Shift+Refresh Is Like The Restart Button For Websites

Shift+Refresh Is Like The Restart Button For Websites

When a friend or family member comes to you asking for help with a program that’s not working correctly, the first thing most of us ask is: “Did you try restarting?” When I’m talking websites, it changes to: “Did you Shift+Refresh?”

Note: For the purposes of this discussion, I’m assuming the person with the problem still has an active internet connection and every other website is working just fine.

Why Shift+Refresh?

In order to keep running quickly and save on bandwidth costs, websites will often tell your browser to store certain files on your desktop rather than re-download them every time you request a new page from that server. This process is called caching, and your browser regularly caches images, JavaScript files, stylesheets and the like.

Caching is almost always a good thing, but occasionally something can go wrong in the cache. Say, for example, your browser hasn’t updated the new JavaScript files for a page, but the page itself is trying to call a method that isn’t defined in the cached JavaScript your browser has stored. The website won’t work the way it’s supposed to. The same sort of problems also occur with stylesheets (ever seen a website that looks like all the nice sparkle went away and all you can see is unstyled text?) and images.

Sure you could clear your entire browser cache (in Firefox: Tools -> Clear Recent History), restart your browser, or go nuts and restart your computer, but most of the time that’s overkill. Any of those methods could be worth trying eventually, but before you try anything more drastic or time-consuming, just hold your Shift key and click the Refresh button in your browser (or press Ctrl+Shift+R [Win] /Cmd+Shift+R [Mac] ). That clears the cache for the files in that page so that you’re sure to be running the latest and greatest version of what that web site’s serving.

If That Still Doesn’t Work?

A cache-overriding reload isn’t a fix-all, but it is the first thing I tell anyone to try (“Hold Shift and click the Refresh button”) when they’re having a problem with a website. If it doesn’t fix the problems you’re having with a website, you’ve still got plenty of troubleshooting paths to exhaust (clear your entire cache, restart the browser, restart your computer, uninstall extensions, etc), but it’s a good place to get started.

Have a method you swear by as your first resort when the websites you rely on go a little wonky? Let’s hear it in the comments.


  • Another trick for IE8 is to use the developer tools.

    Click F12 to bring up the developer tools.
    Then from the toolbar in that window, click on the cache menu.
    Then select “clear browser cache for this domain”

    Sometimes this can be a little more inclusive that the shift-refresh and not the overkill of clearning the entire browser cache.

Log in to comment on this story!