How to clear your Chromebook’s cache, cookies, and browsing history

By | 01/12/2017

So, you want to clear your Chromebook’s cache, cookies, or perform a hard-refresh?


It’s super easy to do, so have no fear.

In this quick tutorial, I’ll go over how to do all three procedures in plain English so that even a newbie to Chromebooks can easily follow along. If you know what you’re doing, you may want to skip to the section of whatever you’re trying to do. If you’re clueless, I’d suggest reading this whole guide as it’ll teach you a little about Chrome OS, caching, cookies, the Internet, and webpages in general. And after all, knowledge is power.

 

First, let’s go over some basics of how caching works and why you may not want to clear it from your computer.

 

The need for a “cache”

Caching is something that’s easy to explain, but hard to understand. Basically, whenever you visit a page on the Internet, chances are that the website requests your browser to “cache” their site (PlatypusPlatypus is absolutely no exception). What this means is that the website will store a “copy” of the page in your Chrome web browser.

 

The point of this serves a multitude of advantages, both for you and the website you’re visiting.

The most obvious one? Speed.

 

Having a copy of a page in your browser will make it load super fast the next time you visit the page again. Instead of having your browser request a new page from the website’s server, it simply loads the copy saved locally in your browser’s file on your computer. Your computer loading a file from its drive is much, much faster than fetching one from a web server. Think about when you open a file, let’s say an image, on your computer. It’s almost instant. Now think about when you view an image on the Internet? There’s a lag between you when you click, and then see the image since it needs to fetch it from the website. Caching eliminates the fetch.

Another benefit of caching is that it also saves bandwidth, which is the transfer of data bytes between you and the server. Instead of sending the same data over again for the same page, it just has your browser load the previously saved data.

Caching isn’t exclusive to Chromebooks, or even the Chrome browser. It’s used on pretty much every single modern website on the entire Internet and applies across all platforms and devices- Windows, Mac, Chrome, Android, Linux, etc. Many web browsers also support caching as well, including Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera, and more. It also doesn’t matter what device you’re using either, phones, computers, laptops, desktops, tablets, and even your TV may leverage caching. It’s an omnipotent practice and it’s a good thing.

 

So, then why would you ever want to clear your cache?

 

Clearing your Chromebook's cache will fetch a fresh new page from the website.

Clearing your Chromebook’s cache will fetch a fresh new page from the website

Sometimes, when your browser saves a copy of a web page locally on your computer, it may become out of date. For example, let’s say you’re shopping for something and it shows the price as $34. The website may have your browser cache the page, and it’ll save it locally as $34. You visit the page again later, and it’s still $34 since it loaded the page saved on your computer. But in actuality, the price changed and went up to $50. You’ll see the outdated page with the wrong price rather than the new one. Of course, with modern technology, the prices usually update just fine. And you’ll probably see the correct price in your shopping cart, unless you catch that too.

Other instances included sites that have dynamic content or update often, like news sites, image sites, or video sites. You may want to clear your cache once in awhile for sites like these.

It also gives a performance boost to your computer since it clears and frees up some additional space on your hard drive or SSD. It’s good practice to clear your browser’s cache once in while.

Okay, so now let’s get back on track. You’re using a Chromebook and you want to clear your browser’s cache.

Here’s how to do it.

 

Clearing your Chromebook’s cache


Step 1: Open up the Chrome web browser. You can press the “search” key (magnifying glass) and launch it from the app library, or you can search for “chrome” in the window that pops up.

Step 2: Look at the top right of the browser. You’ll see either three dots or three lines in the very right-hand side of the window. This is the menu. Go ahead and click it.

Step 3: You’ll see a drop down as the menu expands. Look for “More tools…” and hover over it. Then click on “Clear browsing data…” You can also use a keyboard shortcut to perform the same action- “Ctrl + Shift + Del.” It’s much faster.

Step 4: After you click, you’ll be brought to a window where you can view, search, delete, and manage all your browsing history. You’ll be greeted with a popup window that has a few options on what exactly you want to delete, and how much of it.

Step 5: If you want to clear your whole cache, tick “cached image and files” and select “the beginning of time” for the time-frame. This will clear your entire cache on your Chromebook.

You can play around with these settings and adjust it to your liking and delete what you want.

A word of warning: Once you delete something, there’s no going back. So be careful.

Also, you may want to check out hard-refreshing at the end of this article. It makes clearing the cache for a single page a lot easier and faster.

 

Clearing your cookies

Before you clear cookies, you may want to know what exactly a cookie is and does.

A cookie is basically a piece of data a website places on your computer to remember you. This is used for returning visitors to a website, which is very useful for both you and the website. The website remembers your credentials and can save you time.

For example, when you log in to a website (let’s say Gmail), a cookie is stored on your computer. Depending on how long the cookie is stored, the next time you visit the website you won’t have to login again because it remembers you. This is the magic of cookies. It’s also why online shops can remember what you added to your cart, or how some sites know what you viewed last in a “previously viewed” widget, or why some websites know where you left off during a video. Some games also utilize cookies through the browser.

Clearing the cookies will sever communications between you and any websites and force websites to “forget” you.

 

If you’d like to clear all cookies on your Chromebook, here’s how.

 

Step 1: If you haven’t already, go to the history settings page (follow Steps 1-4 above if you don’t know how).

Step 2: On this page, you can clear your cookies. Tick “cookies and other site plugin data” and select your time-frame. If you want to clear all cookies stored on your laptop, choose “the beginning of time” and all cookies will be deleted.

Warning: Once you delete your cookies, you can’t go back. You’ll have to “redo” everything you’ve done, such as login to all your sites again.

 

Now that we’ve covered cache and cookies, let’s go over some of the other things you can do.

 

Browsing, download, passwords, and autofill data

As you may have noticed, on the history page you can do a few different things. Let’s go over them real quick.

Deleting your browsing history

If you tick this box, you’ll delete all your browsing history from Chrome. It’ll basically clear anything address bar entries so it’s like you never visited the website. You can choose how much to delete using the time-frame selector.

Delete your download history

If you tick this box, Chrome will delete all tracked downloads in your download manager. You can see this page by pressing “Ctrl + J” to see everything you’ve requested Chrome to download. If you want to clear this list, simply tick the box and clear it.

You can choose how far back to delete using the time-frame selector.

Note: This doesn’t delete downloads that you’ve saved on your Chromebook, only the list in Chrome. You’ll need to delete them from the Downloads directory in your storage.

Erase passwords

If you tick this box, all your saved passwords will be deleted. Straightforward enough.

This applies to all passwords you have saved on websites that you allowed Chrome to save. You know that box that pops up that asks “Do you want Chrome to remember this password?” This is what you’re deleting. You’ll have to type in your passwords manually again as Chrome will forget them.

Autofill form data

Ticking this box will clear all the data you have saved that’s used to quickly fill out forms. You know how sometimes when you’re filling out some fields and it highlights bright yellow? And then fills in all your information with a single click? Yeah, that’s autofill. Ticking this option will delete all saved data.

 

Okay, so now you know what a cache is and does, and you know how to clear it.

If you just want to just clear the cache for a single page you visit, there’s an easier way to do it. It’s called a hard-refresh.

 

What’s the difference between a hard-refresh and regular refresh?

A regular refresh will attempt to fetch a new page from the website’s server, but it doesn’t always work. You may still get the same page loaded from your cache.

Try it yourself: You can perform a basic refresh by pressing the “Refresh” key on your Chromebook. This is where “F5” usually is on a Windows keyboard. It’s the circular arrow on the top row.

 

A hard-refresh will clear the cache for that specific page on the website and fetch a brand new page from the site. This ensures you’re getting the most up-to-date version of the site. This is useful mainly for web developers who may encounter caching issues, but casual users may want to use it for sites that frequently update or have poor caching practices.

Try it yourself: You can perform a hard-refresh by pressing “Ctrl + Refresh” or “Shift + Refresh” as well. Both key combinations should work just fine. Chrome will then reload the page and ignore the cache.


 

Well, that’s about it. By now you should have a basic understand of how caching works and why we need it, and you should know a little bit more about how cookies work as well. And, you’re now a Chrome history expert- you now know how to clear your cache, cookies, browsing history, and more.

If you found this guide helpful, consider telling a fellow Chromie.

Thanks for reading.

 

About Andy Z.

Andy is a casual-hardcore Chrome OS fan and contributes to the site regularly. He likes computers, tech, sports cars, videogames, and of course, Chromebooks. Thinker. Introvert. Geek. You can find him on Twitter (@platytech), or send him an email (platy@platypusplatypus.com).

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