Cache (pronounced cash) and cookies are two terms that get thrown around the internet more than those controversial celebrity videos. Seriously though, cookies and cache perform some very important tasks for users of the internet especially if you are always on the web, or do a lot of online shopping. Lets start off with cookies.

First of all, cookies are not dangerous pieces of software that steal user data.  To quote Wikipedia:

“Cookies are also subject to a number of misconceptions, mostly based on the erroneous notion that they are computer programs. In fact, cookies are simple pieces of data unable to perform any operation by themselves. In particular, they are neither spyware nor viruses, despite the detection of cookies from certain sites by many anti-spyware products.”

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s see what cookies do.  Cookies are pieces of data that a website sends to your computer to keep track of certain user settings or preferences about the current website. Sites like Amazon.com use cookies to keep track of the items that you place in your shopping cart, that way when you check-out, your items are still there and accounted for.  Think of cookies as the settings you use in your BMW or Mercedes to maintain your steering wheel and seat positions.  They’re not so bad now are they?  Let’s move on to cache.

There are a few different kinds of  cache that get stored on your computer, but they all use the same principle of functionality.  Cache is a temporary storage area that your computer uses to hold certain pieces of data that will allow it to run faster the next time you load a webpage or launch a program.  Imagine you have to hand out 100 flyers, 1 to every person that walks through your front door.  If you had the pile of them on a desk and had to walk to that pile everytime to hand them out it would take a long time.  Now take the pile and hold it in one hand, now you can hand them out as people walk in, that’s how cache works in a simple sense.  The computer stores what it needs for each webpage and program locally either in RAM or on the HDD so it can fetch that data faster than it could re-query the webpage for the data..  Remember those terms?  If not click on either of them to re-read the definitions.

That’s the basic definition of cache and cookies so hopefully you have a little bit of a better understanding of these terms.  As always you can leave comments or feedback and let me know if you want to know more or if something wasn’t quite clear enough.