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Cookies & Cache - Why They Are Important & How Are They Different?
Written by Melissa Filich
Have you ever reached out to technical support about a problem and received the following response?
“Try clearing your cookies and cache”
It usually always works, but what is a cookie and cache exactly, and what is the difference between them?
What is a cookie?
No, we aren’t talking about the ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies your Nana makes. We’re talking about the cookies that live inside your browser(s).
Whenever you visit a website, your web server transfers data (a cookie) to your browser. That transferred data gets stored in your browser (cookie jar) so it can remember things about you, your site history, and activity.
Since we love chocolate chips cookies almost as much as we love tech talk, here is a fun video that uses Nana’s delicious cookies to help explain your computer’s cookies.
Is there such a thing as a bad cookie? Not the way Nana makes them there isn’t!
Even when it comes to your browser cookie, there aren’t a lot of bad things about them. They are there to help tailor your experience browsing experience to your specific needs and track your habits to make future navigation easier.
Why would you need to clear your cookies?
When talking about Nana’s cookies you can never have too many, but with browser cookies, there is a limit. With every cookie saved your browser must use more and more power and space to store those cookies. This can result in your browser sessions slowing down and running a little more sluggish than usual. Clearing your cookies can help with browser speed and free up valuable hard disk space. Cookies can cause problems when previously saved information is no longer valid, clearing the old ones allows for new ones to be saved. This is especially useful when working inside a software-based system like GreenRope that is making continual updates to ensure the best possible user experience.
What is a cache and how do you pronounce it?
Before we can answer what it is, let's first talk about how to pronounce it! Is it pronounced kash or kash-ay? After hours of research, scouring online articles and scholarly sources, we are almost completely positive it is pronounced kash (as in cash, money, moolah). Want to read more about the pronunciation of cache? Check out this article by the Chicago Tribune that goes into it a little more in-depth, pretty cool if you ask us!
So, what exactly is a cache?
According to Wikipedia, the technical description is: “In computing, a cache is a hardware or software component that stores data so that future requests for that data can be served faster; the data stored in a cache might be the result of an earlier computation or a copy of data stored elsewhere.”
Simply put, a cache is like a storage facility that stores copies of frequently used data that can be fetched at a moment's notice based on your browsing routine.
What is the difference between a cookie and a cache?
By definition, they sound very similar but they are very different. While cookies store information about you and the things you’ve done online, your cache stores information downloaded directly from those same sites you’ve visited.
Cookies: login information, shopping cart items, etc
Cache: fonts, images, etc
Why should you clear your cache?
At times you will want to clear your cache due to the saved content no longer being accurate.
Example: You have just created your monthly newsletter, you have sent yourself a test email, and viewed it in your browser (in Gmail, Yahoo, etc). It looks great with all the correct images and information. The next month you use the same newsletter but you’ve updated a few of the images and content. Only this time when you send yourself a test email the old image is still appearing. Why? Because your cache memory has stored that previous email content and is presenting you with the saved version instead of the new version. This is fixed by clearing your cache.
Another example of when you might need to, or be asked to, clear your cache is if you have ever experienced any kind of software/system glitches you don’t usually see. This can happen when updates and upgrades are made on the backend of systems. The saved cache in your browser is preventing you from being able to see those new updates and upgrades. In most cases clearing your cache will resolve the problem.
How do I clear my cache memory and cookies?
The process to clear your cache and cookies is a little different for each browser but typically both are found in the same place.
Press Ctrl+Shift+Del keys on your keyboard (or Shift+Command+Delete on Mac), select the "Cached images and files" option, and click CLEAR DATA.
Press Ctrl+Shift+Del keys on your keyboard (or Shift+Command+Delete on Mac), select the Cache option, and click Clear Now.
Press Ctrl+Shift+Del keys on your keyboard, select the Cached data and files option, and click Clear.
Microsoft Internet Explorer
Press Ctrl+Shift+Del keys on your keyboard, select theTemporary Internet files and website files option, and click Delete.
Safari (for Mac)
Open the Safari menu, navigate to Preferences > Privacy, and click the Remove All Website Data button.
Click the Remove Now button on the confirmation dialog which appears, and the cache will be cleared.
Nana’s cookies are delicious! Also, the key fundamental difference between cookies and cache is that cookies are small pieces of information based on your browser preferences and activities while cache is a temporary file used to load the web pages quicker. Just like Nana cleans up after making her amazingly delicious cookies it is also important that you clear your cookies and cache by doing routine cleaning.
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