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Do these two things do the exact same thing?:

  1. Pressing the F5 key
  2. Clicking on the address bar (giving focus to it), then pressing ENTER key

I am asking this because I'm experiencing that the first method takes more time to refresh the page in Chrome. On the contrary, in Firefox, the first method takes less time to refresh page.

Please answer for the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted
  1. F5 (Reload/Refresh) resubmits the current request, including any POST (submitted form) data. The browser cache will be used.

  2. Pressing ENTER in the address bar makes a new request for that URL. Form data is not resubmitted. The browser cache will be used.

I'm not sure why there is a performance difference between Chrome and Firefox with these two methods. I suspect this is down to differences in their caching mechanisms.

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While w3d's statement that both F5 and enter will use the cache is technically mostly true, it is misleading. The devil is in the details.

When pressing enter, the browser may load any resources from cache without rechecking them depending on the expiration time (http Expires header) and other http headers. This means that most resources can be loaded as quickly as the disk or RAM can respond, potentially less than 1 ms if the resource is in RAM.

Pressing F5, on the other hand, will always send a request to the server with an If-Modified-Since request header with the timestamp of the currently cached version of the resource. The server will then either respond with a 200 OK status code followed by the data, or a 304 Not Modified status code. For a static resource, this will most likely be a 304 status and the browser will load the resource from cache. In other words, the browser is not allowed to load the resource from cache until it's gotten a response from the server. So when pressing F5, even though the resource might not be fully retransmitted, the load time of the resource is still subject to network latency and the server's response time. This could take 50-100 ms or more per resource.

This behavior can be observed with the network function of the browsers' built-in development tools. You can open the development tools yourself by pressing control+shift+I, selecting network and observing what happens when you reload the page in the different ways. In Chrome, you will see that when pressing enter, resources loaded directly from cache will have status 200 OK and size (from cache). In Firefox, resources loaded directly from cache are not even shown in the network view. When pressing F5 on the other hand, requests are sent to the server for all resources, which will mostly respond with a 304 status.

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