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Cookies and Cache: When to Clear

Web browsers store information on your computer. This is generally helpful, but can occasionally cause problems. Find out when to clear and when to keep.

What is a Cache?

Web browsers (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Internet Explorer) maintain a local copy of web pages and other related items on your disk or in memory to speed up reloading of previously visited pages from the Internet. While this generally improves your browsing experience, it can slow things down if the cache gets too big. This may also prevent a web page from loading in the most up-to-date information. If you are having either of these problems, try clearing your browser cache.

What are Cookies?

Some websites store information in a small text file, called a "cookie" on your hard disk. Cookies typically contain information about you and your preferences for a website. For example, if you look at a flight schedule on an airline's website, the site might create a cookie that records the pages you visited on the site. That way, the site can customize the pages you see the next time you visit.

If you get an error about cookie problems you may want to remove the cookies; just remember that you may experience inconveniences when you visit certain sites.

Clearing the Cache and/or Cookies

Firefox

  1. In Firefox, select Tools→"Clear Recent History…" (In recent installations of Firefox for Windows you may find this under Firefox→History, or History→Clear Recent History, or Menu→Options→Privacy→Clear Recent History.)
  2. For "Time range to clear" select "Everything."
  3. Expand the Details section and uncheck everything except "Cache" and/or "Cookies."
  4. Click "Clear Now."

Chrome

  1. In Chrome, on the menu on the right select "More Tools/Clear Browsing Data..."
  2. For "Time range:" select "All time."
  3. Uncheck "Browsing history," but keep "Cookies and other site data" and "Cached images and files" selected.
  4. Click "Clear Data."

Safari Version 11 and Newer

If you're not sure which version of Safari you have, select "Safari-->About Safari" to find out.

  1. To remove cookies, in Safari, select "Safari-->Preferences."
  2. Select the "Privacy" tab.
  3. In the "Coookies and website data" section click on "Manage Website Data..."
  4. You can either remove all cookies, or select specific ones and remove only those.
  5. Click "Done."
  6. To clear the cache, choose the "Advanced" tab in the "Safari-->Preferences" window.
  7. Check the box at the bottom that says "Show Develop menu in menu bar."
  8. Close up Preferences and you will now have a "Develop" menu.
  9. Choose "Empty Caches" from the "Develop" menu.
  10. If you would like, you can hide the "Develop" menu by returning to Preferences and unchecking the box.

Safari Version 8-10

If you're not sure which version of Safari you have, select "Safari-->About Safari" to find out.

  1. In Safari, select "Safari-->Clear History and Website Data."
  2. Choose the timeframe and click "Clear History." This will clear your history, cookies, and website data but not your cache.
  3. Select "Safari-->Preferences..."
  4. Click on the "Advanced" icon.
  5. Check the box at the bottom that says "Show Develop menu in menu bar."
  6. Close up Preferences and you will now have a "Develop" menu.
  7. Choose "Empty Caches" from the "Develop" menu.
  8. If you would like, you can hide the "Develop" menu by returning to Preferences and unchecking the box.

Safari Version 7 or Older

If you're not sure which version of Safari you have, select Safari-->About Safari to find out.

  1. In Safari, select "Safari→Reset Safari..." (Mac) or "Edit→Reset Safari..." (Windows).
  2. To remove cookies, uncheck everything except "Remove all Cookies" (Windows) or "Remove all website data " (Mac).
  3. Click "Reset."
  4. To empty the cache, select "Safari→Empty Cache", and confirm you want to empty the cache.

Internet Explorer

  1. In Internet Explorer, select "Internet Options" from the "Tools" gear icon.
  2. On the General tab choose "Delete Browsing History..."
  3. Uncheck everything except "Cookies" and/or "Temporary Internet files and website files."
  4. Click "Delete."

Microsoft Edge

  1. In Microsoft Edge, select "Settings" from the menu on the right.
  2. On the "Privacy, search, and services" tab in the "Clear browsing data" click on "Choose what to clear."
  3. Set the "Time range" to "All Time."
  4. Uncheck everything except "Cookies and other site data" and/or "Cached images and files."
  5. Click "Delete."
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