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What is a Hard Refresh?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon339603 — On Jun 24, 2013

Every time I search for something I have to hit the f5 key for it to bring it up. How can I fix this?

By DylanB — On Jan 20, 2013

I had no idea that I needed to refresh anything in order to see the most recent information. All this time, I've probably been reading old news and missing out on new stuff because I didn't know this.

So, it's as simple as hitting F5? I can do that. In fact, I'm going to start doing it whenever I revisit a site just to see if I can get anything new to pop up.

By lighth0se33 — On Jan 20, 2013

@orangey03 – I have to do a hard refresh in Chrome sometimes to see updates to my social media page. I get antsy when I post something and no one comments on it for several minutes, but often, when I refresh the page, I see that people have said things about it.

By orangey03 — On Jan 20, 2013

I sell my art on a website for people who want to sell their crafts, and I sometimes have to do a hard refresh in order to see the latest updates. I go to my profile page, and sometimes, it looks as though no one has viewed my art lately.

However, after I do a hard refresh, I can sometimes see new information about page views and comments. It's always refreshing to see that I haven't been left with nothing for yet another week, after all.

By Kristee — On Jan 19, 2013

@rolling68 – That's true when you are filling out an order form online, too. I was trying to order some Christmas presents online, and right in the middle of filling out the checkout order form, something went wrong with the site.

I did a hard refresh, hoping it would fix things without making me lose all the information I had already entered. Instead, it totally cleared everything out, and since I had used my password to shop on the site, I lost everything.

I had picked out ten items, but they were totally gone from my cart. I had spent half an hour or more doing all this, and I had to do it all over again because of the hard refresh.

By anon271852 — On May 28, 2012

CTRL+F5 in Firefox for me.

By entrepreneur — On Jan 26, 2011

I was unable to hard-refresh the stock browser in Android when testing a web page that I was designing, so my workaround was to download an alternative browser. The Dolphin Browser was a quick download, and even though they ask for it, you can skip their email request if you want.

By rolling68 — On Jul 19, 2010

Be sure to save any information when filling in job applications before opting to use the hard refresh function on your computer. If you navigate away from a page, you can lose all the information that you've spent time filling in. I like to cut and paste information on a Microsoft Word document before using the hard refresh to save myself the frustration of a total start-over.

By origami — On Sep 23, 2008

hard refreshes are also good when you are the webmaster making changes to a website. you upload your latest tweaks, and then hard refresh to see how the updated page looks.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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