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Caching, pronounced “cashing”, is a process that temporarily stores data to speed up computing and is used in web browsing and applications that access the internet. For example, when you visit a website for the first time, your computer will save the address and pathways so that when you visit the site in the future, you will access it faster. Additionally, caching allows you to save predetermined responses, like autofill of your personal information, such as addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses or sensitive information, such as passwords and dates of birth.

The Benefits of Caching

Caching makes browsing and applications faster and more efficient. Some websites may have large images or content that slows loading when you visit the site for the first time. By caching the data elements of the site locally on your hard drive, the website will load faster the next time you visit it. Caching not only occurs with the elements of websites but is also used in applications. Your mobile phone saves data locally that helps speed up your device from your camera applications to mobile banking and your favorite games.

The Disadvantages of Caching

Caching may speed things up and give users a significant advantage, but it could potentially leave you vulnerable to hackers. This is because sensitive information is stored locally on your system. Sensitive information includes passwords, dates of birth, addresses, and telephone numbers. Many web browsers give you the opportunity to save your password for the website you are using to save time in the future. Additionally, if you leave your computer unattended and unlocked, other users can access your session and information as well.

Clearing Your Cache

You can, at any time, clear your cache, which is advisable after a time. However, once you clear your cache, all of the temporarily saved data is wiped and you may experience a slowdown when accessing websites and applications. This includes saved images that were previously downloaded as well as passwords. Your browsing history is also removed at this point so you will not have autofill options while typing a website in your browser’s URL navigator bar.

Each browser and mobile operating system has different methods for clearing cache but doing so will ultimately lead to a wipe of data. You can also clear the cache on your mobile apps but this has a slightly more dramatic effect on your user experience because the application is essentially rolled back to the downloaded version of the app, with no user data.

Clearing your cache helps keep your software and applications running smoothly, though you may experience a slowdown at first. This is because your local system saves data as it downloaded at a static point in time. However, websites and web applications are always in improvement. A site may have updated its forms, images, or content but your system is remembering something different. This can lead to slow-down or even issues with loading content. By clearing your cache, your system has a new opportunity to learn the landscape of the website or the web application.

Caching is a useful for speeding processing up for browsing and web applications, but it has its potential disadvantages when it comes to privacy and security as well as saving out-of-date web elements. It is always a best practice to periodically clear your cache and maintain internet security.