Isn’t it great when a website loads right when you click on it, lickety-split? But it’s a bummer if the information you’re expecting isn’t there. This can be a result of your computer system’s cache, and it can have many pitfalls for programmers and users alike. Here’s what caching is, when to use it, and how to get around overactive caching issues on any website.
What is Caching?
Caching can be defined as “a collection of items stored in a space.” Much like a squirrel storing up a private food cache for winter, your browser, server, and computer all have a cache for information.
When you go to a website, the website will cache the content you look at, such as pages, images, and password information.
Collecting this information makes your computer system run faster and load websites more quickly, because it doesn’t have to retrieve the content again and again—it’s already there.
How Does Caching Cause Problems?
As a user, you may think “Hey, anything that makes my computer load faster is great! Bring on the caching!” And yes, caching is great for content that doesn’t change very often, but it’s a programmer’s nightmare for content that’s updated frequently.
Consider this scenario: As a programmer, I’m making changes to a website I’m developing for a client. The client is giving me a list of edits to perform. I make the edits, and have the client review them on the website. Because of the caching on their browser, computer, and server, they don’t see the edits. They end up having to clear their cache and refresh the page multiple times for the edits to even show up! This is a frustrating scenario for both of us. Because their browser cached the website, it didn’t retrieve the most recent version that included my edits.
How to Get Around it
How do we fix this? Can we force the system to stop caching without sacrificing speed? Not really. One of the best ways to remedy this problem and see the newest information quickly is to open a new tab or window in incognito mode. Since incognito mode is private, it won’t remember your browsing history, cookies, or cached information. That means that every search is a first-time search, and it will automatically find the newest available version of the website for you.
To get into incognito mode, click the menu in the top right corner of your browser window (it looks like three stacked dots or three stacked lines) and select “New Incognito Window,” or “View in Private Mode.” If you like using command keys, [Control+Shift+N] should do the trick for a PC, or [Command+Shift+N] for a Mac.
Another method for viewing the information and ensuring you see the latest version is to do a hard refresh of your browser. One easy way to do this is to right click on the page you are viewing and select the inspect option. You will see a whole bunch of exciting code show up in a side section of the browser window, but not to worry, we are leaving this alone!
While the inspection panel is still open, you can navigate to the refresh icon to the left of the page’s url. If you right click again you will see the option do conduct a hard refresh on the page. This will push your computer to pull the most recent version available on the web instead of using the cached one.
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