Consider Clearing Certain Caches

As you use various applications, they often store frequently used information in files called caches. For example, when you visit a Web site in Safari, it stores the images from that site in a cache, so that the next time you go to the site, it can display the images more quickly (because it doesn't have to download them again). Another example is Microsoft Word, which can display the fonts in the Fonts menu in their own typefaces. If Word had to read in all those fonts each time you used it in order to build the Font menu, every launch could take a minute or more, so Word builds a cache that contains all the data it needs to draw the font names.

Caches are good thingsusually. Sometimes they cause more problems than they solve. One problem occurs when an application has cached hundreds or thousands of filesso many that reading in the caches takes longer than reading (or recomputing) the data they contain, thus slowing down the application instead of speeding it up! A more serious problem involves damaged cache files. Maybe an application failed to write the file correctly in the first place, maybe the information it put into the cache was bad, or maybe a disk error corrupted the cache after the fact. Whatever the reason, a corrupted cache file can cause an application to crash, run slowly, or exhibit any number of incorrect behaviors.


I discuss caches in some detail in a Macworld magazine article titled "34 Software Speedups" (

Several utilities provide a one-click method for deleting one or all of your caches. I recommend against blindly deleting all your caches; as I said, they usually help rather than hinder. However, a few caches in particular have notorious reputations, and clearing them periodically tends to make the applications that use them run more smoothly. My recommendations for weekly cache maintenance are as follows:

  • Clear your Safari cache by choosing Safari > Empty Cache (Command-Option-E).


    Alternatively, you can disable Safari's cache altogether. In the Finder, navigate to the folder ~/Library/Caches/Safari. Select this folder and choose File > Get Info. In the Ownership & Permissions section of the Info window, choose Read Only from the pop-up menu, and then close the Info window. This prevents Safari from being able to write new files into the cache folder.

  • Safari stores favicons (those tiny icons that appear next to a site's URL in the address bar) separately from the main cache. To remove them, quit Safari and drag the folder ~/Library/Safari/Icons to the Trash.

  • Mac OS X maintains a system-level font cache that numerous applications use. Bad font cache files have been implicated in numerous problems. The easiest way to wipe out these caches is by using Font Finagler (; $10), shown in Figure 7. Or, to delete most of your font caches manually, drag the folder /Library/Caches/com.Apple.ATS to the Trash. Enter your password when prompted to do so, and click OK. Then restart your computer and empty your Trash.

    Figure 7. Font Finagler's Font Cache Cleaner window lists all your system's font caches and lets you delete them with a single click.

  • Microsoft Office's font cache seems more prone to problems than the systemwide font cache. To clear it, quit all your Office applications and then drag the file ~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office Font Cache (11) to the Trash.

Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups. Industrial-Strength Techniques
Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups. Industrial-Strength Techniques
Year: 2004
Pages: 144 © 2008-2017.
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