Google Chrome: hard reload vs. normal reload
The Google Chrome web browser supports multiple options when it comes to reloading or refreshing a web page.
The reload button is probably the most popular choice when it comes to reloading web pages considering that it is the only option visible in the browser's UI.
But clicking on the button is not the only option that Chrome users have. The Chrome keyboard shortcuts listing over on the Google website includes two reload options for instance: normal reload and hard reload.
What's the difference between normal and hard reloads in Chrome, and is there a third option? Let's find out.
Chrome reload options
Google Chrome supports three different reload functions:
- Normal reload
- Hard reload
- Hard reload with cache clearing
Normal reload is the most straightforward function to explain. You activate it with a click on the reload button or with the keyboard shortcuts F5 or Ctrl-R.
Google Chrome uses the cache of the browser in this case but will validate the cached files during page load to make sure only resources that the server returns a 304 not modified response for are loaded from cache.
Hard reload is not exposed directly in the UI of the browser. You activate the function with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-R, Shift-F5, or by holding down Shift before you activate the reload button.
Chrome ignores the cache and will load all resources from the web page again.
Google Chrome supports a third reload option and a somewhat hidden reload menu as well. You need to open the browser's Developer Tools with the keyboard shortcut F12 first as it is a prerequisite for it.
Right-click on the reload button afterward to display the reload menu. It includes the empty cache and hard reload option that you may use. What it does, is clear the browser cache before the hard reload is activated.
Tip: Most web browsers support regular reloads and reloads that bypass the cache. The keyboard shortcuts mentioned above should work in most of them.
When is it appropriate to use a hard reload or a hard reload with cache clearing? Hard reloads are useful if you want that all resources are downloaded from the browser. This may be in expectation of an update, during development or corruption of the cache.