Ever heard someone say “clear the browser cache”? It isn’t some magical tech wizardry, but a necessary feature that everyone uses (whether they realize it or not).
So, what is a cache, and why is it important to give it a gentle scrub every now and then? Check out this quick guide that explains how caching works and what it has to do with internet privacy.
What is Data Caching?
A cache is used to store data for a certain amount of time on a computer or server. It helps both private computers and companies reduce the time needed for websites to load. Caching exists to improve the performance of online applications and sites. It can also help a connection use less bandwidth since some of it is already saved onto the device.
While caching is useful, there are a few downsides to it too. Cached data can get outdated or corrupt. It results in strange errors or old versions of websites loading. It is one of the biggest reasons to clear a cache regularly.
But there’s also another good reason too — personal security. Caches store people’s data with info about the websites they visit as well as what they do there. Yes, they do it in the name of convenience, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.
The type of data that gets cached includes auto-fill information as well as login details. Caching is what allows browsers to keep websites logged in and why a website remembers your personal preferences.
That’s all good and well up until a hacker gets ahold of all that information.
The Different Types of Data Caching
There are a few different types of caching. It relates to how and where the data is collected and stored. Here are the two main ones that most people should know about:
Client Browser Caching
There are a few types of client-side caching, but browser caching is the most used type. Every browser uses caching to store website data, especially for the ones that the user likes to visit frequently. This way, a browser can load websites much faster because it doesn’t have to request and load all data from scratch.
A browser stores the cached data on the computer, so it takes up disk space. It can accumulate over time.
Companies with their own websites, as well as services like Google, use server-side caching to improve the user experience. There are a few different types of data caching, including database, page, and object caching. There are also different methods, like application and distributed caching.
The one thing they all have in common is that they store specific types of data so that someone can access it whenever they need to.
How to Clear Browser Cache
Unfortunately, people don’t have direct control over the data that external caching servers or website cookies collect. But they can delete the data their browsers and apps are caching on their computers and smartphones.
You can always erase cached data, but the process is different for each browser and can differ between devices too. Most browsers provide instructions on how to clear cache and cookie data in the menus of their settings. Here are instructions for the more popular browsers:
Tips for Getting a More Private Browsing Experience
Cleaning your browser cache can indeed help with privacy. But there are also a few other ways to get more privacy online. Not everyone might care about being completely anonymous, but a little more privacy never hurts.
Most security experts say that saving login and auto-fill details on browsers isn’t a good idea. There are tools like password managers that provide the same type of service but are more secure. Some also recommend subscribing to a premium virtual private network service. This way, you make sure that no one can hop onto your connection and steal any data in transfer. VPNs are also great against websites that collect and cache data on their visitors, as their technology creates a private connection (you can try it out yourself).
Someone’s digital data is often only as public as they allow it. For instance, social media collects tons of data. If there’s no avoiding them, then at least try to limit the amount of data they can keep by changing the privacy settings.
Data caching exists because it makes browsing the internet faster and more convenient. There’s nothing wrong with that, but regularly clearing cache data is crucial all the same. Not only does that clear up disk space, but it also increases personal privacy.