How to Install and Configure W3 Total Cache

In our earlier article, we showed a way for users to Configure “All in one SEO Pack” WordPress Plugin. In this article, we will share with you a way by which you can configure “W3 Total Cache” WordPress plugin. This plugin was mentioned in our list of Highly Recommended WordPress Plugins. You can easily make your WordPress Blog pages load faster than before using this free guide. Make your blog withstand huge amount of traffic without compromising the performance.

W3 Total Cache Configuration

1. What is W3 Total Cache?

W3 Total Cache Plugin is the fastest and most complete WordPress performance optimization plugin. W3 Total Cache is a better alternative for WP Super Cache WordPress plugin. Using W3 Total Cache you can easily optimize the speed and user experience of your site with caching. W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by improving your server performance, caching every aspect of your site, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration. The latest version provides an option named “Network Performance and security powered by CloudFlare”. CloudFlare protects and accelerates websites.

Benefits:

  • At least 10x improvement in site performance (when fully configured: Grade A in YSlow or great Google Page Speed Improvements)
  • “Instant” second page views (browser caching after first page view)
  • Reduced page load time: increased visitor time on site (visitors view more pages)
  • Optimized progressive render (pages seem to load instantly)
  • Improved web server performance (easily sustain high traffic spikes)
  • Up to 80% Bandwidth savings via Minify and HTTP compression of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and RSS feeds.

2. How to install W3 Total Cache

First, deactivate and delete any other caching plugin you may be using (Like WP Super Cache). If you don’t do this then plugin will have issues upon activation. Installation is similar as of other plugins. Go to your WordPress admin panel, click on Plugins -> Add New then in the given search box search “W3 Total Cache”.

Click on Install Now and Activate it. You can choose another option – via FTP, first download the plugin, extract it and then upload it in to your /wp-content/plugins/ directory. Then activate the plugin, once you activated the plugin, you'll see a new menu option in your WordPress admin panel called “Performance”. Click on the Performance tab, and you'll enter into the configuration area of W3 Total Cache plugin.

3. How to Configure W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is powerful and very useful WordPress plugin, it offers enormous options.

Note: Remember to save all your changes.

  • General Settings:

Make sure you are on the general settings page. Confirm it by viewing two of these options:

There is an option to enable or disable preview, click on disable so the site is actually running W3 Total Cache rather than just previewing it.

The next option is Page Cache. Enable page cache to decrease your site load time. Your final setting for this area would look like this:

After the page cache, next option is Minify. Minify reduces size of your CSS files, JS files, HTML files, posts, pages, and RSS. This technique removes unnecessary data viz. white spacing, comments from the code, which increases your site load time by 10%. Your final screen result should look like this:

The next option is Database Cache. Often high load of database queries slows yours site down and/or crash the site upon high traffic. This option can essentially speed up your site by 100x. Your final setting for this area would look like this:

Coming to Object Cache which greatly increases performance for highly dynamic sites using the Object Cache API. Enable object caching to further reduce execution time for common operations. Your final setting for this area would look like this:

After the Object Cache, next option is Network Performance and security powered by CloudFlare. To get started sign-up to CloudFlare or if you have an account simply log in to obtain your API key from the Account Page to enter in the settings as shown below in the screen-shot.

Cloudflare settings in W3 Total Cache

Next option is Content Delivery Networks (CDN). W3 Total Cache supports MaxCDN, NetDNA, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud, and Amazon Cloud Front. This section will only apply to sites that are using CDN, or are planning on using CDN. We are using sub-domain (Mirror) as CDN. Sample screen of one who uses mirror as CDN would look like this:

Read: How to Setup your own CDN in 30 minutes

The next and last option on the general settings page is Browser Cache. It enables HTTP compression and adds headers to reduce server load and decrease file load time. The final screen will be like this:

  • Page Cache Settings:

You have enabled page cache, we will show you what other options that you can tweak. First you need to go to the Page Cache Settings page as like:

Now you will see the following options:

Make sure that you see ‘Page caching via disk (enhanced)’ is currently “enabled“. If you do not see this, then we bet you are doing something wrong. Go back to general settings and enable it. We have selected the option to not cache pages for logged in users such as administrators. The reason for that is, if we want to see any changes that we make on the live site before it goes live, we can do so. Next option is cache homepage. Homepage is often the most visited page on many sites. It would be a good idea to check that. Cache feeds, categories, and tags is checked because thousands of people go through our categories daily. We have selected the option to cache 404 pages.

Under the advanced options, we haven’t really touched the default. You can select to change the page cache to be longer or smaller interval. Default is 3600 seconds.

  • Minify Settings:

First make sure that it is enabled. We recommend that you follow the settings above exactly as shown. Each option is self-explanatory.

The noticeable thing here is the Help Wizard at the top which is a very nice feature that will come in handy when we see the CSS / JS Minify settings. We are not using minify feature of this plugin because it was causing havoc to our site. You are required to attach files, which you can do by either entering the URL of the file, or using the help wizard.

Once you select the files in there, you will see them added in the minify page below:

  • Database Cache Settings:

We recommend that you leave them as default. You do not need to modify it unless you know that your site needs additional modification. You can add pages there that you never want to be in the cache.

  • Object Cache Settings:

We recommend that you leave them as default. You do not need to modify it unless you know what you are doing.

  • Browser Cache Settings:

By default, only Gzip compression and Set W3 Total Cache Header is enabled, You have to enable Set Expires Header, Set Entity Tag (etag) for each option.

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