What is the difference between hard reload and normal reload?

Answered by Edward Huber

The difference between a hard reload and a normal reload lies in how the browser retrieves and loads the resources for a web page. When you perform a normal reload, also known as a soft reload or a simple reload, the browser uses the cached data it has stored to quickly reload the page. This means that some of the resources, such as images, scripts, and stylesheets, may be retrieved from the cache instead of being downloaded again from the server.

On the other hand, a hard reload, also referred to as a force reload or a full reload, instructs the browser to ignore the cached data and download all the resources from the server again. By doing so, it ensures that the browser retrieves the most up-to-date version of each resource. This can be useful in situations where you suspect that the cached data may be outdated or corrupted, and you want to start fresh with the latest content.

To perform a hard reload, you can typically use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + R (or Command + Shift + R on macOS) or right-click on the reload button and select “Hard Reload” or “Empty Cache and Hard Reload” from the context menu. The exact options may vary slightly depending on the browser you are using.

Empty Cache & Hard Reload is a variation of the hard reload that goes one step further. In addition to downloading all the resources again, it also empties the cache for the specific page. This means that everything, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images, and other assets, must be re-downloaded as required. It essentially starts with a clean slate, ensuring that no previously cached items are used.

It’s worth noting that even after performing a hard reload or emptying the cache, subsequent requests for the same resources may still be served from the cache if the server specifies an appropriate caching policy. This is done to improve performance and reduce bandwidth usage. However, the browser will validate the cached resources with the server to check if they have been modified since the last request. If there are any changes, the browser will download the updated version.

In my personal experience, I have found the hard reload and empty cache options to be particularly helpful during web development and troubleshooting. When making changes to the code or assets of a web page, a normal reload may not always reflect the latest updates due to caching. By performing a hard reload, I can ensure that I’m seeing the most recent changes in action.

Similarly, emptying the cache and performing a hard reload can be useful when encountering persistent issues or strange behavior on a website. It helps rule out any potential problems caused by outdated or corrupted cached data.

A hard reload forces the browser to re-download all the resources for a web page, disregarding the cached data. It ensures the most up-to-date content is displayed. Empty Cache & Hard Reload takes it a step further by emptying the cache for the page, requiring everything to be re-downloaded. These options can be valuable for developers and users troubleshooting issues related to cached data.