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What are Temporary Internet Files?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 16, 2024
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When you access the Internet using your Internet browser software, the pages that you view are downloaded and stored as temporary Internet files. These files or pages are saved on your computer, in a folder within your browser software. Internet browser software is designed to locate the requested information and display it to the user. Within each browser is an index or history of all the pages that you have viewed, as well as a copy of the page. If the user returns to the same page during the same session, the downloaded page is displayed from the temporary Internet files.

This configuration provides faster access and reduces the unnecessary traffic when users are returning to the same page of information. These pages are stored on your computer and every Internet browser software has options to determine how long these files should be stored for. Check your settings in the preferences or settings option in your browser.

Although we refer to the Internet as one unit, web pages are stored on the individual website servers. Website hosting companies have server farms dedicated to ensuring their constant availability. Every time a browser is pointed to a particular website or web page, a request for the data is sent via the network connections to the Internet service providers computers, who then collect the information and pass it back to the requesting computer.

The user of temporary Internet files decreases this workflow for recurring requests. The browser software is programmed to look at the cache of temporary Internet files first, and then to request the information if it cannot be located. This function also allows users to view Internet pages "offline" or when not connected to the Internet.

Temporary Internet files have changed as technology has grown, and now includes cookies. Web cookies are text parcels placed on your computer when you access a specific website. These temporary Internet files are used to increase the response time for authentication, session tracking and preference maintenance. Cookies can also be used to track user activity and report back to the originator, providing insight into a users browser history. In response to consumer concerns, several countries have passed laws regarding acceptable cookie usage and places limits on the legal access to temporary Internet files.

The browser maintains the history of your web browsing in an index temporary file. These files may seem unimportant, but they contain data that is very valuable to a wide range of companies. Consumer research firms and other online companies who want to understand shopping trends, behavior and the effectiveness of various advertising techniques on the web are interested in accessing browsing history. By collecting this information, analysis could easily be done to adjust ad campaigns and techniques.

To remove these files, access the temporary files folder within your Internet browser software and then delete the files manually. There are several software products available to permanently remove files or modify them so that they are unusable.

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