Beginner’s Guide to Install and Setup W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin

Fed up with low speed of your site that decreases your website traffic? W3 Total Cache is the best WordPress plugin to overcome this problem. Read this step-by-step guide and see how you can set it up and configure on your site.

Search engines consider site speed as an essential factor to rank website or blog post higher in search results. This is the reason we at BforBlogging share tips to optimize site load speed to a maximum level.

Doing that, we have noticed that caching our site helped us improve our site speed as well as balancing huge spikes in traffic. We have picked W3 Total Cache to optimize the performance of your WordPress website or blog.

Page speed is also very essential when it comes to SEO optimization. As there are many cache plugins are available in WordPress. But besides all of them, W3 Total Cache is one of my favorite.

There are lots of good things about the W3 Total Cache plugin. It is a bit similar to WP Super Cache, but with more options. However, if you are planning on using a CDN (Content Delivery Network), then W3 Total Cache plugin is great.

In this article, I will show you how to install W3 Total Cache and set it up correctly to maximize the benefits. Before you begin, I highly recommend that you check the performance of your site by using Pingdom Tools and Google Page Speed. This will provide you a before and after comparison. Now, let’s get started with the setup of W3 Total Cache. But before that let’s see what W3 Total Cache is.

#What is W3 Total Cache?

W3 Total Cache is the quickest and a complete WordPress performance optimization plugin. This plugin is trusted by many famous sites including AT&T, Smashing Magazine, and millions of others.

W3 Total Cache optimizes the user experience of your site by enhancing your server performance, caching every factor of your site, decreasing the download times and delivering transparent CDN integration.

How to Setup & Configure W3 Total Cache?

how to setup and configure w3 total cache wordpress plugin

#Installing W3 Total Cache

First off, visit your WordPress admin panel and click on PluginsAdd New. Here, search for W3 Total Cache. Once find it install it activate the plugin.

install and active w3 total cache plugin

Note: If you already have WP Super Cache or any other WordPress cache plugin make sure you uninstall them first.

#Settings and Configuration of W3 Total Cache

As W3 Total Cache is a very powerful plugin, it also has tons of options. This could be a good thing or bad thing. For those webmasters who knows how to use these options, they are a gold mine.

However, there are few beginners, for whom these options could be quite confusing and tricky too. Don’t worry if you are stuck I will visit each and every of these options in detail, so you can correctly set up W3 Total Cache. Let’s start with the general settings.

#General Settings of W3 Total Cache

Once you installed the plugin and activated it, you can go to the General Settings page by clicking on the Performance menu tab in your WordPress admin panel. This is where you will set up the plugin by configuring basic settings.

As I have mentioned, I will show you each of the settings in detail.

#1. Page Cache

The very first option you see on this page is Page Cache. This option is responsible for creating static cache pages for each page that is loaded, so it is not dynamically loaded on each page load. By having this option enabled, you will significantly decrease page load time. Refer to the image below.

Select Page Cache Options:

  • Cache front page
  • Cache feeds: site, categories, tags, comments
  • Cache SSL (https) requests (Only if your site runs with HTTPs protocol)
  • Don’t cache pages for logged in users

configure general settings of w3 total cache plugin

All these settings are usual which are found in plug and play installations of the WordPress’s Super Cache plugin. By default, all these essential settings are checked. All you need to do is review these settings and move to the next setting.

#2. Minify

Minify reduce the size of sites’s static files to save you each single kilobyte that you can. However, few times generating that minified file can be more resource intensive than the resource it will save. I am not saying it is a horrible function. I am just saying that it might not be the best fit for every server.

Select Minify Options:

  • Rewrite URL structure
  • Disable minify for logged in users
  • HTML minify settings – Enable
  • HTML minify settings – Inline CSS minification
  • HTML minify settings – Inline JS minification
  • JS minify settings – Enable
  • CSS minify settings – Enable
  • CSS minify settings – Combine Only

configure minify settings of w3 total cache wordpress plugin

I have seen some users complaining about it, and their host, HostGator recommended us to leave this off. If you are like them (Not Savvy with server lingo), then listen to your web hosting provider.

Apart from that talking about setting this function up, by default all the necessary settings in Minify are plug and play. However, if you are not using a CDN, then disable Automatically Upload Modified Files.

#3. Database Cache

Database cache cut down the server load by caching SQL queries. This gets rid of the processing time of querying the database.

Many of the webmaster claim that when they started using this, it seemed to put a lot of load on their server. Their host recommended us to turn it off. Instead, they ended up turning on the built-in SQL caching for them.

Again, utilize this option at your own risk. You can try it out and see how it affects your site load time. Then simply turn it off, if the effect is not significant enough. Most of the hosting service providers don’t recommend this for shared hosting accounts. Refer to the image below and check out the image.

configure database cache settings of w3 total cache plugin

#4. Browser Cache

Each and every time a user visits any site, their web browser downloads all the CSS files, images, Java Scripts, and few other static files in a temporary folder to enhance the user experience. Like this when the same user goes to the next page, this will load much quicker because every static file was already downloaded in user’s browser cache.

Browser Cache option in W3 Total Cache sets the time limit on the Browser Cache. Think if you don’t change your site’s logo every day, having static files like that cached for 24 hours does not hurt you. Just check the Enable within Browser Cache option and click Save all settings button.

Select Browser Cache Options:

  • Set Last-Modified header
  • Set expires header
  • Set cache control header
  • Set entity tag (ETag)
  • Set W3 Total Cache header
  • Enable HTTP (gzip) compression
  • Don’t set cookies for static files
  • Apply HTTP Strict Transport Security policy (If site runs on HTTPs Protocol)

configure browser cache settings in w3 total cache plugin

As you can see in the above image, I have pretty much enabled everything except for the 404. When you save the settings, all the settings below on that page will immediately take of itself.

#5. Extensions

One excellent thing about W3 Total Cache supports for extensions. This plugin offers extensions for some great WordPress theme & plugin like Yoast SEO, CloudFlare.

So if you want to enable multiple extensions, then select Bulk Actions from the top left the corner, and this will list you all the plugin and theme name. Refer the below image.

activate extension of w3 total cache wordpress plugin

There are many options in this plugin are plug and play. If you follow this steps which I have listed above, you should have no issues in setting up this plugin.

Using W3 Total Cache plugin in addition to a CDN will help considerably reduce the load time of your site. If your site is faster, this means better ranking and a better user experience as well. If you are using CDN but no Cache plugin then you need to start using that today.

Also Check Out: How to Uninstall W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin

Now that you have everything to setup, it is great to create a backup for W3 Total Cache Configuration on your site. After all, we went through lots of things in this article. All you need is to come back to your W3 Total Cache’s General Settings Page. You will find one section for Import/Export Settings. Tap to download the configuration file from your server.

I hope that you found this article useful. Now, tell me which cache plugin are you using for your site? Don’t forget to share your experience with W3 Total Cache in the comments below.

Any question?
Ask here, and I will get back to it very soon.

  • Giorgio Panicucci

    Excellent tutorial. I own a VPS at Rosehosting and I followed this guide to speed up my WordPress site. Keep up the good work buddy!