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Clearing Windows caches

Tech Talk

In its widespread non-technical use, a cache (pronounced cash) is a collection of items of the same type stored in a hidden or inaccessible place.

In the technical world, a cache is either specialized hardware or a specific software location that stores recently used data. Programs can access cached data quickly the next time the data is needed.

Clearing your caches can help with troubleshooting computer issues, free up disk space, remove personal data and generally improve system performance.

There are four main types of cache on your computer: the temporary files cache, the DNS cache, the Windows Store cache and the Location cache. Here's how to clear each one.

Temporary files cache

Temporary files can slow down your browser and your computer. We use Windows' Disk Cleanup tool to clear the temporary files cache. Enter "disk cleanup" in the Windows Search bar next to the Start menu and click on the Disk Cleanup app. Select your C: drive from the list. Disk Cleanup checks your C: drive for files to clean up. Disk Cleanup selects Downloaded program files and Temporary internet files for you, but scroll down and check Temporary Files, too. Now click Clean Up System Files. Disk Cleanup will calculate how much space you'll get back and takes you back to the same window again for confirmation. Make the same selections you did before, then click, OK. Now click OK on the warning about deleting files. Disk Cleanup might run for several minutes, so be patient.

DNS cache

Remember DNS? The Domain Name System that figures out (resolves) the Internet Protocol (IP) address of yahoo.com when you type that (or anything else) into your browser.

When internet traffic makes DNS queries slow, your computer keeps a cache of IP addresses it has resolved for you. Why clear the DNS cache? The DNS cache might contain incorrect or outdated records if a server has changed IP addresses. If you've had any malicious browser add-ons or extensions that redirected your traffic, those manipulated DNS records might still exist even though your browsers are clean.

There's no magic Windows tool for this; we're going to have to go "under the hood."

In the Windows Search window next to the Start icon, type in "cmd" and wait for the results. When the Command Prompt app shows up in results, right-click it and choose "Run as administrator." Click Yes to allow the app to make changes.

To see what's in your DNS cache, type ipconfig/displaydns and hit Enter in the command window. Once you're done scrolling through the list, type ipconfig/flushdns and hit Enter to, um, flush your DNS cache.

Oh, and technically, it's called the DNS Resolver cache.

Windows Store cache

If you've got a Windows Store error message about a corrupted Windows Store cache, or if you've had problems downloading apps from the Store, here's how to clear the Windows Store cache.

Press the Windows key and the R key at the same time. In the Run window, type wsreset.exe. A black window opens, and you must wait for the process to finish. When the reset finishes, the Windows Store app will open. You can close it.

Location cache

Yep, there's even a cache of your recent location data. Probably not something you need to clear out if your computer sits at home on your desk or lap but might be worth clearing if you're a jet-setting travel influencer or something. Here's how.

Click on the Start icon at the way lower-left corner of your screen. Now open the Settings menu by clicking on the gear icon, scroll down to the Privacy section, and select it. In the left-hand pane, click on Location in the App Permissions section. Scroll down to Location History, then click the Clear button under Clear location history on this device.

Hacker Q&A:

Q: How did the computer hackers get away from the scene of their crime?

A: I think they just ransomware.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at [email protected].