What is caching?
Caching means temporarily storing recently used information. E.g, if you go back to a site you recently visited,
your browser stores those files in the cache and can serve them from there instead of getting everything from the site again. Obviously then, caching means improved load times.
A caching plugins saves HTML files and serves them from the cache whenever a request is made, rather than loading all of the PHP scripts from WordPress every time. Now you know.
Which one to choose?
I am going to be looking at the two most popular free caching plugins. WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache. They can both be downloaded from the links provided here. I will show you how to install and configure both, then you can decide which one you prefer.
Let’s look at how they compare:
WP Super Cache: is the most popular caching plugin. It is very easy to configure. The only downside is that some conflicts with other plugins and themes have been reported.
W3 Total Cache: this plugin can do it all. It is trusted by some pretty important websites in the WordPress world and beyond. The only negative is that because it can do so much, the number of configuration options can be downright terrifying to the average user.
Installing and setting up WP Super Cache
First, download the plugin from the link I provided above. Or in your WP Dashboard go to Plugins–>Add New and search for WP Super Cache. Once it is downloaded and installed (and network activated, if you have a multisite), go to Settings–>WP Super
In the Easy tab, turn Caching On and the Update Status.
Next, under the Advanced tab, you’ll find:
Here, make sure all the (Recommended) settings are enabled.
The other tabs are of no importance to us at this moment, so once you have done the things mentioned, we are all set.
Installing and setting up W3 Total Cache
Of course, it is important to first deactivate the previous caching plugin first. Once that is done, you can install W3 Total Cache from the link I provided above, or by again going to Plugins–>Add New and searching for W3 Total Cache. Once it is downloaded and installed (and network activated, if you have a multisite), you will now see a new Performance item in your Dashboard. Click on that, and you should see:
Now: As you can see, and as mentioned before, the number of settings options for this plugin can be a little scary. I am only going to be looking at the basic settings here in the General tab.
The first thing to do is to Enable Preview mode. You can click on the Preview button that has now appeared every time you change the settings. This allows you to see the changes you make without impacting your site.
Under Page Cache, we obviously want to enable that. If you are on shared hosting, as I am, Disk: Enhanced is your best option.
Go down to Browser Cache. This is where you can configure how the user’s browser
should handle your pages and page elements, and how much information should be cached on the client side.
Under the Performance menu in the Dashboard, go to Browser Cache and make sure everything is checked as in the image below. Remember to Save all settings:
Go to the top of the page, where you will see this block. Click deploy and you are done:
Which one you choose, is up to you. Why not install each and then check how they impact your page speed? I use GTMetrix and Google’s PageSpeed Insights to test this site’s speed. I personally use WP Super Cache on this site, but your results may differ. SO: test both, to make an informed choice.
Have fun with WordPress!