The Best WordPress Caching Plugins and Why Testing Them is So Important

The Best WordPress Caching Plugins and Why Testing Them is So Important

Reducing the page loading time of your website pages improves your visitor’s user experience and reduces the chance of them hitting the back button on their browser. Search engines such as Google have also confirmed the speed of a website is a contributing factor in how they rank it in their search results, therefore it pays to have a fast loading website.

There are a number of ways in which you can improve the speed of a WordPress website, however a caching plugin will make the biggest difference. Caching is the process of creating a static HTML page of every page on your website. This means that visitors don’t need to retrieve data from your database, or execute PHP code, in order to display your page.

As a result of this, the number of your requests from your server greatly decreases. This also lowers CPU load and reduces the risk of bottlenecking.

Caching plugins boast many other features that can improve your page speed. These include CSS, HTML, and Javascript file minification, deferring the loading of Javascript to the end of pages, and GZIP compression. Some caching plugins also offer support for content delivery networks (CDNs) so that you can reduce server response times.

There are a lot of caching solutions available to WordPress users. In this article, I would like to show you what I consider to be six of the best.

  • WP Super Cache

    With more than 6 million downloads, WP Super Cache is by far the most popular caching solution available to WordPress users.

    This plugin offers three different options for speeding up your website: you can choose to use mod_rewrite to deliver static pages, serve static pages using PHP, or use a legacy caching mode that caches pages for logged in users.

    Don’t worry if this sounds complicated – WP Super Cache is one of the simplest WordPress caching plugins to use.

    The settings area is divided into seven sections: easy, advanced, CDN, contents, preload, plugins, and debug.

    I have used WP Super Cache on one of my websites in the past with the default settings, however the plugin does offer advanced settings such as page compression, dynamic caching, and a scheduler that allows cached pages to be deleted and re-cached at certain intervals.

    The plugin offers support for content delivery networks and has an option to load certain plugins before others so they load quicker. Pages are normally cached once a visitor lands on a page, however WP Super Cache allows you to preload all content on your website beforehand so that visitors are always served static pages.

    Interested in WP Super Cache?

  • W3 Total Cache

    W3 Total Cache is a highly configurable WordPress caching plugin that is recommended by many respected hosting companies. It supports content delivery networks, GZIP compression, and minification.

    This plugin’s settings area is split into a whopping 16 pages, which are then further divided into several sections (though a few of these pages are information pages). The number of configuration options available can be a little daunting, however the plugin should work out of the box. All you have to do is go to the General page and switch the option “Toggle all caching types” to “on”.

    W3 Total Cache has a dedicated settings page for each type of caching. This includes minification, page caching, database caching, object caching, and browser caching. The default life of cached objects can be changed in the settings area. You can also adopt different rules for user agents. For example, you could apply one set of rules to Android devices. Four premium extensions are also available for the plugin that further extend its functionality.

    While W3 Total Cache should work correctly out of the box, you may need to ask your hosting company for help in order to configure the plugin correctly. All good hosting companies should be familiar with the plugin, therefore they should have a lot of experience in using the plugin. Once you have configured the plugin to your liking, you can export the settings to another website you own using the plugin’s built-in import and export tool.

    Interested in W3 Total Cache?

  • WP Rocket

    WP Rocket is a new caching plugin released earlier this year. It is also the only caching solution in this article that can’t be downloaded free of charge.

    The plugin offers page caching, cache preloading, GZIP compression, and lazy image loading that ensures images are only downloaded by a visitor once the image is visible. HTML, JavaScript, and CSS minification are also supported.

    Like WP Super Cache, WP Rocket divides its settings area into seven sections. The plugin will function correctly after activation, therefore you don’t need to spend a lot of time configuring it. You can, however, choose what features are enabled and disabled.

    WP Rocket is one of the most user-friendly caching solutions available as there are no advanced settings to be concerned about. There is an Advanced Options tab, however this is only used for excluding pages and files from caching and minification.

    The plugin also has support for CDNs and your plugin settings can be exported to another website you own using the plugin’s import and export tool.

    A license for WP Rocket is available for $39 for one website and comes with one year of support and updates. A license for three websites costs $99 and is $199 for an unlimited number of websites. All licenses come with a 30 day money back guarantee.

    Interested in WP Rocket?

  • Hyper Cache

    Hyper Cache is a basic caching plugin that was specifically developed for websites that do not have a lot of available resources (e.g. those on shared hosting). It only has one settings area; which is divided into three separate pages.

    The General tab allows you to define the period that pages are cached and whether you want to enable page compression. The Bypasses tab allows you to specify pages to be excluded from caching. Cookies, user agents, and comment authors, can also be bypassed.

    The last tab relates to mobile settings. The plugin allows you to bypass caching for mobile devices or use a separate cache. You can also change the theme that is displayed to mobile visitors.

    Hyper Cache also supports 404 error page caching and works with plugins that add custom post types, such as bbPress.

    If you have tried another caching plugin and have been concerned about the load that it put on your server’s CPU, you may want to take a closer look at Hyper Cache.

    Interested in Hyper Cache?

  • WP Fastest Cache

    WP Fastest Cache promotes itself as being “the simplest and fastest WP Cache system”. The plugin uses mod rewrite in order to create static files on your website. It also offers minification, GZIP compression, browser caching, and an option for combining Javascript and CSS files together to reduce requests from your server.

    The plugin lives up to its reputation of being simple. It only has one small settings page with three tabs. The first tab displays settings, the second tab allows you to delete cache and delete minified files, and the third tab allows you to define the rate at which cached files are deleted.

    The settings tab lists all of the plugin’s features. All you have to do is click the checkbox for each feature so that it is enabled.

    Due to this simplicity, WP Fastest Cache has become popular with many WordPress users.

    Interested in WP Fastest Cache?

  • Quick Cache

    Quick Cache is a feature-rich caching plugin that supports caching of RSS feeds, 404 error pages, and get requests. It also supports browser caching and GZIP compression.

    This plugin helps beginners by displaying a long and detailed explanation about what each feature can and can’t do. This is a great addition to the plugin as most caching solutions assume that you know what each feature will do.

    A pro version of Quick Cache is available for only $15. It adds another 9 settings options to the existing 9. This includes additional options for logged in users, exclusion patterns, and a “Clear Cache” button in the admin bar. Import and export functionality is also added.

    Interested in Quick Cache?

What is the Fastest Caching WordPress Plugin?

With all WordPress plugin lists, readers want to know which is the best plugin. Or in the case of caching plugins, which plugins will improve their website speed the most. It is a difficult question to answer as there are so many factors to consider.

The page loading time produced by a caching plugin can be influenced by:

  • The type of hosting used (sharing, VPS, dedicated etc)
  • Whether the server has been configured correctly
  • Whether the cache plugin has been configured correctly
  • The number of images displayed on the page
  • The type of content displayed on the page (e.g. tables, videos, text etc.)
  • The number of CSS and Javascript files used by the theme and by plugins

These factors are why there are so many conflicting reports online about which WordPress caching plugin is the best. I could test all caching plugins and rank them one through six. Someone else could do the same on their website and rank the plugins in a completely different order.

This is perhaps why Kyle Robinson Young from Tutorial 9 found that Hyper Cache was the best caching plugin, while Kim Tetzlaff from Dashboard Junkie found that W3 Total Cache was the quickest.

Bhagwad Park from WebHostingHero found that W3 Total Cache was quicker than WP Super Cache if minification was enabled, but WP Super Cache was marginally quicker if it was not. More recently, WPSeer found that WP Rocket was quicker than WP Super Cache.

As you can see, different WordPress users are producing different results. In general, WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache seem to be the quickest in these tests, though the results are far from conclusive.

Therefore, the most accurate way of seeing which caching plugin will speed up your website the most is to test them yourself and compare the results.

GTmetrix Report
Testing the speed of your website using a benchmarking service such as GTmetrix is essential for knowing how a caching plugin has improved your page loading times.

The best way to test the performance of a WordPress caching plugin is to test your website performance using a speed benchmarking service such as GTmetrix (my favorite), Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Website Speed Test, WebPageTest, or YSlow.

First, test your website with no caching plugin activated and then test your website with your chosen caching plugin configured. In order to get an accurate result, test your website two or three times and then take an average score. This is necessary as benchmarking services tend to produce a slightly different result every time you test the speed of a URL.

You should also remember to clear the cache after activating or deactivating any other plugins during this period. This ensures that all active plugins are displayed in your cached files.

To give you a better understanding of how much a caching plugin has improved the speed of your website, you should test the following pages:

  • Your home page or blog index
  • A long blog post with many images
  • A short blog post with few images
  • A page (e.g. about page or contact page)

It may seem overkill to test four different URLs before and after activating a caching plugin, but it is the most accurate way of testing performance as caching plugins handle different types of pages in different ways.

You should also be aware that different speed benchmarking services will give different results. For example, GTmetrix might say that a page loads in 0.9 seconds whereas Google PageSpeed Insights might say it takes 1.1 seconds. To remove this issue from the equation, be sure to use the same service to test your pages before and after activating your caching plugin. Otherwise, your figures may be skewed.

Overview

If you are not already using a caching plugin on your website, I recommend installing one of the above plugins listed in this article. Doing this will cache your content and deliver faster loading pages to your visitors.

Those of you who already have a caching plugin activated on your website will be familiar with a few of the plugins shared in this article, however you may want to consider testing another to see if it performs better.

I have tested all plugins listed in this article, however I have only used W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and WP Rocket, on live websites. The quickest solution that I found for my own blog was W3 Total Cache, however I used the plugin in conjunction with four or five other optimization plugins in order to achieve that speed. On its own, I did not find W3 Total Cache to be any quicker than other solutions.

I currently use WP Rocket without any other optimization plugins installed and have been very happy with its performance. I also love how easy the plugin is to use.

If you are looking to further improve the speed of your website, you may want to consider using a CDN such as MaxCDN or Amazon CloudFront. For reference, WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, and WP Rocket, all support content delivery networks. Hyper Cache, WP Fastest Cache, and Quick Cache, do not.

Do you use a caching plugin? If so, which caching plugin have you had the most success with? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: Dan DeChiaro

58 Responses

    Andrew

    I’ve now tried Total Cache and SuperCache and had regular problems with both for no obvious reason on my multisite network. Total Cache would not clear the cache out properly on one site , but worked fine on the rest, whilst Supercache would work for ages, then randomly throw up white screens everywhere until I deleted the plugin and re-installed it! Why either of these happened, I never could find out.

    I’m currently on QuickCache which – so far – seems to be working fine. Still if it does break, at least I know I have other options.

      Kevin Muldoon

      I had problems with W3 Total Cache too. Earlier this year, at a point when I had been using the plugin for years, it started causing response errors. I had not changed the configuration options. It just started doing it. As a result of it, my blog was removed from search results for a few weeks and I lost a huge amount of traffic.

      I can’t fully blame W3 Total Cache specifically for this. Perhaps my host changed a setting, or perhaps I hadn’t set up W3 Total Cache properly.

      Though after switching to WP Rocket, I am not sure I would go back.

    everlind_black

    Nice article!

    I didn’t know WP Rocket, it seems interesting, I should try it. Regard the other, I think that Hypercache Reloaded is the faster, probably more adviced for blog/sites on Shared Hosting.

    While, for blogs on VPS or Dedicated Server, W3 Total Cache is better, because you can integrate other caching types and minification using Opcode Cache, like APC or Memcached.

    It will be interesting make some benchmark also with WP Rockey, to see how it performs.

      Kevin Muldoon

      I avoided talking about issues such as APC and Memcache in the article. I am aware of the terms and have had discussions with my host about these features in the past.Though I don’t have a lot of knowledge on them so was reluctant to talk about them in depth as I would have inevitably given bad advice!

      With WP Rocket, my overall score on speed tests went up, but my total loading time was still slightly faster with W3 Total Cache (though I had four or five other optimization plugins installed too).

        ben_harris

        You can’t really give bad advice about APC or Memcached. The are basically in-memory caches. Loading the cache files from memory is much faster than loading from disk, therefore, it will make serving cache files faster. Serving cache files faster = faster loading website :-)

        APC is easier to setup and occasionally available on shared hosting platforms. It’s good for single servers.

        In larger load balanced configurations, Memcached works better as the front-end web servers can share the cache. So a page which was cached on one server could be served by any of the other front-end web servers (as opposed to having to cache it on each server with APC).

    maxime_jobin

    I tried W3 Total Cache and it took me many hours to configure it properly and understand all options (as it was sometimes poorly documented). I found it poorly tested and found bugs and the Nginx configuration that proved me it has never been tested.

    Then, after finally debugging W3TC correctly, I met the WP Rocket founders at WordCamp Montréal. They convince me to try it. I installed the plugin the sameday and checked 5 checkboxes. That was it! My site is now faster and I don’t spend time configuring something that should work out-of-the-box.

    Try WP Rocket!! Totally worth it.

    david_swanson

    I spent an entire week testing W3 Total Cache and WP Super cache. PingDom and Google PageSpeed became enemies and best friends during that entire week. NOTHING! compared to one cache plugin. It blew W3 Total Cache and WP Super cache out of the water. I have over 2500 bench mark tests. From switching CDN on and off, minify on and off, database cache, etc, on and off. Tried every setting. Not only was this plugin the easiest to use, user friendly, and less likely to crash a novice users website, it was the FASTEST.

    It was WordFence Falcon. I was amazed. It has no CDN capabilities, minify, or object and database caching . But, ultimately it didn’t need it. It left the other plugins in the dust.

    I did add a lazy loader and add a few lines in .htaccess for image expiration to help my grade on Pingdom and Google PageSpeed but that was it. I got my score on PingDom from 63 to 98!!!!

    Definitely, do not take my word for it. Try it yourself. You will be amazed!

    lizardwebs

    Just did some testing with W3TC a couple of weeks ago after a server rebuild. I’ve used SuperCache, QuickCache in the past, but shied away from W3TC because of the complexity. I spent honestly several hours going through each setting – testing and retesting one by one to see the differences and truly learning what each setting was doing. After configuration, there was a load time change from 4.5 raw to 1.1 seconds with W3TC. This included using the Amazon CloudFront CDN which IS drop-dead easy to set up – though I do say to set it up as a generic mirror and NOT choose the specific Amazon CloudFront setup at least in W3TC. In comparison to SuperCache, W3TC was slightly faster on MY site for initial visits and considerably faster on return visits than SuperCache.

    Another one worth mentioning is the caching system with the also freebie WordFence which I have also tested and showed very good results. Here is a comparison with Raw, SuperCache and the WordPress Falcon engine. Unfortunately, I don’t have a direct comparison set of results for that vs W3TC (only so many hours I can devote to testing), but it was excellent out of the box with the 30-50x speed setting.

    My final take – using ANY caching is going to beat raw processing hands down. I think how you choose to configure each one though will be the final “Yup, THAT’S the one” decision.

    tesar_gusmawan7

    I think there is no much differences between those plugins if we talk about the caching function. They all create same html files to be loaded on viewers’ browser. But I think preload function is one feature that distinct WP Super Cache and W3TC from the other plugins. It seems heavier when loaded at the first time, but after that it is faster than just loading a cached page.

    I think large pictures and js is the main problem to load fast even if we use one of those plugins. Currently I am using W3TC because it provides more cache method (browser, database, page – I dont use object cache because it slows down admin page). But I am also using Cloudflare CDN, WP Optimize and Speed Booster Pack to completely optimize the website.

    I tested my site on tools.pingdom.com, the rank was 95/100, load in 800s ms though the page size was 3 MB without any customize optimizations.

      jean_baptiste_marchand_arvier

      Hi,
      You are right all the caching functions are the same no matter the plugin. But some have more features than others

      WP Rocket preloading function is really clever (disclaimer : I’m the cofounder).
      There are two preloading systems :

      – The first one is « on demand », when you click on « preload » cache. Our crawler robot will crawl your home page and all link founded to generate the cache files

      – The second one is much more clever and automatic. When you create or update a new post (page, or CPT), the cache associated (the home, the category) are cleared and automatically preloaded thank’s to an other bot. Then when you cache is expired, it will be automatically preloaded.

    Jim Walker

    Have to agree, Caching plugins are a “your mileage may vary” discussion.

    The best results are derived from your web hosts hardware, caching options and your choice of CDN.

    Choose a host with SSD drives and Google PageSpeed enabled. That simple combination will result in more dramatic improvements than any “caching plugin” will delivery, and without the plugin hassles.

    Choosing a big box host “for cheap” only to dedicate hours to caching plugins… not so genius IMHO. :)

    Marie-Aude

    I discovered Wp-Rocket four months ago and I’m now using it on all my websites. It’s very quick to implement, and extremely efficient.

    Compared to other plugins, it’s a piece of cake ot desactivate, it does not have the same security flaws (writable cache in 777) as some others… and they have a good support !

    David

    I tend to use a mixture of things to optimize my sites. It really depends on if I am using Genesis, of _s for the primary code base of the theme.

    I find that on my VPS units setting up Redis, and google pagespeed does wonders without much else. I have used the “speed booster pack” plugin to handle minification of the scripts, css, and to base encode my images for quick google pagespeed usage.

    If I am using something out of the box I have found less complications with AIO Cache (paid causes issues for me for some reason), and Quick Cache Pro (this is my go to one stop shop).

    As many have mentioned here memcache can be awesome if you know what you are doing. I set it up wrong on one of my sites in that it was purging to fast and it caused major slowdowns.

    I also find that if you turn on Photon in Jetpack and try and use memcache it causes misc issues. If the server is using redis or memcache I tend to stay away from Photon.

    David

    marshall_estes

    Having tested a lot of theme demos, one of the consistent bad grades is defer parsing of javascript from themes and plugins. Yet I can’t find anyplace in WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache to do that. If those settings are there in either one, please tell me where. Or recommend a plug in to do this.

    The other thing I see is leverage browser caching as a consistent problem. Yet using the caching plugins does not seem to fix this.

    marshall_estes

    8/22/14
    After testing WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache all day with less than spectacular results on either of them, I tried the Wordfence Falcon Engine. At first it was not great either. But after running some 6 tries per URL, the results have gotten consistenly down to about 1.25, 1.27 seconds on most of my tests.

    This is my real test URL though. It has an NGG gallery of 24 photos in grid as default plus a header image.
    http://www.fly-fishing-colorado.com/flyshopnew/fly-fishing-photos/

    GT Metrix Results on last test 85 and 84

    Pingdom from Amsterdam better than 54% of sites tested. This usually means that Dallas and NY will be much better
    Pingdom Dallas 83% and 1.35 load NY 83% and 1.33 load

    But Google was a real surprise
    Mobile 76/100 and User of 100/100
    Desktop 87/100
    And this is without any minification of CSS, JS, HTML

    Now to find a plug in that does that.
    And to defer js parsing and remove queries from static resources. lapalef has some code to do both. Which will be tested first since it goes in the functions.php file.
    http://www.laplacef.com/how-to-defer-parsing-javascript-in-wordpress/

    From what I can see the wordfence Falcon engine blows the other wordpress plugins out of the water.

    I would like to see the WPMU team test out the wordfence falcon engine and let us know what results you see.

    I surely have not seen these kind of results from using CloudFlare CDN

    marshall_estes

    Forgot the theme on the test was unite from colorlib. Which I don’t like quite as well as the Virtue theme from Cadence. These are both from the WPMU Blog posts on themes. With only my two security and database plugins active, they both test out very fast. The Virtue is easier to install a slider in the header since it is integrated. Unite uses an external plugin to do a carousel. I don’t recommend the Unite recommended carousel plugin as it is hard to set up.

    thehosst

    Newbie question please. Can a cache plug-in create an issue where the articles get deleted and just kept by the cache plug-in? I did update the plug-in and right after this, the content vanished and only the number of articles is showing, nothing in the articles dashboard section, nothing showing in the front, can the cache plug-in create this issue? I use WP Fast Cache, thank you

    flamenco

    Great article!
    As it happens, I’ve used many of these, although I haven’t leveraged CDN yet. As someone above said, mileage certainly varies.

    Super Cache works very well, and its interface, while large, is penetrable. On one site it had me swearing, because when doing programming and other edits, it proved very hard to see changes, even if deleting the cache repeatedly and checking lots of settings. It may have been the hosting, who knows?

    Total Cache also was very quick. I found the interface to be TMI, even though I’m pretty geeky.

    For now, I’m sticking with Hyper Cache, which is very quick, and very simple. I won’t need more until my traffic skyrockets. ;)

    I used Fastest Cache for awhile, too. The developer is very responsive, which is great, yet I think he almost goes too quick! I’ve run into little bugs more with that one.

    I was very intrigued by the Wordfence cache comments – I use its other functions, but the claims about its cache speed sounded too good to be true. Maybe I’ll turn that on now and give it a chance.

    One constant: every cache developer is certain that they have the highest speed! ;)

    Thanks, Dave

    marshall_estes

    @flamenco When you turn on the Falcon engine, you will loose the live traffic stats. I would not mess with the basic cache as the other WP plugins here are better. But my tests of the Falcon engine cleaned up a lot of my problems that still existed after install of W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. I believe part of the problem with the two WP cache plugins is the way my webhost is set up. The plugins can’t take advantage of some of their features.

    My load times on my main site home page http://www.fly-fishing-colorado.com with either W3 or Super Cache were still in the 2.25 to 2.5 range because of the large image slider I use. There are some 8 images set at 1170×500 with the images being slightly larger as base.

    Falcon made everything load faster. My last test yesterday was 1.61 sec with a 95% Page Load and a 83% YSlow from GT Metrix. This will of course vary depending where you are on the net.

    I have been using Wordfence for some years now but just started testing and using the Falcon cache engine.

      flamenco

      Marshall,
      Thanks for that info! Your story is also a good illustration of how complex caching is from host to host.

      Now I’m thinking that I’ll try Falcon on just one site, and see how it goes. It’s fun to have various things working and being able to compare them on the same host.

      Best, Dave

      flamenco

      Marshall,
      I just installed and tested Falcon on a modest-sized site without too much crazy stuff on it, and wow, blazing speed!

      Easy to set up, too. They do add to your .htaccess, but make that clear and give you a backup. I checked the actual added code, and it’s very clearly marked.

      Thanks a lot for the tip!

      Dave

    rajan_malla

    Wordfence Falcon engine is the best one currently for me. Before this, I was using WP Fastest Cache and previously Hyper Cache Extended with DB Cache Reloaded Fix. But Falcon turned out to be very fast for my blog compared to them. I am also using Cloudflare’s free CDN. Since falcon seems pretty decent now, do I need that CDN or not? Any suggestions? Thanks.

    cbunting99

    I came here to read the topic after visiting the rocket.me site.. I can tell you know, a cache plug-in doesn’t do it all.. And I can guarantee that the Rocket.met my get good ratings in ranks or speed tests, but they are telling you what OS of configuration they use.. I’ve spent months customizing and tweaking (http://mywpdev.com) just to make a faster loading, ranking site that wordpress.com, pagely and wpengine.. But believe, me, there is a lot more too it..

    stosun

    Hi,
    First of all, many thanks for your usefull article.
    I tried Wp Super Cache but I am not sure it works properly.
    I can see below notice ar below of view-source;

    When I enter FTP, I also see index.html.gz and index.html files for each page’s folder at Wp-content/Cache/supercache….

    But, when I test by any pagespeed site, I see the same figures like page size: 2.3MB, requests 150,160, loading time: 4- 5 s..
    Also, I see all orignal files at timeline.

    I also tired W3 total cache, I got same results, nearly.

    Is it ok, or something is wrong?
    Thanks at advance for your advice.
    Best regards

    cbunting99

    As I have eventually found out, getting hundreds of thousands of visitors, and tons of repeat traffic from players and top google rankings.. All 3 of the well known plugins, W3, Super Cache, Quick Cache and even WP Rocket, actually slow our site down.. I used to love W3 and Super Cache, and Autoptimize but autoptimize will create so many cache files over the course of a month that it can fill your hard drive..

    I no longer run any cache system on our sites, Just a Linode $20.00 VPS… And it’s way faster then it was with cache plugins or Zend Opcache.

    Fahad

    Some of I found:
    W3 Total Cache by Frederick Townes
    WP Super Cache by Donncha O Caoimh and Automattic
    WP Fastest Cache by EmreVona
    ZenCache by WebSharks, JasWSInc, and RaamDev
    WP Rocket by Jean-Baptiste Marchand-Arvier, Jonathan Buttigieg, and Julio Potier

Comments are closed.