is and how much free disk space you have.

You can clear your memory and disk cache at any time. If you think your cache isn't working properly, clear it out to give it a fresh start. If you want to cover your browsing tracks, you should clear your cache because it provides a log of all your recently visited web pages.

For faster web browsing make sure that the settings in cache are set to 'check for newer versions of stored pages' automatically. If you set it to check every visit to the page, it will slow down your browsing dramatically. If you choose the never option, your browser will never check and you'll find yourself looking at old web pages.
About the Author
Sandra Prior runs her own websites at http://usacomputers.rr.nu and http://sacomputers.rr.nu.
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