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Archive for April 25th, 2017

by Tom Nelson

You’ve no doubt heard the term cache and temp files, at least as it relates to your Mac. There are numerous times when removing a cache or temp file may be part of a troubleshooting tip to return an app or the system to a more robust condition. It’s also common to hear about removing these files to free up space on a Mac’s startup drive.

But before we head down the road to clearing out cache and temp files, let’s take a moment to find out what functions they serve, and whether it’s really a good idea to remove them willy-nilly.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What Are Cache Files and Temp Files?
Cache and temp files serve a similar function; they provide a place to temporarily store data in files on your Mac.

Cache files are much more dynamic. They’re being accessed and updated frequently, and they can remain after the app or system function that created them has closed or exited. They can also remain through shutdown or restart cycles.

Temp files tend to be more static, created by an app or system process to temporarily store data that is later used by the process that created the file. Unlike cache files, temp files are usually removed by the process that created them, usually when the process exits, or during a shutdown or restart cycle.

Examples of cache files include browser caches that save the information from a webpage. When you return to the same page, the browser can load the page data from the cache file, provided the page data hasn’t changed. This saves you the time it would take to access the web server and download the entire page again.

Another type of cache you use everyday on your Mac is the DNS cache. Like the browser cache, the DNS cache can let your Mac grab the IP address of a website it has visited recently without having to perform a DNS lookup, which can take a great deal of time.

Other caches are used by the system to store frequently used icons, images, and just about any type of information that is used over and over, where storing the data is faster than recreating the information every time.

Temp files, on the other hand, are transitory; they tend to be removed once the app or process that created them is terminated. An example of a temp file is an application that has many levels of undo. In the loosest of terms, the undo temp file holds the state of the app at each point a command was issued, letting you go back in time (undo) to previous states. When you quit the app, the undo temp file is deleted since it’s no longer needed.

Temp files can also hold static items, such as an image, or data that will be used frequently by an app but doesn’t need to be saved beyond the current app cycle.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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