While I was surfing the web the other day I saw this incredible photograph which I stupidly didn’t save to my computer. (No, it wasn’t that kind of photograph.) Still, now I’m regretting not saving my own copy, because the picture is no longer available online. But if I viewed it in my browser, that means I did actually download it, right? If it’s saved on my hard drive somewhere, how and where do I find it?
Desperately Seeking Offline Photo
You may be in luck—but it depends on your browser’s settings. You’re right: When you view a web page, by default most modern browsers download and save every image and other file associated with the page to your hard drive in its “cache”—to speed things up in case you visit that site, or other pages within it that use those same images.
But your cache is set to a certain size, so it’s possible that newer page content has overwritten the image you’re looking for. Your best bet is to open up your cache pronto, before you visit another page, and look through it to see if that photograph is still in it. How to do that exactly depends on your browser.
If you’re using Firefox, do the following:
about:cachein the address bar.
- Under “Disk Cache Device,” copy the folder path to where Firefox stores your cache entries.
- Navigate to that folder in Windows Explorer or Finder. The files there will have strange names and no extension, so it can take some time, but you just have to open each one to see if it’s the photo in question.
If you’re using Internet Explorer, here’s what you do.
- In the Tools menu, choose Internet Options.
- On the General tab, under “Temporary Internet Files,” hit the “Settings” button.
- From the Settings pop-up, click the “View Files” button. IE will launch an Explorer window into the directory where it stores files in its cache. Browse through them to find your photograph, if it’s still there.
Thanks to the folks at the Photobucket forum for the step by step on these.
Unlike Firefox and IE, Safari rolls its cache up into a single, non-human-parsable file. But I’ve had lots of luck using the Mac-only File Juicer trialware, which—among other things—can extract images from Safari’s cache.
Good luck mining that photo from the depths of your browser’s cache.