Cookies and cache

Just want to clear your cookies and cache? Skip to the solution.

Cookies

Websites can place cookies on your computer. A cookie is a piece of text that the site can use to remember things you’ve done, like the items you’ve put in your shopping cart. When you log into a site, it may use a cookie to remember that you’re logged in so you don’t have to log in again next time.

To protect your privacy, a cookie can only be retrieved by the site that made it. For example, if you tell the BBC your location to get a local weather forecast, this can’t then be disclosed to other sites.

Cookies cannot harm your computer, but they sometimes get a bad name because they can be used to build a picture of your interests to show you targeted adverts.

Cache

Something else that accumulates when you visit websites is a cache. It stores parts of pages so the browser doesn’t have to repeatedly download them. For example, every article on Wikipedia includes the Wikipedia logo. After you look at one article, the logo is cached and doesn’t need downloading again when you look at more articles. This makes browsing faster.

Problems and diagnosis

Occasionally, a website may not work properly because of a problem with its cookies or cached parts. For example, you might not be able to log in, you might see an error, or a page might just look wrong. When this happens, it’s worth trying the site in ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ mode, which temporarily isolates it from previous cookies and cache:

Chrome

  1. Click the menu (three dots, top right)
  2. Click New Incognito Window

Safari

  1. Click the File menu
  2. Click New Private Window

Visit the website again in this new window and try whatever wasn’t working before. If it now works, chances are the problem was related to cookies or cache. You’ll now want to solve this by clearing the cookies and cache.

Solution

Needing to clear cookies and cache occasionally does not indicate a fault with your computer, and is not a cause for worry.

Note: You’ll be logged out of any website accounts you use. In other words, next time you visit those sites you’ll need your password.

Chrome

  1. Click the menu (three dots, top-right)
  2. Choose More Tools > Clear Browsing Data
  3. Set the time range to All time
  4. Make sure Cookies and other site data and Cached images and files are ticked
  5. Click Clear data

Safari on Mac

  1. Click the Safari menu (top left of the screen)
  2. Click Clear History
  3. Set the time range to All History
  4. Click Clear History

Safari on iPhone and iPad

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap Safari (it’s quite far down the list)
  3. Tap Clear History and Website Data
  4. Select All history
  5. Tap Clear History