Data Doctors: Tips for clearing browsing data

Q: Will I lose all my saved passwords if I clear the cache in my browser?

A: Routinely clearing the cache in your browser is a recommended maintenance task, but in some cases, it can make changes you may not like beyond stored passwords.

What is Browser Cache?

A cache refers to a temporary storage area on your device that stores recently visited webpages, so technically, if you only clear the cached images and files, there are no passwords to worry about.

The purpose of the cache is to eliminate the need to download everything from a website every time you visit it, which speeds things up.

If the designated storage space for your cache gets full or contains corrupted files, it can cause an assortment of issues, which is why clearing it on a regular basis is a good idea.

The menu that allows you to clear your cache will also provide the option to clear cookies and that’s where you could be forced to remember your username and password on your next visit.

The cookie doesn’t store your password, it just holds a unique identifier that allows you to reconnect to an existing open session on a website, like Facebook or Yahoo.

Cookies also store customization settings for the websites you visit, so clearing them could alter how a website appears on your next visit.

Tracking cookies allow advertisers to track your movements and target ads, which is why privacy advocates recommend regularly “tossing your cookies.”

How Your Passwords Are Stored

Today, most browsers have built-in password managers that may or may not also use cookies to automatically reconnect you.

This allows you to use your saved passwords on all your devices because it’s no longer device-dependent.

Your first task is to figure out if they’re being stored in your browser’s password manager, which is covered for most major browsers on ComputerHope.

If they are being stored in your browser’s password manager or you’re using a third-party password management program, clearing your cookies won’t clear your passwords, but it may cause you to have to log in using the saved credentials.

Cache Clearing Options

The computer keyboard shortcut for accessing the menu to clear browsing data is Ctrl-Shift-Delete for all browsers.

Once the menu opens, you should see the various types of data that can be cleared including browsing history, cookies and cached files.

Some browsers may ask you for a time range while others will just delete everything.

In Google Chrome, the Advanced tab gives users much more control over what is being deleted, as well as an option to delete all your synced passwords if you are getting rid of your account.

There’s also a lot more detail about how many items are being stored in each section or how much space the cached images and files are taking up.

Mobile Device Cache

The browser on your smartphone and tablet have their own cache and cookies, so you’ll want to clear them on a regular basis as well for the best performance.

You’ll have to open the Settings menu and search for the option for your specific browser, which could be a couple of layers deep in a Privacy or Security sub-menu.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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