Make Safari faster: Clear Safari’s cache, cookies and history

There are a lot of things that just don’t go wrong on the Mac, like Windows BSOD (blue screen of death) or computer viruses and worms. Still, anyone who’s been on the fairer platform for more than few days is acquainted with the hated spinning cursor — here’s how to prevent perhaps the most common causes of the beach ball of death.

Buried amongst Safari’s many, many of features are a handful of tools that can help you keep Apple’s WebKit-based browser running smoothly and beach ball free. Because I live my life online and consume massive amounts of information, I do these three tasks at least once a week, though those with more modest online appetites can probably get along just fine cleaning up Safari’s cache, cookie and history once a month.

Clear the those cookies!

If you’ve ever called your internet service provider complaining about poor performance, it’s likely whomever answered the phone walked you through the process of clearing your cookies. For whatever reason, cookies can cause Safari to hang intermittently and locating the offending one can be well nigh impossible.

That said, it’s a lot more efficient to clear the lot:

1.) In the Safari menu, go to Preferences (Command + comma)

2.) Lion: Click the Privacy tab

— Snow Leopard: Click the Security tab, then click Show Cookies

3.) Lion: Click “Remove All Website Data”

— Snow Leopard: Click “Remove All,” then click Done

Not sure if you running Lion, Snow Leopard or an earlier version of Mac OS X? From the Apple menu click “About This Mac” — Version 10.7.x is Lion and version 10.6.x and earlier  use the Snow Leopard directions.

Clear that cache

When you surf the Internet, Safari automatically caches web pages and images in temporary storage for easy repeat access and faster page loads, which is perhaps more important for those on dial up versus those on broadband. Regardless of your connection type, regularly dumping the contents of this folder can greatly improved performance:

1.) In the Safari menu, select Empty Cache (Command + Option + E)

2.) A dialog box will appear, click Empty

Clear History

I don’t believe clearing your history will improve Safari performance, but regularly removing references to the less savory websites you’ve visited can’t be a bad thing. Think of it like keeping your feet toe jam free — it just feels good.

1.) History — Clear History

2.) Click Clear (note the option to simultaneously clear Top Sites)

One more thing

I strongly suggest that you perform these three actions on a regular schedule (ie set up a recurring iCal event to remind yourself). Thereupon, when you’re done clearing the cookies, cache and history, you should notice a palpable improvement in Safari after logging out and back in, or restarting your Mac.

Know a nifty little trick for keeping your Mac running smoothly? Share your tip and a link in the comments below…


  1. Criminy says

    I want to delete cookies from certain websites… not from ALL websites. What I have found since I have had OS Lion is that in my Privacy Tab, sometimes the cookies appear and sometimes they don’t. I cannot figure out what is going on that makes them appear sometimes… and then other times the Privacy Tab remains totally blank.

    I wish I knew.

    • Taylor says

      Sometimes they show up because they are in use. If you recently visit a site, the cookies show up, but many are designed to fail after a certain period of time. It’s also probably just a weird thing that happens if *none* of them show up when there should be.

  2. Bob says

    Thanks much. This is very timely. (Actually, I wish I had seen this when I bought my Mac three years ago. Thanks again.

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