When someone calls IT with a problem with anything happening inside a web browser, our first recommendation is often to clear their browser cache. Web browsers are constantly downloading data from the services we use online, everything from images to website text to the code that runs web applications. In order to speed up performance and use their network connections efficiently, browsers often save (or cache) this data in case they need to use it again. Think of your browser like a squirrel, gathering nuts (data) and caching them for a later time when they're needed.
While it's usually helpful to have your web browser cache website data, sometimes this saved data can cause problems. A good example occurs when you can't log into our HR software portal because the portal thinks you're already logged in. Sometimes Google Drive isn't showing you the correct contents of a folder after its permissions have changed. Generally, when a website isn't behaving the way you expect, clearing your browser cache is a good first step to try and resolve the problem. Note that clearing your cache will usually sign you out of most websites and delete your browsing history; make sure you have your passwords handy before clearing the cache.
How to Clear Browsing Data in Chrome
To clear your Chrome browser cache, click on the 3-dot settings menu in the upper right corner. Scroll down to 'More tools', then select 'Clear browsing data...'. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Del to jump right to the "Clear Browsing Data" dialog box.
First off, you get a choice of the timeframe you'd like to clear from your cache. If you're troubleshooting website errors, it's usually best to just select "the beginning of time" as your starting point.
Chrome gives you the choice of what data, exactly, you'd like it to clear from the cache. While this will depend on your particular circumstances, in most cases you'll probably want to clear at least "Browsing history", "Cached images and files", and "Cookies and other site data". If you're having issues with a web application (like Docs, Drive, Mail, or other services that store data on your computer), you may also want check the box for "Hosted app data". Download history, Passwords, and Autofill form data are almost never the cause of website errors, so I'd recommend leaving these unchecked unless you really want to start with a blank slate. Once you've made your selections, click 'Clear Browsing Data' and you're done.
How to Clear All History in Firefox
In Firefox, you'll need to click on the three-line 'hamburger' options menu, then select Options.
After opening the Options dialog box, you'll want to click on the 'Privacy & Security' tab on the left, scroll down to History, then click on 'clear your recent history'.
Finally, you'll be greeted with the 'Clean History' dialog box. ProTip: you can use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Del to open this dialog box with just a keystroke. Once you have it open, you'll want to select the 'Everything' time range, expand the Details pane, and select all of the data types that you'd like to clear. If you're not sure, I'd suggest selecting everything, then clicking 'Clear Now'. Fun fact: Firefox can also be configured to clear your cache every time you close the browser. If you're a fan of that "just brushed my teeth and cleared my cache" feeling, you can configure this in Settings.
How to Clear Browsing Data in Microsoft Edge
Click on the 3-dot menu icon in the upper-right hand corner, then clicking on 'Settings'.
Once you're in the Settings sidebar, scroll down to 'Clear browsing data' and click 'Choose what to clear'. Just like Firefox and Chrome, you can jump straight to this menu with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Del.
Edge will give you a chance to choose what data you want to clear. If you're not sure what to delete, I'd suggest starting with the first four options an see if that resolves your problem. Once you've made your selection, you can click 'Clear' at the bottom of the page.