When you browse the web and have trouble loading websites, the advice you hear most often is: Try clearing your browser cache and deleting cookies. Most computer users are familiar with these terms. However, not everyone knows what cached data and cookies are and why they need to be cleared from time to time.
If you’ve ever wondered what data your browser collects when you search the web, there are several places where you can find it. Learn how to view cached pages and files in your browser and decide if you want to keep this data or delete it permanently.
What are cookies and browser cache?
Your browser cache is the location on your computer where cached web content (or cache) is stored.
Your web browser saves full or partial copies of the pages you have recently viewed, along with media (images, audio and video) in a file on your computer called a cache. Cached files are temporary files that help you load web pages faster. This is why, when you clear your browser cache, you often see sites loading slower than usual.
Cookies are files that contain small pieces of data associated with the web pages you visit. They are stored on your computer while you are using your web browser. Their main purpose is to track your online activity.
Cookies record information such as your last visit to a website or login information. This is why you often have to revisit each site after deleting cookies.
How does browser caching work?
When you visit a website for the first time, the browser downloads all data and media from the server.
When you visit the same site again later, the browser only gets the HTML page information from the web server.
How to view cached pages and files
To see cached pages and files, you first need to find them. They may not always be visible because the folder in which they are stored can be hidden.
On a Mac, files are stored in the Caches folder of your computer’s library.
One way to find the caches folder:
- Open Finder and choose Go from the ribbon menu.
- Hold down the Alt (Option) key. The drop-down menu will display the library folder.
- Find your Caches folder and then your browser folder to see all the cached files stored on your computer.
A faster way to do this:
- Open Finder
- Hold Cmd + Shift + G
- Enter / Users / USERNAME / Library / Caches / Likes / Users / Anya / Library / Caches /
- Press Enter.
- Find your browser folder to view cached files.
Google Chrome cached files will be in the Google> Chrome> Default> Cache folder. For Firefox and Opera, look for the Firefox and Opera cache folders respectively.
For Safari cache, use another shortcut:
On Windows, the path to the browser cache is slightly different. For example, for Google Chrome it looks like this:
C: Users USERNAME AppData Local Google Chrome User Data Default Cache.
You can also find the Chrome cache folder using the Run command.
Access the Run command from the Start menu or by using the Windows key + R keyboard shortcut. Then copy and paste the following into the command line:
AppData Local Google Chrome User Data Default Cache.
Since all internet browsers are installed on the system C drive by default, you can easily view cached pages and files from any browser by following a similar path. Just find your browser name after going to AppData Local, for example AppData Local Mozilla Firefox or AppData Local Microsoft Edge .
How to read cached files
In the Cache folder, you will find files with different extensions and random names. The problem here is that you don’t know exactly what you are looking at. Most of the names are random and it is impossible to determine the file format or its origin.
You can either click each file to open it, or decode the cached files using dedicated software or a browser extension. One of the best options is to use one of Nirsoft‘s web browser tools For Google Chrome, this is ChromeCacheView
Once the cache viewer has loaded, double click to open the main window. You will find a complete list of files stored in your browser cache.
In addition to the file name, you will see the URL, file type and size, and other properties. You can export a single file or a complete list, copy the urls of your cached files and extract the files from the cache if you want to store them in a different folder.
Unfortunately, Nirsoft‘s utilities run exclusively on Windows. So if you want to use it to decode cached files on Mac, you will have to transfer the entire caches folder to your Windows computer and then use a software to read your files.
How to view cookies in your browser
Since cookies are responsible for the disclosure of your personal information online, in most browsers you can find them in the Privacy section of Settings.
For example, if you want to view cookies in Google Chrome, go to the Chrome ribbon menu and select “Settings”. From there, navigate to Privacy & Security> Cookies & Other Site Data.
Scroll down and click View all cookies and site data. You will get a list of all cookies stored in your Chrome browser.
It is then up to you to decide whether to keep or delete these tracking cookies.
Managing cookies is not difficult, but knowing how to do it is important as the process is slightly different for each browser.
Time to clear browser cache
While keeping your browser cache in place has some benefits, if you don’t clear it regularly, you run the risk of this data taking up too much hard drive space. This can slow down your computer and sooner or later will require you to take action.
Have you ever tried to view cached pages and files from your web browser? What method or shortcut did you use? Share your experience with browser cache in the comments below.