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If you visit a website frequently, your web browser stores elements of the web page in a cache so that they do not have to be downloaded again each time you visit, making your browsing faster. These elements might include photographs, pages you have already viewed, or style sheets. In some cases, when the website is changed, you may not be able to view the changes because you are actually viewing the cache. There are two ways to solve this problem: a hard refresh, which bypasses the cache and loads the actual page as it is stored on the server, and clearing your cache, which is something you should do periodically anyway.
To refresh a website normally, you hit the “refresh” button, or the F5 key, or press the command key for your operating system, such as the Apple key or the Control key, and the letter R. To hard refresh, the command or control key is held down while clicking on the refresh button or pressing F5. Alternatively, the user can hold down the shift key, the command/control key, and the letter R. A hard refresh will bypass any cached files and display the web page as it currently appears on the server.
A hard refresh can be useful to clear forms and ensure that you are viewing the web page as it currently appears. Usually, even if your web browser has a cached version of a web page, it will check with the server for any changes. Sometimes glitches confuse this communication, however, leaving the viewer with a web site that looks confusing. This is especially common when changes are made to style sheets, which sometimes cause a page to be rendered in an odd way.
If you are viewing a web page that looks odd or has glitches, a hard refresh may be necessary. This is common with websites that are constantly being updated, like e-mail and news sites. Occasionally, the rapid updates confuse the browser, which reverts to a cached version of the page. If a site looks funny to you, performing a hard refresh may help to clear up the problem. Hard refresh is also very useful for web designers who want to make sure that they are viewing the most recent version of their work.
In the options menu for your web browser, there is usually a tab for dealing with the cache. You can set the size of the cache and also clear it out. Clearing the cache will remove all of the older saved versions of websites you visit, which means that the entire page will have to be freshly downloaded when you visit it. Clearing the cache is more time consuming than doing a hard refresh, and only needs to be done periodically, but can be beneficial if you are having difficulty with your browser.