Clearing your Cache in OS X: Benefits and Drawbacks

Welcome to a series of Mac-specific optimization articles. These tips are meant to help you to better repair, optimize and maintain your Mac.

Clearing your Cache

Deleting a cache on your Mac can save you gigabytes of space or help you better keep track of your memory, depending on the type of cache, but there are benefits and drawbacks to doing so.

User Caches

Each application in OS X stores a lot of cached data, meaning it stores useful information for running that application faster and more smoothly.

If you haven’t used an application in awhile, or if you’ve uninstalled that application, it’s a good idea to delete the cache for that specific app. Those files aren’t necessary anymore and take up a lot of space.

To remove the user cache for a specific application:

  1. Press Command + Shift + G to open up the Terminal
  2. Type ~/Library/Caches/ and press Enter
  3. Look for that app’s name. That’s where the app’s cache is stored. Sometimes the app name will be preceded by “com.”
  4. Delete the entire folder by clicking it and pressing Command + Delete


Clearing your Cache in OS X
Type this into the terminal to go to the Caches folder.

System Cache

Clearing the system cache can have minor benefits, such as allowing you to see exactly how much RAM your applications are truly using. However, it will not really speed up your Mac.

To delete the system cache:

  1. Press Command + Shift + G to open up the Terminal
  2. Type purge and press Enter

Web Cache

Clearing the cache in Safari can gain you back significant space, and can also help guard against security or identity theft issues.

To clear the Safari cache:

  1. Click Safari
  2. Click Reset
  3. Click Empty Cache (pre-Mountain Lion)
  4. Click Clear History (Mountain Lion or later. This also removes recent searches.)

Drawbacks to Clearing a Cache

Though clearing a cache can save space and make it more useful to calculate memory usage, it can also have significant drawbacks.

  • You delete a cache for an app, then want to use that app again
  • This will cause significant performance drawbacks for that application until it rebuilds your cache. Also, you may lose some preferences.

  • File Quarantine may run for that application again
  • OS X versions from Tiger onward include features to protect users from malware, such as File Quarantine. Once you approve an app, that approval is stored in the cache. If you delete the cache, OS X might think the file is malware again.

  • Restarting after a System Cache will take a long time
  • After running a purge of you System Cache, it will take a long time to restart your Mac the next time, as it has to rebuild the cache.

  • Clearing the Safari cache can make web pages load strangely at first
  • Without a cache to load pages from, pages may load incorrectly. Click Apple + R to reload the cache for the current page.

Now that you know the benefits and drawbacks to clearing your cache, you can determine for yourself whether it’s necessary.

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