To refresh a browser is to press the refresh or reload button on the browser toolbar which causes the browser to request an updated copy of the website files from the web server.
If you are viewing a website, suspect updates have been made, and want to see the latest content, hitting the refresh button on the browser toolbar is one way of telling the browser that you want it to reload the page using a fresh set of files from the web server.
Another situation where you might need to refresh a website is if it's one you visit frequently, and you aren't seeing an expected change. What has happened in that case is that your browser has loaded some page elements from content stored in the browser cache. For websites that you visit infrequently, or that are seldom updated, this isn't a problem, but for websites that you visit frequently and are updated regularly, hitting refresh is one way to make sure you're seeing the latest content.
Refreshing a web page can be done either by pressing the refresh or reload button on the browser toolbar, by pressing the “F5” button on a PC, or by pressing “Command” and “R” simultaneously on a Mac.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why would you need to refresh a webpage?
There are three common reasons why you might need to refresh a webpage:
- To see the latest content on websites that receive real-time updates, such as social networks.
- To see updates made to a website you are editing.
- To reload a page that did not load properly due to a connectivity issue.
When you hit the refresh button your browser initiates an HTTP request which is packetized and sent to the web server hosting the website. The website responds by sending back the latest copy of the website files. The browser receives the files, renders the web page, and uses the updated files to replace the files in the browser cache.
What is a hard refresh, and when is it useful?
When you hit the refresh button you browser will ask the web server if there are any files that haven't been updated. However, the server doesn't always get the answer 100% correct, and some old content that should have been updated may be reused by mistake. This mistake typically includes things like favicons, images, and text files that appear to be unchanged. A hard refresh, on the other hand, tells the browser not to use any website files that are already stored in the cache, even if the server says they're unchanged.
If a standard refresh doesn't produce the results you're looking for, you can force the browser to perform a hard refresh by holding down “Ctrl” while pressing the “F5” button on a PC, or by holding down “Command” and “Shift”, and then pressing “R” on a Mac.
If a hard refresh doesn't fix the problem, what else can I do?
Clearing the browser's cache varies from one browser to the next, and can usually be found by looking for something like “Advanced Settings” in your browser settings.