When your browser loads a Web page, it copies the page’s graphics and text from the Web server and saves them in a special folder on your hard drive. This process is called “caching,” and the folder is called your “cache.” The next time you visit a page that has been cached, your browser checks your cache to see if the files on that page are stored on your hard drive. If so, the browser loads the files from your cache.

Caching has two main benefits. First, since copies of recently visited pages are stored on your hard drive, you can read them after you have disconnected from the Internet. This is useful if you have to limit your time online. Also, pages stored locally load much faster than pages stored on Web servers, so caching improves your browser’s performance and speed when you go back to cached sites.

After you use your browser for a while, your cache (the folder) will begin to fill up with cached pages. When that folder is full, your browser will automatically begin deleting the oldest files. Your browser can manage the cache folder by itself, but a very full folder can cause problems, especially slowing down your computer’s loading speed. To avoid problems, it’s a good idea to manually empty your cache folder occasionally.

You can also limit the size of your cache folder to ensure that it never grows too large. A good cache size is 0-5MB, depending on your system and browsing habits. If you regularly visit Web sites that rarely change, you might want to increase your cache limit. But if you regularly visit a large number of sites or visit sites that are often updated, you should reduce your cache limit. Remember, even with a small cache limit, your cache may still need occasional clearing.

To clear your cache or set your cache size limit, follow the instructions for your browser. For Internet Explorer for Windows (your cache folder is called “Temporary Internet files”):

• To clear your cache, go to the “Tools” menu at the top and choose “Internet Options.” It should default to the “General” tab. If not, select it. Click the “Delete Files” button. When it is finished, press “OK” to save your changes.

• To change the size of your cache, go to the “Tools” menu at the top and choose “Internet Options.” It should default to the “General” tab. If not, select it. Click the “Settings” button. Move the slider at the bottom left or right until you get to the size that you want. Press “OK” to save your changes, then press “OK” again to exit.

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