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Web Troubleshooting 101: Hard Refresh and Cache Clearing

Submitted by Meredith on December 28, 2011 - 10:59am

Worried that something is wrong with your web page? Are elements loading oddly or not at all? Don’t panic! There are a few easy fixes that might solve your problem in a snap.

As you browse the Internet, your web browser downloads elements of the web pages you view often and stores them on your computer in a cache. This was designed as a way to improve your browsing experience - your web browser accesses the cache on your computer instead of the server so that your page will load faster.

However, if you are making frequent changes to a web page, this same caching mechanism can sometimes cause confusion. Some changed elements on your page may load and some may not because your browser is still using the older, cached version of your site rather than your updated version. Even after a normal refresh in the browser your page may still look wrong.

To troubleshoot this, you can try a hard refresh, in which you force your browser to bypass the cache on your computer and re-download everything for the web page you are viewing from the server. This will typically ensure that you’re viewing the most recent version of your page. In Windows the shortcut for this is “Ctrl + F5” and on a Mac the shortcut is “Cmd + Shift + R.”

If the hard refresh doesn’t work, you might want to try clearing the cache on your Internet browser itself.

In Firefox versions 4.0 and up: Go to the top left corner of your browser window and click on the Firefox menu. Next, select the right arrow next to "History," and click "Clear Recent History," and if you're using the old, expanded FireFox Menu, you click "Tools" and then "Clear Recent History." Click the arrow next to "Details" and select "cache," making sure that nothing else is selected if that's all you want to clear. Then, in the "Time Range to Clear" drop down, select "Everything" and click "Clear Now" to complete the process.

In Chrome version 10 and up: Go to the settings menu, designated by a Wrench icon in the upper right-hand corner of your browser window. Then, select "Tools," and "Clear Browsing Data." You can also access the "Delete Browsing History" dashboard by following this link: chrome://settings/clearBrowserData. Select the "Empty the cache" check-box, and uncheck everything else if that's all you want to clear. In the "Obliterate the following items from" dropdown menu, select "the beginning of time." Then click the "Clear Browsing Data" button to complete the process.

WikiHow has a full breakdown of how to clear your internet cache in various browsers here.