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How to control the cache in Internet Explorer

Caches store previously accessed information, in case it needs to be accessed again in the future, in which case delivering it from the cache rather than from the original source can reduce delays and network access bandwidth. Caching is done by web browsers, and one or more proxy caches may also lie on the path between your browser and a web server (e.g. in your ISP).

While caches try to keep information current by deleting it after time, sometimes changes on a web server aren't reflected in a cache, so references from stale cached objects can lead to errors. To fix such problems, you need to empty the cache of stale objects, or, to a first approximation, all objects relating to the website that you are having problems with.

The most effective approach to solving cache problems is to empty the cache. While that is easy to achieve, it will likely also delete cached information that is unrelated to your problem and that must later be downloaded again, using bandwidth and causing delay, so you may prefer to delete specific cached files.

Emptying the Internet Explorer cache

  1. Either:
    • From the Tools menu, choose Delete Browsing History, or
    • From the Internet Options control panel, choose the General tab, and in the Browsing history section, click on Delete...
    Which will lead to the following window:

    Internet Explorer: Delete Browsing History: Temporary Internet Files

  2. Deselect all options except for Temporary Internet Files.
  3. Click on the Delete button.

Delete specific cached files

  1. Open Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer, but the Windows file Explorer)
    • In Windows XP, move to “Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files” (change “username” to your username)
    • In Windows Vista or 7, enter “C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files” in the address bar at the top of the window and press Enter.
  2. Sort the files by clicking on the title of the “Internet Address” column.
  3. You should then able to select and delete objects that have been cached from the site that you are having problems with.

    Note that

    • What you see on a web page may be derived from multiple web sites, some of which may have names that seem unrelated to the web page. e.g. using Google services may lead to accessing gstatic.com or ytimg.com servers, and they are relatively obvious references to sites from the same provider (Google static content, and YouTube images).

      To identify all objects accessed when viewing a web site

      1. Sort the files by clicking on the title of the “Internet Address” column.
      2. Refresh/Reload the web page of interest (e.g. by pressing the F5 key)
      3. Refresh the file listing by selecting Refresh from the Explorer View menu.
      The objects that were accessed most recently (for that web site) should now appear uppermost in the listing.
    • Windows Explorer does not understand the hierarchical nature of domain names and so lists files in alphabetical order of the left-most letters in the name, rather than in order of the top-level domains (e.g. “.com&rdquo), then 2nd-level domains (e.g. “example.com”), then 3rd-level domains, etc. So you might find that multiple files relating to a domain of interest are distributed in the listing, interspersed by files for other domains, so you may have to search for files of interest, rather than relying on the order of their listing e.g.
      docs.google.com
      getnetgoing.com
      google.com
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