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Modern versions of the Safari web browser for Mac OS X offer a hidden one feature which allows users to clear web caches from browser without having to dump all other browsing history, cookies, search queries or other website data. This is really helpful feature for web workers and developers who routinely need to clear browser cache for pages and websites, causing the browser to fetch new data from the server (s) it is accessing, but it can also be useful for some Safari troubleshooting situations.
To empty caches in Safari for Mac OS X, you must first enable the Develop menu in Safari from the app preferences. This optional menu features a lot of developer focus features, including the ability to instantly clear cache from Safari browsing sessions, which we’ll focus on in this walkthrough.
How to Clear and empty Safari browser caches in Mac OS X
As implied, this will delete all web caches from Safari and cannot be undone.
- Open Safari on the Mac
- If you have not already done so, choose to show the optional develop menu by going to the Safari menu in the top left corner, choose Preferences> Advanced> “Show develop menu in menu bar” and close the Preferences
- Back in a Safari browser window, open the “Develop” menu and choose “Empty Caches”
- Wait a few seconds and the Safari web caches will be completely cleared, allowing new web content to be fetched from the remote web servers with no local cache available for that session
There is no confirmation or warning dialog box informing the user that the Safari browser caches have been cleared or emptied, it just happens behind the scenes.
Empty caches shortcut for Safari in Mac OS X: Command + Option + E
After you enable the Develop menu, you also get access to a keyboard shortcut for clearing caches in Safari with Command + Option + E, which provides a faster access method for users who need to access the feature often without opening the menu every time.
Strongly refresh browser caches for specific pages with Shift + click
Users can also force refresh and reload by ignoring the cache with a Shift + click on the Refresh page button in Safari for Mac if they need to clear the cache only for a specific page. The advantage of this method is that it does not clear all other browser caches from Safari, it only targets that specific page. However, that can also be a con, which is why many developers rely on the previously highlighted ‘clear everything’ features instead.
Safari cache file locations in Mac OS X
For those who want to know where Safari cache files are stored locally in the file system, they are usually located in one of two locations in OS X, depending on what version of the operating system is installed on the Mac.
Modern versions of Safari store browser caches locally in the following file system location in Mac OS X:
~ / Library / Caches / com.apple.Safari /
Most Safari caches are stored as a sqlite database file, and while you can manually browse through them, view cache items, change items, delete items, or delete the entire database file yourself, that is generally not recommended unless you know exactly what you’re doing with a strong SQL background, compared to just using Safari apps’ built-in empty cache feature.
Note that older versions of Safari (pre 6) store the browser’s user cache files in the following location:
~ / Library / Caches / Safari /
Again, while you can access the direct file system locations of the Safari cache files yourself, they are not intended for users and are therefore best cleared through the Develop menu and its associated keyboard shortcut.
There is little need to clean up caches in Safari for most users, but it can be a useful troubleshooting trick for situations where the browser does not behave as intended. In addition to clearing the browser cache, clearing web history in OS X Safari and clearing all cookies, or clearing site-specific cookies in Safari for Mac can also be helpful in overcoming troublesome browsing behavior. Some intermediate versions of Safari even included a reset option that did all this in one fell swoop, but modern versions have since removed that capability for now, requiring users to individually empty site data into segmented chunks.
For those who like to dig a little behind the scenes of the Safari browser with the developer menu, additional and more advanced options are also available from the hidden Debug menu, including a set of cache inspection tools.
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