In computers and other electronic devices, a cache is a portion of memory or disk space that’s designed to help speed up the user experience by storing frequently used files in either memory or mass storage for more immediate access. Typically, the most common caches include the memory cache and disk cache.
1. Memory Cache
While memory caches aren’t the type of cache we typically think about, these caches serve a vital role in computing. As memory such as the RAM in your system, SRAM in CPUs, or VRAM in GPUs, is orders of magnitude faster than mass storage such as HDDs or SSDs, the memory cache allows the memory to store commonly accessed code or code that’s about to be used so that it can be loaded and executed quickly.
2. Disk Cache
Whereas memory caches are caches of data stored in memory, disk caches are simply caches of data stored on the disk. While memory caching is always preferred for the best performance, memory is usually not only expensive, but is also limited in capacity and typically doesn’t store data persistently. As a result, data such as that from the browser cache or temporary file cache is better off stored on a disk cache.
The most commonly known cache is the browser cache. The browser cache is a cache for internet browsers such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, etc. The browser cache stores webpage data such as HTML, CSS, images, etc. locally on your system so that data doesn’t need to be re-downloaded from the website’s servers thereby helping the webpage load faster and reducing the amount of bandwidth used.
Generally, the browser cache is a disk cache as the data is stored on the non-volatile disk, but for those with high performance systems with large amounts of memory, the browser cache can be set to use memory as well.