5 Caching Plugins to Speed Up Your WordPress Site

Let’s face it: when it comes to browsing the internet, people have little patience. If your website is slow, you will not leave a good impression on your visitors, no matter how great your content is! A website that loads without unnecessary delays gets good marks both in terms of user experience as well as search engine rankings.

And, it is common knowledge that caching can help you speed up your website’s load times. So, which is the best caching plugin for WordPress? Yes, we shall attempt to answer this question in this article by taking a look at five of the top caching plugins.

Five Leading Solutions

1. WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache relies on a simple logic: it generates static HTML files based on the content of your blog, and each time that particular section of your blog is accessed, the static HTML file is served instead of actually calling numerous PHP scripts over and over again.

Content can either be served using Mod_rewrite which completely bypasses PHP or using PHP itself. A third option, legacy caching, is available for logged in users or users who are leaving comments.

WP Super Cache Settings Page

The interface of WP Super Cache surely has a steep learning curve to it, and it can be confusing for a beginner. Basically, the plugin puts the power in your hands: you are responsible for almost every aspect of its functioning. However, it does come with a good set of documentation and manuals, so you will not end up feeling clueless.

To begin with, you can specify the cache expiry time, as well as select the pages which shall be cached.

One of the most impressive parts about the plugin is that it works well with CDN Sync Tool. In fact, there is a separate page in the settings panel to help you configure your CDN settings, as shown below:

CDN Settings in WP Super Cache

CDN tool is essential if you want to speed up your website. Naturally, it is an added bonus if your cache plugin acknowledges the importance of CDN and can work alongside it.

Verdict

WP Super Cache is a very popular plugin, and is used by millions of WP users. If you are looking for a handy plugin that can help you speed up your website, and also satisfy the control-freak in you, WP Super Cache should be your first pick. On the other hand, if too many tweaks and configurations scare you (to be honest, there are many people who prefer a caching plugin that does not ask them multiple questions), WP Super Cache may not be the right choice.

  • Total Downloads (as of 29th March, 2013): 4,210,157
  • Last Updated: December, 2012

2. Hyper Cache Extended

Hyper Cache Extended is based on the original Hyper Cache plugin. The plugin maintains both plain and gzip compressed pages, and is an ideal pick for those with shared hosting plans having limited bandwidth. Hyper Cache Extended can redirect caching, perform 404 caching, and comes with compatibility settings for Global Translator.

Hyper Cache Extended Settings Panel

Unlike WP Super Cache, Hyper Cache Extended has fewer settings for you to tweak and configure. The settings page does not have multiple tabs (though it is divided into sub-segments). You can specify separate settings for mobile devices, as well as selectively turn off cache settings (for example, disallow caching on the homepage). Hyper Cache Extended inherits most of the functionality of its parent plugin, and you can check out the details about the latter here.

Mobile Settings in Hyper Cache Extended

Verdict

Hyper Cache Extended is a great pick if you need a simple plugin that helps you get the job done efficiently. As mentioned above, it is meant for those who are on shared hosting accounts with limited resources. For power users and advanced websites, WP Super Cache will offer more flexibility and prowess than Hyper Cache Extended.

Also, Hyper Cache Extended has not yet been tested for multisite configuration. Very clearly, this is not your ultimate solution for caching needs. Instead, it is more of a plugin that you can use if your blog is hosted on a cheap and less powerful server.

  • Total Downloads: 28,800
  • Last Updated: January, 2013

3. Quick Cache

The third plugin on our list, Quick Cache, relies on an intuitive caching mechanism to bring down the processing time of your pages. By default, Quick Cache does not show cached pages to logged in users or those who have left a comment. Plus, admin pages, login pages and other pages that you may specify are excluded as well. The plugin also has support for Sitemap auto caching.

Quick Cache has a simple Settings Page

Quick Cache has a good-looking interface and the options page is rather simple to configure. Unlike WP Super Cache and Hyper Cache Extended, Quick Cache does not present you with a lot of settings — instead, the configuration is basically a matter of yes/no questions:

  • Cache pages for logged in users? Yes/No
  • Allow double caching? Yes/No
  • Enable dynamic caching? Yes/No
  • And so on…

Verdict

Quick Cache does not aim to be a Swiss Army knife of the caching world. Instead, it intends to make the caching process simple, and it succeeds in its goal. You should consider using it if other plugins are proving to be too complicated and their settings pages appear nothing more than jargon to you. For all other advanced purposes, you will find Quick Cache to be too limited in operation.

  • Total Downloads: 406,143
  • Last Updated: December, 2011

4. DB Cache Reloaded Fix

DB Cache Reloaded Fix is based on the DB Cache Reloaded plugin (the patch adds support for WordPress 3.4 and beyond), which in turn is a fork of the DB Cache plugin. The plugin author claims to have made the new plugin “more secure,” though no actual security details are given. Still, given the fact that DB Cache Reloaded Fix is actually compatible with, and has been tested on, the latest versions of WordPress, it does rank higher than its parent and grandparent on the security scale.

DB Cache Reloaded Fix Settings Page

Unlike other HTML caching plugins, DB Cache Reloaded Fix relies on database caching. DB Cache Reloaded Fix ensures that your visitors always see the latest version of the given page. It also helps reduce server load.

DB Cache Reloaded Fix is one of the simplest caching plugins in terms of operation and customizability. The only things that you can specify using the settings panel include enabling/disabling of caching, time limit for expired cache queries, and some additional cache filters.

Verdict

DB Cache Reloaded Fix relies on database caching, and the improvements in page load times are noticeable. However,  I think the others on this list are better plugins. While DB Cache Reloaded Fix is a good plugin in its own right, for all advanced purposes, WP Super Cache (or W3 Total Cache, which we shall discuss below) should gain primary consideration. If you need a simple plugin, Quick Cache can suffice too. As a side-note, DB Cache Reloaded Fix has not been updated since WP 3.4 (reviews do claim that it works with version 3.5, by the way).

  • Total Downloads: 109,210
  • Last Updated: June, 2012

5. W3 Total Cache

With over 1,861,000 downloads, W3 Total Cache is an extremely popular plugin. It comes with progressive caching to load pages quickly. The plugin claims to save as much as 80% of your bandwidth by using minify and HTTP compression of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.

Instead of disk caching, W3TC relies on memory caching, which can give you better results. However, it also means that the plugin requires a good deal of resources to work with, so if you are on a shared platform with limited resources, W3 Total Cache is probably not meant to serve you.

W3 Total Cache can work along side your Content Delivery Network to enhance your website’s overall performance. The plugin is compatible with BuddyPress as well. To learn more about its features, check this out.

Verdict

Memory caching is not something you can expect every host to provide: if you are on a shared hosting package or have limited resources at your disposal, don’t bother considering W3 Total Cache. In fact, on certain “free” web hosts, if you attempt to install and run W3 Total Cache, your account might be suspended for using excess resources. Of course, you will not use a free host for your website, but this can give you a fair idea about the plugin’s requirements.

That said, if your server resources allow you to do so, go ahead and check out the plugin, because it can really do wonders for your website and is one of the most recommended caching plugins out there!

  • Total Downloads: 1,861,822
  • Last Updated: February, 2013

Also Worth A Look…

  1. MO Cache: Used for caching translation files on a localized WP installation (in a localized installation, translation files can account for as much as 70% of load times).
  2. WP Widget Cache: Can help in caching the widgets on your blog and reduce the number of queries to your database.
  3. Lite Cache: One of the smallest caching plugins with gzip compression.

Conclusion

So, which of the above five plugins should you use?

Well, the answer depends on your needs, and WPMU has already attempted to answer this question here. However, I shall try to simplify the answer below:

Simplicity+Ease of use = Quick Cache

Customizability+Popularity = WP Super Cache

Loads of Resources+Customizability = W3 Total Cache

If you need more than that, you can check out some mind-numbing numbers benchmarks here. Plus, FolioVision has a decent article about their experiences with various caching plugins.

Which caching plugin do you use? Have your say in the comments below!

*Featured Image: lokiv7

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Comments (20)

  1. Great article, Sufyan bin Uzayr. At some point in the past year I have worked with these plugins, and your recommendation in the conclusion of your lesson is what I have discovered as well.

    I currently don’t use a cache plugin, only because I’m analyzing the load times of my new host provider. Also, my content is very minimal at this time.

    Thank you for your in-depth explanation. I didn’t know much of this before I read it.

    Best,
    Kevin

  2. I find it interesting to see that you mentioned W3 Total Cache last when it’s so popular.

    One thing I’ve learnt today is that W3 Total Cache uses memory caching. Since I’m using a shared hosting, I might have to take note of that issue.

    Thanks for the article!

  3. here newest newbie: Can we use Wp super cahe and W3 total cache at the same time. I’ve tried them all separately but my site is loading in 5-7 seconds. What’s the catch. Is it due to my internet connection or PC? How can i check my site loading time?

    • No – don’t use WPSC and W3TC at the same time – you’ll have issues – assuming the site even works anymore. You can check your site performance with Firefox using the YSlow plugin (you’ll also need Firebug).

      • Thanks for the reply. I don’t have Firefox. what solution do i ahve with Google chrome. Or should i nstall Firefox and uninstall chrome? What do you think about the lighting fast servers from Hostzilla $175 ? it is supposed to reduce your page loading time and increase traffic by 8-10. is it a scam.

  4. Thank you for this great list! Based on the recommendation for shared hosting (BlueHost), I installed Hyper Cache Extended and received the following message. What is the best way to proceed?

    The WordPress cache system is not enabled!
    Please, activate it adding the line of code
    define(“WP_CACHE”, true);
    in the file wp-config.php just after the define(“WPLANG”, …).

    • As instructed, open the wp-config.php file and add that line anywhere within the PHP tags. It should take only a few seconds, but must be done manually if the caching plugin doesn’t do it for you or if your permissions do not allow the wp-config file to be edited automatically by the plugin.

      • Thanks for your reply, Shawn. I’m concerned about seeing “WordPress cache system is not enabled!” because other cache plugins haven’t given this message. So I’m hesitant to tinker with the config file. Is this edit applicable only to the Hyper Cache Extended plugin?

        • Any plugin that integrates the caching using the WP-exposed methods (as opposed to CDN-related stuff, for example) will require the WP_CACHE true added to the wp_config file. It’s not really difficult and most plugins today do it for you – if the appropriate rights are available.

  5. I tried several cache plugins. All except Quick Cache were too complicated for me, and some did not want to play nicely with sine qua non Jetpack.

    Quick seems to do a good job. I have not attempted to measure the difference it makes, but it certainly feels faster than not using a cache.

    http://www.hjcs.org (hosted on the lowest-price non-free plan on atspace.com).

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