Photoshop vs. Adobe Bridge: Beware the Cache, the Cache Must Die!

dekePod Episode 014: At fourteen, dekePod is officially a teenager. So it’s fitting that the topic of this episode takes us into the somewhat adult and potentially salacious territories of sovereignty and privacy. I’m not talking cookies or spyware. Your trusted commercial software—the stuff you pay hundreds of dollars for—may be tracking your every move.

It’s like this: Despite the many warnings to the contrary, we tend to imagine that our computers acquiesce to our collective control. No software goes unchecked; no program reveals our misdeeds. And yet, these are exactly the sorts of treasonous acts that a certain group of programs—known as digital asset managers, or DAMs for short—are designed to perform on a daily basis.

Take as an example the worst offender, Adobe’s very own Bridge. While the Bridge is capable of reviewing hundreds of image thumbnails in a matter of minutes, it has to store those thumbnails somewhere, and that somewhere is known as the cache. Review enough thumbnails and the cache may grow to extraordinary sizes. A single cache file may be several gigabytes in size! Plus, the cache remembers everything you’ve seen. So much as glimpse a naughty image and its pixels become permanent members of the cache. Here’s the official marketing description:

If you use Photoshop, then you probably browse your images with Adobe’s Bridge, which shows you thumbnails of your files. Good news: The Bridge lets you preview images without going to the trouble of opening them. Bad news: Those previews result in large cache files that eat up your hard drive. Worse yet, they permit others to track what you’ve been looking at. Even if you’ve long since destroyed the original file, the thumbnail persists! Learn how to protect yourself—and maybe even save your job.

This eye-opening video shows several ways to locate and examine all CS3 and CS4 cache files on your hard drive. I’ll reveal the paths to these files (as well as how to search invisible and protected system files) in a future post. In the meantime, let me share this:

Top-Secret Tip: To entirely obliterate all cache files from inside the Bridge, choose Edit > Preferences (Mac users: that’s Adobe Bridge > Preferences), select Cache from the left-hand list, and click the Purge Cache button.

Bear in mind, that kills all cache files associated with that one and only one version of the Bridge. Which is why the video documents the more reliable and nuanced approach.

Suffice it to say, this is one of those rare insights that can save you from a lot of future pain. If you’re interested in downloading the video for future reference, try one of these links:

  • For a high-quality QuickTime movie, right-click here and choose Save Target or Download Link or the equivalent.
  • For an M4V file that you can play on an iPod, right-click here and choose one of those same commands.
  • Or you can subscribe to dekePod via RSS or iTunes.

You can also check out the page at my book publisher O’Reilly Media.

Quite obviously, the Bridge can be a nuisance if permitted to run amok. But lest you think it a bad program, it can be a godsend when put to proper use. (I myself use it almost every day.) To familiarize yourself with the Bridge, read Lesson 1, “Open and Organize,” from my bestselling book, Adobe Photoshop CS4 One-on-One. Or log onto and check out the eighteen movies in Chapter 2, “Open and Organize,” from my landmark video series “Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.”

Like an undomesticated pet, the exceedingly powerful Bridge is most inclined to submit to an informed user. By which I mean: You.

Next entry:Finally, I’m in Boulder for a Big Snow

Previous entry:Martini Hour 010, In Which Deke Apocalyptically Imagines a World of Layers inside Channels


  • My cache

    My Bridge cache is 34 GB, My Lightroom Cache is 50 GB my LT catalog is 40 GB Why? It’s very fast to preview it. I usually rebuild the catalog and check for consistency of the cache overnight and it works like magic. Not if you work on laptop.  I have many drives and some are assigned as cache drives only and some as companions for my RAM . 1 of them handles cache for Bridge, one for LT and one for PS and Premiere.  Bridge and Lightroom don’t crash with such configuration handling so many files.. Actually both programs are very stable which can’t be said if you keep photos in one folder. I used to have all of them in same folder. That was a disaster.  I couldn’t even cache all of them, now I try to keep max 200 photos in folder. That’s the best. During the caching process bridge don’t crash if you use 12 mb file for raw image and you have 24K images like I do. I also suggest to move the cache to other drive than system drive. Speed is guaranteed. If Adobe could change the whole process of caching and lets say able to read the files faster without cache that’s the way to go. They would have to embed some side file into dng or psd but at least we would get rid off such monster.

  • Thank you SOOOOOO Much !

    Wow, I am so happy you showed me this.  I’m not much of a techy, so at first I couldn’t locate the Bridge cache file in the system folders, but today, I went to save a template of File info .xmp and was curious where Photoshop was saving this file.  I looked at the path where the Metadata Templates were stored and found them on the PC under Drive C / Documents & Settings / Administrator / Application Data / Adobe .... and lo and behold, there was that ginormous Bridge CS3 cache folder taking up a whopping gig of precious space.  And I see that Bridge CS4 cache is already brimming well over a gig, so I emptied a lot of that one too, although no doubt it will fill up again by the end of the week.

    I am wondering why this folder isn’t set as a Temp folder, that automatically empties itself after a set period of time, that could be set by the user in Bridge’s preferences.  This would make far more sense because with someone like me, who has a bazillion images on my computer which I’m browsing constantly, the Bridge cache file can end up eating up all my precious hard drive space in no time flat.  I was both happy and ever so grateful that you showed us this tip, but ticked off at the same time that Adobe, knowing a graphic person’s insatiable need for hard drive space, would so gluttonously steal so much of it !!

    Thanks again for letting us know how to reclaim a few gigs of hard drive space !!!

  • Very NICE!

    Thank you! It’s always a good day when you can recover some hd real estate… 21gb for me!

    Keep them coming!


    My toys! My toys! I can’t do this job without my toys!

  • Great thanks Deke But,

    I have know idea where to find my cache on Vista windows, is it in Disk C program files?

  • Fantastic Advice

    Great article Deke

  • Sorry, man, I completely missed this one

    For CS4, the answer is:

    C:Users**you**AppDataRoamingAdobeBridge CS4Cache

    Where **you** is your user name.

    Can’t confirm CS3 b/c I don’t have CS3 installed on this particular machine. But you can. In the Bridge, choose Edit > Preferences, click Cache on the left side of the dialog box, and click the Choose button. It will show you the path to the folder.

    (You can also clear the cache without examining its size by clicking the Purge Cache button inside that same dialog box.)

  • Preview window instead of a PS window?

    I have a problem with Bridge on my MAC that I can’t find the answer to anywhere. I thought that emptying cache might fix it but it doesn’t.  When I have Photoshop CS4 open and then open Bridge, my understanding is that when you double click on a file it should automatically open in Photoshop.  More often that not, my file opens in a separate Preview window. When I check the “Open with” command in the menu bar, sometimes Preview is the default viewer and sometimes Photoshop is.  How do I make all my files automatically open with Photoshop?
    Hope you can help.


  • Make Photoshop the default application.

    I think when opening files in Bridge (or Finder), the problem is the same; each file or file type has a default application dedicated to opening it. The problem is how to change that, so that Photoshop, not Preview, is the target application. Open a directory that includes, for instance, a .png file, right-click and choose Info (on the Mac), select the button just after “Open with:”, choose Photoshop, click Change All, and close the Info window. (An alternate method is to right click on the file, choose Open With, choose Other, and THEN choose Photoshop. Unfortunately THAT method applies only to the single file, not to all files of that type. Use the first method!)

    In Windows the first method is similar, but the second method doesn’t exist. Find a file (.png, for example), right click, click open with, click choose program, choose the new default application, click the box that says “Alway use the selected program to open this kind of file”, and click OK.

    If Bridge associations are separate from OS associations… disregard!

  • kill the cache in CS2 too?

    Does all this apply to CS2 as well? If so, does anyone know how it’s done? Thanks


  • Killing the cache wasn’t enough

    I had a huge CS3 Bridge cache, almost 9 GB. I trashed it yesterday and Bridge couldn’t preview most of my images and kept crashing. Apparently the database can get corrupted and Bridge has no self-help resources. This article on Planet Neil from Brian Tao was my solution to get Bridge functioning again:

  • cashe

    I am going to find the monster and drive it out of my computer

  • CS4 Bridge Cache Purge—HELP

    When opening CS4 Bridge on my Mac, I receive a message “..unable to read the cache..please try to purge the central cache in cache preferences..”.  I’ve purged in both Preferences and under Tools—no luck.  It still keeps showing up every time I open Bridge.  Please help!!!

  • Reset the Bridge preferences

    Quit the Bridge. Then mash your fist on all the modifier keys (Ctrl+Shift+Alt or Cmd-Shift-Option) when restarting. Reset the prefs, the other two check boxes shouldn’t matter.

    That should solve the problem . . .

  • Bridge Automatically closes

    ... when I go to Edit>Preferences. Where can I find the folder manually on my system? And what’s up with my Bridge (CS3)?

  • CS2 cache

    Using CS2 on a PC. Bridge cache is more than 6GB. If I delete the folder (Bridge > Cache> thumbnails), have I lost anything of the original data or just the Bridge preview files? Presumably, all my original images remain intact, it just takes Bridge longer to create a brand-new thumbnail preview? In other words can I regularly delete the thumbnails files in Bridge without losing any original data?

  • Bridge Cache not deleted

    After struggling with c: disk size decreasing to eventually “0KB Free”, I just HAD to investigate further. Eventually, after deleting a few programs, this still wan’t enough, so my focus turned to Bridge.

    I had recently upgraded to CS5, and deleted CS4.

    Browsing around this morning, I eventually found the Bridge cache, for CS4 in a hidden folder!

    My laptop was 2 years old, and I had taken just a few photos, being a photographer. I was sure I had changed the cache options to “export to folders”, so the cache goes with the photos, yes?

    Anyway, if you have upgraded to CS5, or I guess upgraded from other versions, you need to:

    Show hidden files

    go to
    AppData (the hidden folder)
    Bridge CS whatever your old version was

    Delete this!!!!

    I would have thought the delete process would have deleted this, but no. So after 2 years of CS4, any guesses as to the size of the cache?

    43.4 GB

    I have my hard drive back!

  • I’ve been trying to find disappearing hdd space for a while. Someone recommended WinDirStat a free utility to show folder sizes. My Bridge cache is over 39 GB! Thanks Adobe :-(

    this comment has attachments awaiting moderation

Share your feedback, work, homages, questions, wisecracks, advice, critiques, riffs, derision (within reason), frustrations, and love of all things graphical. Log in (or register) to lend your voice.