W3 Total Cache Plugin Review: Is It A Better Cache Plugin for WordPress?

W3 total cache plugin Free
W3 Total Cache Plugin Review: Is It A Better Cache Plugin for WordPress?

Product Name: W3TC

  • Performance
    (4)
  • User Interface
    (4)
  • Setup & Configuration
    (3)
  • Features
    (4)
  • Support
    (2)
  • Pricing
    (2)
3.2

Summary

Do you want to easily optimize your WordPress site for speed and high performance? Then, install W3 total cache as it provides you excellent features like minify, browser caching etc to speed up your loading times.

Looking for an honest W3 Total Cache Plugin review? 

Well, you came to the right place. Yes, today it’s all about W3 Total Cache.

If you’re curious to know about the best cache plugins, this post is for you where we’ll review one of the most popular caching plugins W3 Total Cache plugin (W3TC).

We believe in testing and experiments. That’s why we made this review post super practical. We have experimented with W3 Total Cache in various scenarios.

To learn the true potential of W3TC, We have experimented with W3 Total Cache on heavy WooCommerce type pages. The results shown in this review are 100% transparent. 

We will also see how WP Rocket & LightSpeed Cache performs compared to W3 Total Cache Plugin.

We have been experiencing bad loading times for a while, but we are delighted to share that we have achieved a 100% performance score. (Not with W3TC)

we have achieved a 100% performance score
Reason for 100% Performance Score: WPX Hosting & WP Rocket

We recently moved to WP Rocket. The reason for this update is hidden in this review.

In this detailed W3 Total Cache review, let’s talk about:

  • W3TC performance test results
  • How WP Rocket & LiteSpeed cache performs against W3TC
  • W3 Total Cache (Free vs Pro)
  • The CDN options for W3TC
  • The support system of W3TC
  • W3 Total Cache best settings
  • And more.

So without any delay, let’s jump into details.

Quick note: Go through the entire W3 Total Cache plugin review. Otherwise, you will miss a lot of crucial information.

Caching & W3 Total Cache Plugin Introduction

Let’s review the caching concept first. Then we will dive into the W3 Total Cache plugin review.

What is Caching?

In simple words, Caching is a process in which files are saved in temporality storage called Cache. Whenever a request is made by CPU/Server, these files will be processed from the Cache rather than their original location. Because of this, the file transfer time will be reduced drastically.

A cache is an area in the computer’s memory that stores recently used information.

How Does a Caching Plugin Work?

When a site is cached, caching plugins save dynamically generated HTML files in the Cache and serve them whenever a request is made instead of reloading the entire scripts from WordPress.

Here’s what it looks like;

what is caching

The Need for a Caching Plugin like W3TC

Caching plugin does not just improve a website’s speed. But, it also removes the possible elements that affect your WordPress website’s core web vital metrics.

Core web vitals is one of the primary factors of the Google Page Experience ranking algorithm that includes three important metrics: LCP, CLS, and FID.

Based on the score of these metrics, Google will determine how good is the Page Experience of a website page. If your website scored poor, then forget top positions in Google search results.

since the last June, Google has been started considering core web vitals as a rank factor

You can always assess your website’s core web vitals score with the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. 

In case the Google PageSpeed tool shows the following core web vitals errors: remove unused JavaScript, eliminate render-blocking resources, preload key requests, reduce initial server response time, minify javascript, etc.

Then it’s time for immediate action. In other words, it’s time to install the performance optimization plugin (WP Rocket or W3TC) and a high-powered web hosting like WPX.

Yes, for a 100% performance boost, both high-powered web hosting, and a robust performance optimization plugin are mandatory. 

So, in a nutshell, the main benefits website owners/bloggers get by installing a caching or performance optimization plugin are:

  • Fast Loading Time
  • Healthy Core Web Vitals
  • Good SEO Ranking
  • Smooth User Experience on all devices
  • Improved server performance
  • Reduction in Bounce rate
  • Less load on server & bandwidth savings
  • High Score in Google PageSpeed Insights & other website performance analysis tools.

Read: WPX Hosting review: Honest & Unbiased

Read: WP Rocket Review (With Speed Test Included)

What is W3 Total Cache Plugin?

W3TC is one of the most downloaded caching and performance optimization plugins of all time. It is currently available for WordPress users in both free and pro versions. 

When you search the “cache” keyword inside the WP plugin repository, you will always see W3 Total Cache in the top 3 positions. 4.5 stars rated, one million-plus active installations is the proof of the reliability of this performance-boosting plugin.

After installing this plugin, you will see a dramatic improvement in your website loading time and your website’s Core web vitals metrics score.

W3 Total Cache Plugin Features List:

90% of the time, W3TC free version features are enough. The free version is capable of optimizing the website performance by up to 80%.

Let’s have a look at the W3 Total Cache free version features:

  • GZIP compression to optimize web browser rendering
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) support
  • Secure Socket Layer (SSL) support
  • Caching of search results pages, that is, URLs with query string variables
  • Caching of database objects in memory or on disk
  • Caching of objects in memory or on disk
  • Caching of fragments in memory or on disk
  • Minification of posts and pages and feeds
  • Browser caching
  • Non-blocking JavaScript embedding
  • Import post attachments directly into the Media Library
  • Support for Content Delivery Networks (CDN), which helps in speed
  • Compatible with CloudFlare to boost your website loading times
  • Minification of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files
  • Lazy loading for Images
  • WebP image conversion (through extension)

If you’re wondering why you should use the W3TC plugin for WordPress sites, here are a few strong reasons.

  • Browser caching
  • Minification of posts and pages
  • To enable GZip compression 
  • To enable lazy loading and WebP conversion
Quick note: We will talk about the W3 Total Cache Pro version in the later section of this post.

W3 Total Cache Plugin Review: Honest & Unbiased

w3 total cache plugin review

It’s time to test the capabilities of the W3TC plugin. So let’s dive into the unbiased review of the W3 Total Cache Plugin:

The W3 Total Cache Review “Short Version”

We have created this section for users who are always in a hurry. We have experimented with W3 Total Cache a lot. This is the summary of all experiments & our views on the W3 Total Cache Plugin:

Ratings:

  • Performance – 4/5
  • User Interface – 4/5
  • Setup & Configuration – 3/5
  • Features – 4/5
  • Support – 2/5
  • Pricing – 2/5

Remarks:

  • W3 Total Cache failed to score better than LiteSpeed Cache Plugin & WP Rocket Plugin. 
  • W3TC has never been successful in improving the LCP core web vital metric score
  • W3TC could not be able to remove these high impact errors: Eliminate render-blocking resources, Image elements do not have explicit width & height, Largest contentful paint image was lazily loaded, and Ensure text remains visible during Webfont load.

Read: WP Rocket Review 2022: Is It Worth Paying For?


How We Tested the W3 Total Cache Plugin

In this tutorial, we will share the results of 3 tests we had performed on the W3 Total Cache plugin in various scenarios.  

On 2 out of 3 tests, we used our 2nd website: makeblogging.com, which is running on WPX hosting. We used our friend’s website running on Hostinger’s shared web hosting for the last test.

Our WPX hosting-based website is partially optimized. We meant WPX Hosting did a great job by default. But still, few optimizations needed to happen, and these optimizations could only be possible with a performance optimization plugin. 

But that is not the case with our friend’s shared web hosting. This website’s hosting provider is not that powerful, so there is a lot needed to optimize for the W3TC plugin.

In a nutshell, if you want to know the true potential of the W3 Total Cache plugin, don’t skip the result of test number 3.

These are the following test results you are going to find in this post:

  1. A general before and after W3TC plugin test result
  2. WooCommerce based website and W3TC plugin testing result 
  3. Shared hosting and W3 Total Cache plugin testing result

For these tests, we have enabled the following essential W3 Total Cache plugin settings

  • Page Caching
  • Minify
  • Database Cache
  • Object Cache
  • Browser Cache
  • Fragment Cache
Quick note: We haven’t integrated the W3 Total Cache Plugin with CDN for all performance tests.
Quick note: We have also compared the test results of WP Rocket and W3TC plugins. Don’t forget to check them from W3 Total Cache vs WP Rocket section.

Test Result: Before & After Installing a W3 Total Cache Plugin

This test was implemented on makeblogging.com, which is running on WPX hosting. Although this website is partially optimized due to the WPX hosting, a few errors still need to go.

To reduce such errors, we installed the W3 Total Cache. 

Let’s see the results.

Google PageSpeed Insights Results:

google pagespeed test 1 results - situation before installing a w3 total cache plugin
Situation before installing the W3 Total Cache Plugin
google pagespeed test 1 results - situation after w3 total cache plugin
Situation after W3 Total Cache Plugin
Performance Metrics & ErrorsBefore W3 Total Cache PluginAfter W3 Total Cache Plugin
Score82 (Mobile), 98 (Desktop)84 (Mobile), 98 (Desktop)
FCP2.6 seconds (Average)2.6 seconds (No improvement)
Speed Index5.2 seconds (Average) 2.6 seconds (Improved)
LCP3.2 seconds (Average) 3.7 seconds (Increased)
Time to interactive3.7 seconds (Good/Passed)3.5 seconds (Improved)
Total Blocking Time180 ms (Good/Passed)40 ms (Improved)
Cumulative Layout Shift0.04 (Good/Passed)0.04 (No Change)
ErrorEliminate render-blocking resources: 1.58 SecondsImpact Increased
ErrorReduce initial server response time: 1.39 Seconds (High Impact)Resolved
ErrorEnsure text remains visible during Webfont loadNo change
ErrorLargest Contentful Paint image was lazily loadedNo change
ErrorDoes not use passive listeners to improve scrolling performanceNo change
ErrorImage elements do not have explicit width and heightNo change
ErrorFirst Contentful Paint (3G) 5190 msNo change
ErrorAvoid an excessive DOM size – 886 elementsAvoid an excessive DOM size – 883 elements (Impact Reduced)
ErrorMinimize main-thread workNo change
ErrorNot FoundReduce Unused CSS: 0.15 Seconds (New Error)
Google Page Speed Report – Before & After Installing a W3 Total Cache Plugin

GTMetrix Results:

gtmetrix test 1 results - situation before installing a w3 total cache plugin
Situation before installing the W3 Total Cache Plugin
gtmetrix test 1 results - situation after w3 total cache
Situation after W3 Total Cache Plugin
Performance Metrics & ErrorsBefore W3 Total Cache PluginAfter W3 Total Cache Plugin
Overall Performance Score92%91% (Reduced)
Structure Score89%90% (Improved)
LCP1.5 Seconds (Aim is 1.2 Seconds)(Impact Increased)
Total Blocking Time (TBT)0 ms (Passed) 0 ms (No Change)
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) 0 (Passed)0.09 (Passed)
Fully Loaded Time (Page)2 Seconds1.9 Seconds (Improved)
Total Page Size745 KB299 KB (Improved)
Total Page Request6029
ErrorReduce initial server response time: 760 ms (High Impact)No Change
ErrorDon’t lazy load Largest Contentful Paint imageNo Change
ErrorUse passive listeners to improve scrolling performanceNo Change
ErrorAvoid an excessive DOM size: 886 elementsNo Change
ErrorEliminate render-blocking resourcesNo Change
ErrorNot FoundAvoid large layout shifts (New Error)
GTMetrix Report – Before & After Installing a W3 Total Cache Plugin

Pingdom Results:

pingdom test 1 results - situation before installing a w3 total cache plugin
Situation before installing the W3 Total Cache Plugin
pingdom test 1 results - situation after w3 total cache plugin
Situation after W3 Total Cache

Test Conclusion:

The explanation isn’t required. You should already get it. But let me sum up the test results.

Based on the reports of Google PageSpeed, GTMetrix, and Pingdom, here is our summary:

  • Caching has enabled now – Main advantage.
  • LCP (core web vital metric) time has increased – A major disadvantage
  • The page size, as well as page requests, has been reduced significantly. Due to this, the server’s health and response time have improved.
  • Apart from that, the errors that existed earlier are still there.

In a nutshell, we expected more from the W3TC plugin. The 82 to 84 mobile score in Google PageSpeed insights is not considered a significant improvement. Besides, the LCP score was supposed to decrease, but instead, it has increased. 

Yes, we ran our website multiple times in all these performance testing tools. But the results were the same.


Test Result: W3 Total Cache & WooCommerce Plugin

We had performed this test on the webpage of the same WPX hosting website. But this webpage included 100+ WooCommerce products, which made it heavier.

we used this woocommerce web page for testing w3 total cache

We did this because we wanted to know the true potential of the W3 Total Cache Plugin. 

The results were unexpected. 

Google PageSpeed Insights Results:

google pagespeed test 2 result - situation before installing a w3 total cache plugin
Situation before installing a W3 Total Cache Plugin
google pagespeed test 2 results - situation after w3 total cache plugin
Situation after W3 Total Cache Plugin
Performance Metrics & ErrorsBefore W3 Total Cache PluginAfter W3 Total Cache Plugin
Score55 (Mobile), 80 (Desktop)86 (Mobile), 97 (Desktop)
FCP2.8 seconds (Average)2.8 seconds (No Change)
Speed Index11.1 seconds (Poor)2.8 seconds (Huge Improvement)
LCP3.3 seconds (Average)3.1 seconds (Improved)
Time to interactive4.1 seconds (Average)3.9 seconds (Improved)
Total Blocking Time430 ms (Average)140 ms (Huge Improvement)
Cumulative Layout Shift0.501 (Poor)0.026 (Huge Improvement)
ErrorReduce initial server response time: 6.04 seconds (High Impact)Resolved
ErrorEliminate render-blocking resources: 1.2 Seconds1.73 Seconds (Impact Increased)
ErrorReduce unused CSS: 0.4 SecondsNo Change
ErrorDefer offscreen images: 0.15 SecondsNo Change
ErrorEnsure text remains visible during Webfont loadNo Change
ErrorLargest Contentful Paint image was lazily loadedNo Change
ErrorDoes not use passive listeners to improve scrolling performanceNo Change
ErrorImage elements do not have explicit width and heightNo Change
ErrorFirst Contentful Paint (3G) 5490 msNo Change
ErrorAvoid an excessive DOM size of 1,449 elementsAvoid an excessive DOM size – 1,447 elements (Impact Reduced)
ErrorMinimize main-thread work 3.3 sResolved
Google Page Speed Report – W3 Total Cache & WooCommerce Plugin

GTMetrix Results:

gtmetrix test 2 results - situation before installing a w3 total cache plugin
Situation before installing a W3 Total Cache Plugin
gtmetrix test 2 results - situation after w3 total cache
Situation after W3 Total Cache Plugin
Performance Metrics & ErrorsBefore W3 Total Cache PluginAfter W3 Total Cache Plugin
Overall Performance Score48%52% (Improved)
Structure Score85%86% (Good)
LCP4.6 Seconds (Aim is 1.2 Seconds) (No Change)
Total Blocking Time (TBT)91 ms (Passed)1 ms (Huge Improvement)
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)0.18 (Average)0.09 (Huge Improvement)
Fully Loaded Time (Page)5 Seconds5.5 Seconds
Total Page Size555 KB365 KB (Reduced)
Total Page Request7373 (Reduced)
ErrorReduce initial server response time: 760 ms (High Impact)No Change
ErrorDon’t lazy load Largest Contentful Paint imageNo Change
ErrorAvoid an excessive DOM size: 886 elementsNo Change
ErrorAvoid chaining critical requestsNo Change
ErrorAvoid large layout shiftsResolved
GTMetrix – W3 Total Cache & WooCommerce Plugin

Pingdom Results:

pingdom test 2 results - situation before installing a w3 total cache
Situation before installing a W3 Total Cache Plugin
pingdom test 2 results - situation after w3 total cache
Situation after W3 Total Cache Plugin

Test Conclusion:

We believe you have seen how bad was the performance of the WooCommerce web page before the W3 Total Cache Plugin.

By the first test, it isn’t easy to estimate the true potential of W3 Total Cache because that test was performed on a regular light-weighted web page.

But from this test, all cards are opened.

So based on the reports of Google PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix, and Pingdom tools, here is our summary:

  • Caching has turned on now – The main benefit.
  • Because of this, there is a significant improvement seen in page loading time (Speed Index – 11s to 2.8s).
  • The page size and page requests have been reduced. Due to this, the server is now able to respond quickly. And TBT gets decreased.
  • The bad CLS (unexpected layout shifts) caused by WooCommerce products is now gone.
  • No improvement in LCP core web vital metric

To sum up everything in one line, we would like to share that we are happy with the W3 Total Cache plugin performance on the WooCommerce products-loaded web page.


Test Result: W3 Total Cache on Shared Web Hosting

This test was most demanded by new bloggers who had uncertainty about W3 Total Cache performance.

As we all know, Shared web hosting always lacks in performance, so it is a must to install a high-powered performance optimization plugin to these websites. 

In other words, plugins like W3 Total Cache could significantly optimize the performance and speed of shared web-hosted websites.

We have seen how well W3TC performed with WooCommerce. Let’s see if the story is still the same or not.

Google PageSpeed Insights Results:

google pagespeed test 3 results - situation before installing a w3 total cache plugin
Situation before installing a W3 Total Cache Plugin
google pagespeed test 3 results - situation after w3 total cache plugin
Situation after W3 Total Cache Plugin
Performance Metrics & ErrorsBefore W3 Total Cache PluginAfter W3 Total Cache Plugin
Score59 (Mobile), 82 (Desktop)72 (Mobile), 90 (Desktop)
FCP1.8 seconds (Good)3.1 seconds (Increased)
Speed Index5.7 seconds (Average)3.1 seconds (Huge Improvement)
LCP2.9 seconds (Average)3.1 seconds (Increased)
Time to interactive8.5 seconds (Poor) 6.2 seconds (Improved)
Total Blocking Time1,140 ms (Poor)(Huge Improvement)
Cumulative Layout Shift0.074 (Good)(Improved)
ErrorReduced unused JavaScript (High Impact)No Change
ErrorReduce initial server response time (High Impact)Resolved
ErrorServe images in next-gen formatsResolved
ErrorAvoid serving legacy JavaScript to modern browsersNo Change
ErrorImage elements do not have explicit width and height (High Impact)No Change
ErrorAvoid an excessive DOM size (High Impact)No Change
ErrorMinimize main thread work (High Impact)(Impact Reduced)
ErrorFirst contentful paint (3G)No Change
ErrorServe static assets with an efficient cache policyResolved
ErrorReduce JavaScript execution timeNo Change
ErrorNot FoundEliminate render-blocking resources (New Error)
Google Page Speed Report – W3 Total Cache on Shared Web Hosting

Test Conclusion:

After analyzing the results, We should appreciate the efforts W3TC put up to boost the performance of this shared web hosting. The hike from 59 to 72 is good, not excellent. 

Here is the summary of test 3:

  • The error – Serve static assets with an efficient cache policy has now disappeared. It occurred because of the absence of caching.
  • The improvement in speed index (loading time) from 5.7s to 3.1s is remarkable.
  • Because of the reduction in page size and number of page requests, the TBT metric has been improved. Plus, the server response time is also optimized.
  • W3 Total Cache enabled lazy loading on images. Due to this, the error of “serve images in next-gen formats” is gone.
  • LCP remains impacted

You may be doubting W3TC capability, but only shared web hosting should be blamed in this test. If this website were hosted on WPX high-powered hosting, the results would differ.

We believe you have gone through the test results of WPX based hosting website & W3 Total Cache plugin. If not, navigate to test 1 and test 2 results section.


W3 Total Cache vs WP Rocket – A Performance Test

People have always been confused regarding the performance of WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache Plugin. 

We have already published the in-depth WP Rocket vs W3 Total Cache comparison. But with this section, we will be trying to sort out the confusion between these two popular performance optimization plugins.

Do you remember we stated this point – “We moved to WP Rocket from W3TC” at the start of this post? 

Well, The primary reason for this switch is performance

Let’s start with test results. Then we will talk a bit more about choosing WP Rocket over W3 Total Cache.

Comparing WP Rocket & W3 Total Cache Performance Test Results

We believe you have already gone through test number 2, where we have attempted the W3 Total Cache performance test on the WooCommerce products loaded web page.

We had also attempted the performance test on that same web page with the WP Rocket (without CDN) plugin. 

The results were surprising indeed.

Google PageSpeed Report

google pagespeed report - wp rocket performance test result
WP Rocket performance test result
Metrics PerformanceWP RocketW3 Total CacheWinner
Score91 & 9786 & 97WP Rocket
FCP2.6 s2.8 sWP Rocket
Speed Index3.0 s2.8 sW3 Total Cache
LCP2.6 s3.1 sWP Rocket
Time to Interactive3.4 s3.9 sWP Rocket
Total Blocking Time90 ms140 msWP Rocket
Cumulative Layout Shift0.0260.026WP Rocket
Google PageSpeed Test 2 Results – WP Rocket vs W3TC

Metrics Performance: 

  • Score: 91 & 97 (WP Rocket), 86 & 97 (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • FCP: 2.6 s (WP Rocket), 2.8 s (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • Speed Index: 3.0 s (WP Rocket), 2.8 s (W3TC) – Winner: W3 Total Cache
  • LCP: 2.6 s (WP Rocket), 3.1 s (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • Time to interactive: 3.4 s (WP Rocket), 3.9 s (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • Total Blocking Time: 90 ms (WP Rocket), 140 ms (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • Cumulative Layout Shift: 0.026 (WP Rocket), 0.026 (W3TC) – Winner: Tie

WP Rocket’s performance metrics scored far better than W3 Total Cache. Further, it eliminated these errors which W3TC couldn’t able to do so:

  • Eliminate render-blocking resources – Eliminated
  • Reduce unused CSS – Eliminated
  • Ensure text remains visible during Webfont load – Eliminated
  • Largest Contentful Paint image was lazily loaded – Eliminated
  • Image elements do not have explicit width and height – Eliminated
  • Avoid an excessive DOM size – Reduced the impact

GTMetrix Report

Have you ever scored 100% in the GTMetrix report? Our mind was blown away by the performance of WP Rocket.

We just achieved this milestone, and all the credit should go to WP Rocket. Further, it has eliminated all the errors. Yes, there is no need for improvement.

GTMetrix report - wp rocket performance test result
WP Rocket performance test result
Metrics PerformanceWP RocketW3 Total CacheWinner
Score100%52%WP Rocket
Structure95%86%WP Rocket
LCP501 ms4.6 sWP Rocket
TBT0 ms1 msWP Rocket
CLS00.09WP Rocket
Fully Loaded Time (Page)1.5 s5.5 sWP Rocket
Total Page Size296 KB365 KBWP Rocket
Total Page Request2473WP Rocket
GTMetrix Test 2 Results – WP Rocket vs W3TC

Performance Metrics:

  • Overall Performance Score: 100% (WP Rocket), 52% (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • Structure: 95% (WP Rocket), 86% (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • LCP: 501 ms (WP Rocket), 4.6 s (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • TBT: 0 ms (WP Rocket), 1 ms (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • CLS: 0 (WP Rocket), 0.09 (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket

Page Details:

  • Fully Loaded Time: 1.5 s (WP Rocket), 5.5 s (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • Total Page Size: 296 KB (WP Rocket), 365 KB (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket
  • Total Page Request: 24 (WP Rocket), 73 (W3TC) – Winner: WP Rocket

Pingdom Report

Don’t you believe in Google PageSpeed and GTMetrix performance reports? Here is another tool performance report that claims the reliability of WP Rocket.

Like GTMetrix, the Pingdom report has shown a significant reduction in loading time, page size, and requests.

Pingdom report- wp rocket performance test result
WP Rocket performance test result
Metrics PerformanceWP RocketW3 Total CacheWinner
Performance Grade B 85C 80WP Rocket
Page Size1.1 MB1.3 MBWP Rocket
Requests97136WP Rocket
Load Time694 ms11.5 sWP Rocket
Pingdom Test 2 Results – WP Rocket vs W3TC

We must say W3 Total Cache is good, but there is no comparison of the WP Rocket plugin. Its performance level is unmatched.

Quick note: We have been using WP Rocket on our three websites. We have shared the performance test result on this WP Rocket review post

Why We Moved to WP Rocket from W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is undoubtedly the ultimate free performance optimization plugin. 

Things can be worked out with W3 Total Cache if your site is hosted on a powerful pre-optimized web server like WPX. You can achieve up to 80% optimization.

However, as your site load increases, you will require a premium performance optimization plugin.

100% optimization could only be possible with the premium solution. And when we talk about premium, you might be wondering about W3TC pro and WP Rocket. The main benefit of WP Rocket over W3TC pro is pricing and simple configuration.

WP Rocket comes almost at half the price of W3TC pro. People who want to avoid watching dozens of tutorials for configuring complex settings of W3TC cannot have a better option than WP Rocket.

Let’s see the top reasons for which we have switched our all websites from W3 Total Cache to WP Rocket:

  • For quick setup, less technical hassle & extra performance
  • For accessing the premium support assistance
  • For extra features missing from the W3TC, including Database optimization, Google Fonts optimization, JS Deferring, DNS prefetching, Lazy Loading (Advanced), and more.
  • To eliminate the need for extra optimization plugins. WP Rocket has been offering features of 4-5 plugins into one single package.
Quick note: Find more information about WP Rocket vs W3TC in this WP Rocket vs W3 Total Cache guide.

W3 Total Cache vs LiteSpeed Cache – A Quick Comparison

LiteSpeed Cache is another popular free plugin. This plugin comes up at the first position when we search the “cache” word inside the WP plugin repository.

With 3 + million active installations and features such as Object caching, Image optimization, Minifying, Browser cache, Database cleaner, etc., the plugin is giving tough competition to W3 Total Cache.

Compared with W3TC, LiteSpeed Cache offers these additional features, including Database optimization, Google Fonts optimization, Image Optimization, and iFrame lazy loading.

Let’s see the test results to determine if LightSpeed Cache is worth it.

Comparing LiteSpeed Cache & W3 Total Cache Performance Test Results

This test is also being experimented on the same WooCommerce products-loaded web page.
After analyzing the results, we have to say that LiteSpeed is ahead of W3TC but still behind WP Rocket’s performance.

google pagespeed report - litespeed cache performance test result
LiteSpeed Cache performance test result
Metrics PerformanceLiteSpeed CacheW3 Total CacheWinner
Score87 & 9886 & 97LightSpeed Cache
FCP2.6 s2.8 sLightSpeed Cache
Speed Index3.4 s2.8 sW3 Total Cache
LCP2.7 s3.1 sLightSpeed Cache
Time to Interactive3.5 s3.9 sLightSpeed Cache
Total Blocking Time220 ms140 msW3 Total Cache
Cumulative Layout Shift0.0260.026Tie
Google PageSpeed Test 2 Results – LiteSpeed Cache vs W3TC

Like WP Rocket, LightSpeed eliminated the below errors that W3TC failed into:

  • Eliminate render-blocking resources – Eliminated
  • Reduce unused CSS – Eliminated
  • Ensure text remains visible during Webfont load – Eliminated
  • Largest Contentful Paint image was lazily loaded – Eliminated
  • Image elements do not have explicit width and height – Eliminated
  • Avoid an excessive DOM size – Reduced the impact

However, a new error appears under the Google PageSpeed report – Reduce initial server response time.


W3 Total Cache Free vs Pro

We don’t think that W3 Total Cache Pro would be worth it, neither features-wise nor pricing-wise.

The extra features you would be getting with W3TC pro are: 

  • Caching Statistics 
  • Fragment Caching
  • Full site delivery (CDN)
  • Rest API caching
  • Extensions support
  • Lazy load for google maps.

The W3 Total Cache pricing is a big concern. The W3TC Pro would cost you $99/year for a single site. Still, you would have to pay extra for each support query. Unlike WP Rocket, there is no unlimited site-based plan available here.

You have to buy ten separate licenses if you have ten sites on which you want to plug in W3TC pro.

Quick note: Spending $99/year dealing with complex configurations would be awful. Instead, you can always go with WP Rocket and achieve a 100% performance score in tools like GTMetrix and Google PageSpeed for just $49/year

One good thing about W3TC Pro is CDN deliverability. However, we don’t think paying extra for CDN is worth it because these days, almost every web hosting company enables CDN by default.

(WPX hosting is one of them. We are using it. The unique thing about WPX hosting is these guys aren’t charging a penny for the lightning-fast CDN/Cloud environment).

Related: WPX Hosting Review


Views on W3 Total Cache Support System

Because W3TC is a free plugin, you have to depend on the WordPress forum, plugin documentation, and YouTube tutorials to sort issues after the W3 Total Cache Plugin installation.

The pro version has premium support options. Besides paying $99/year for W3TC pro, you would still have to pay for each support query. It is pathetic and will dry your pocket completely.

w3 total cache support options with pricing

If you are willing to spend this much on a premium performance plugin, why don’t you invest in WP Rocket ($49/year) and save your pocket?


CDN supported with W3 Total Cache

The direct integrations facility with the top CDN services of the market is available for both W3TC Free & Pro users. All big names are here: StackPath, MaxCDN, Amazon S3, and whatnot.

w3 total cache CDN options

However, the Cloudflare CDN direct integration is missing. But you can connect the W3 Total Cache Plugin with Cloudflare through the extension. The steps for this task are mentioned in the FAQ section of this post.

Quick note: Integrating with Cloudflare free CDN doesn’t make a massive difference in performance. You can subscribe to Cloudflare premium if you want to see good results. Or upgrade your web hosting to those companies who are offering free CDN. The best example of such hosting is WPX

Things We Like About W3 Total Cache

There is plenty of good stuff regarding the W3 Total Cache Plugin. We would like to appreciate these few things of W3TC in this W3 Total Cache review.

Pros

  • W3TC has shown tremendous performance results. Despite a free plugin & in the absence of CDN, we would be happy to admit that W3 Total Cache can optimize websites of any type up to 80%.
  • It Supports basic to all kinds of advanced caching techniques. It is rare to find a free plugin that supports more than 2 or 3 caching types.
  • Despite its complex configuration, you can find documentation and free tutorials on its official website.
  • The direct integrations for CDN services are given.

Anything We Don’t Like About W3 Total Cache

Cons

  • 100% optimization is a dream
  • The majority of the W3 Total Cache plugin audience is more likely to be beginners or newbies. But the configuration & settings are not suitable for them in any way.
  • Compared to WP Rocket
  • Important optimization features are missing: database optimization, font optimization, and prefetch of DNS for external resources.
  • The support system is the worst.
  • Expensive
  • The lifetime plan is missing.
  • There is no direct integration available for Cloudflare. Hence it is hard to configure W3TC with Cloudflare.

Are there any Alternatives to W3 Total Cache

Here are the top 3 popular alternatives to W3 total cache.

  1. WP Rocket
  2. LiteSpeed Cache
  3. WP Super Cache

Read: Best WordPress Backup Plugins To Use In 2022

Let’s briefly talk about each one of them.

WP Rocket

WP Rocket would always be the first alternative for all performance enhancement & caching plugins, not just W3 Total Cache. Over 1,367,000 users are already using this tool.

WP Rocket stands out from W3TC and other plugins in the following: ultimate performance, fast 1-minute setup, support system, data optimization functionality, font optimization, advanced lazy loading, developer-friendly, less pricing, and more.

LiteSpeed Cache

LiteSpeed Cache can be considered a W3 Total Cache alternative when “free” things matter to the users. LiteSpeed cache is one of the only free plugins which offers features like Database Optimization and Google Fonts optimization.

WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache plugin generates static HTML files from your dynamic WordPress blog in order to serve custom cached files tailored to your website visitors browsing from different locations.


Configuring W3 Total Cache for Maximum Performance

First of all, you should deactivate and delete the caching plugin if any you are already using on your blog. I deactivated and deleted the WP Super Cache plugin from the BloggersPassion plugin section.

Go to the Plugins section from your WordPress admin panel and click Add New. Make a search with W3 Total Cache in the search box and the very first result will be for this plugin.

Or you can simply download this plugin from the WordPress.org plugin directory here.

W3 Total Cache Best Settings

In this section, you are going to learn: how to configure the W3 Total Cache for the best performance. 

We will try to help you with it through the exact steps that you need to follow and will also be sharing the screenshot that make the things a bit easier for you

After W3TC plugin activation, navigate to Performance > General Settings and then follow along.

General Settings Page

General: Preview Mode: You should keep preview mode as disabled (which is by default disabled, so don’t enable it)

disable the preview mode of w3 total cache

Page Cache

  • Page Cache: Enable
  • Page Cache Method: Disk Enhanced
enable page cache - w3 total cache plugin setup

Page Cache method can be basic or enhanced for shared hosting. The enhanced method performs much better than the basic mode. The enhanced mode uses the .htaccess file while basic mode does not use that. If you are getting errors while using the Disk enhanced caching method, you should switch to basic mode.

Minify

  • Minify: Enable
  • Minify Mode: Auto
  • Minify Cache Method: Disk
  • HTML minifier: Default
  • JS minifier: JSMin (default)
  • CSS minifier: CSS Tidy (if face problems use Default
enable minify - w3 total cache plugin settings

You should use other options from Minify Cache method if you are on a virtual host or dedicated host. These settings will work for shared hosting WordPress blogs only.

Opcode Cache: Leave it unchanged

opcode cache - leave it unchanged

Database Cache:

  • Database Cache: Enable
  • Database Cache Method: Disk
enable database caching - w3 total plugin settings

(Again you should opt for other options if your website is hosted on a virtual or dedicated server.)

Object Cache

  • Object Cache: Enable
  • Object Cache Method: Disk
enable object cache - w3 total cache settings

You will be using other options if your website is not hosted on shared hosting.

Browser Cache

  • Browser Cache: Enable
enable browser cache

CDN

  • CDN: Enable/Disable
  • CDN Type: StackPath (recommended)
  • FSD CDN: Skip it. This option is for premium users
w3 total cache and cdn

You should enable CDN if you have decided to purchase a CDN. For running a normal blog, you would not need a CDN. You should go for it if your website is getting millions of visitors every month from different traffic sources.

Your WordPress website can run smoothly with a W3TC type of strong caching plugin even if you are on shared hosting and your website is getting 10000-15000 visits per day.

Quick note: Cloudflare cannot be found under the CDN Type dropdown menu. The instructions to enable CDN with Cloudflare are mentioned in the FAQ section.

Reverse Proxy – Skip it

reverse proxy option in w3 total cache

User Experience

  • Lazy Load Images: ✓
  • Disable Emoji: ✓
  • Disable wp-embed script: ✓
  • Disable jquery-migrate on the front end: ✓
enable user experience optimization options

Make sure to tick mark all the above optimizations to improve the user experience of a web page

Fragment Cache

  • Fragment Cache Method: Disk
enable fragment cache

Choose “Disk” when you are running your site on a shared web hosting.

Miscellaneous – Skip it

w3tc miscellaneous settings

Debug – Disable all

disable debug mode

Import/Export Settings

If you want to install this plugin on multiple WordPress websites that you own, then this feature will be really handy for you. Once you are finished with setting W3TC plugin for one blog, you can replicate the same settings on other WordPress blogs by downloading the W3 Total Cache plugin settings from this section. All you have to do is import this plugin configuration on other blogs where you want to install this plugin.

w3tc import and export settings

I’m going to use this feature and install the same set of settings for W3TC plugin in other blogs that I own.

Detailed Settings

No doubt making changes at the General settings level will optimize your WordPress blog performance to some extent. But to make the best use of this plugin, you need to go through each section individually and make the required changes.

Page Cache Page

Navigate to Performance > Page Cache and then follow along.

You need to make sure the following settings are made at the page cache level:

General

page cache general settings

Aliases

enable aliases settings

Enable alias only when you’re using different domains to serve the content

Cache Preload

  • Update Interval: 907 seconds
  • Pages per Interval: 10

Sitemap URL: https://bloggerspassion.com/sitemap_index.xml

cache preload settings

For your domain, you should enter your XML sitemap URL in the Sitemap URL section. And keep the Purge Policy as the default

Purge Policy: Page Cache – Leave it as it is

purge policy page cache settings

Rest API – Leave it as it is

rest api settings

Advanced – Leave it as it is

Minify Page

Navigate to Performance > Minify. You need to make the following changes at Minify Cache level:

General

  • Enable URL structure
  • Disable Minify for logged in users
  • Disable Minify Error Notification
minify general settings

HTML & XML

  • Click Enable
  • Enable Inline CSS minification
  • Enable Inline JS minification
minify html and xml settings

JS

  • Click Enable
  • Minify Method: Combine & Minify
  • Enable preserved comment removal
  • Enable Link break removal
minify js settings

CSS

  • Click Enable
  • Minify Method: Combine & Minify
  • Enable Preserved comment removal
  • Enable line break removal
minify css settings

Advanced: Keep the Advanced tab settings as they are.

Database Cache Page

Don’t make any changes to this section.

Object Cache Page

Don’t make any changes to this section.

Browser Cache Page

Don’t make any changes to this section.

After making changes into this section, we see lots of improvement in our blog performance.

That’s all you need to be done to configure the W3 Total Cache plugin on your WordPress blog.

W3TC Support

If you face any issues or have any technical questions related to this plugin, you can post your queries in the Support section here.


FAQs

Here are some of the most important questions you might want to know about this caching plugin.

What does W3 Total Cache do?

W3 total cache helps you increase your site speed by increasing website performance, and reducing download times by using special features such as minify, browser caching, using CDN, and so on. If you want to increase your website performance on WordPress, you must install a caching plugin like W3TC.

Which cache plugin is best?

We’ve so far used a lot of caching plugins and we are absolutely satisfied with two plugins which are W3 total cache and WP super cache as both of them are free (although both have premium versions) and both work like a charm.

What’s the difference between W3 Total Cache and W3 Total Cache Pro?

W3 Total Cache free version is enough for almost 90% of the WordPress users as it solves all the performance-related issues such as caching, minify, and so on. If you want to take full advantage of the fragment caching framework (which bridges the gap between no caching at all and the “ideal,” full page caching), you should go for the W3 total cache pro version.

How to set up the W3 total cache for best performance?

By default, the W3 total cache comes with all the built-in features where you don’t have to make any other changes to the settings

W3 total cache vs WP super cache: which is best?

Both are great plugins but if you want a detailed explanation of their features, we highly recommend you to go through this post on W3 Total Cache Vs WP Super Cache: Best Caching Plugin and you’ll find a lot of interesting things about both the plugins.

What happens when we install the W3 Total Cache along with another caching plugin?

Don’t do this. It might crash your website.

How to know if the W3 Total Cache plugin is working?

Open any webpage of your site in a browser—Right-click on the browser screen and tap view page source. Now scroll down to the bottom of the source code and search for a code “performance-optimized by W3 Total Cache”. If this line of code is present in your webpage source code, then it states that the W3 Total Cache plugin is working correctly.

How to remove the W3 Total Cache completely?

Removing the W3 Total Cache from the root is complicated. Follow these simple steps to remove W3TC completely:

Step 1: Disable all settings of the W3TC plugin from the General tab

Step 2: Then deactivate and delete the plugin.

Step 3: Get access to the website files either through cPanel or via FTP, and then navigate to the WP-Content folder. Delete these files if they have existed: db.php, advanced-cache.php, object-cache.php

Step 4: In the same WP-Content folder, you will see the w3tc-config folder. Delete this entire folder

Step 5: Now open up the wp-config file, and delete the WP_Cache function shown at the top.

Step 6: The last thing you have to delete is the caching files generated by the W3TC plugin. Open up the wp-content folder and delete the entire cache folder.

Step 7: Finally, open up the htaccess file, remove the entire code and replace it with the default htaccess code provided by the WordPress

How to integrate Cloudflare CDN with W3 Total Cache Plugin?

To enable Cloudflare CDN for the W3 Total Cache plugin, follow these steps:

Step 1: Navigate to Performance > Extension tab.

Step 2: Enable the Cloudflare extension.

Step 3: Open up another tab in the browser and navigate the Cloudflare website.

Step 4: Signup or create a free Cloudflare account.

Step 5: Add your website URL, and tap on the add site button.

Step 6: Select the free plan & proceed by tapping the continue button.

Step 7: As soon as you tap the continue button, Cloudflare begins the DNS scanning process for your website. When it’s done, select your website and hit the continue button.

Step 8: Next step is replacing the domain’s nameservers with new Cloudflare nameservers. You will see the option to change nameservers right away if your domain is hosted on GoDaddy or Namecheap. Else you have to login into your hosting cPanel and make the changes in nameservers.

Step 9: When you are done replacing the nameservers, tap on the “Done, check nameservers” button. You can close the Cloudflare tab now.

Step 10: Go back to the WordPress and navigate to the Performance > Extension tab

Step 11: Tap on the Settings button situated under the Cloudflare. Then hit the authorize button to connect the W3TC plugin with Cloudflare.

Step 12: It will ask you to enter Cloudflare’s email address and API key. You will get your API key by logging into the Cloudflare account. 

Step 13: Paste the API key as well as an email address. Hit the next button to complete the connection between the W3TC total plugin and Cloudflare

More Review Posts Worth Reading:

Read: Top 20 Premium WordPress Plugins That Are Worth Every Penny In 2022


Final Thoughts on W3 Total Cache Plugin Review

Is W3 Total Cache good?

W3TC performed really well. Doubting the capability of W3 Total Cache after seeing the results would be wrong.

The W3 Total Cache plugin shows outstanding performance on all the tests we have conducted. Yes, it is capable of providing 70-80% optimization level even on heavy WooCommerce-based pages. Beyond that, W3 Total Cache free version lacks.

The free caching plugins always are limited in performance. This is what we have understood from the test results.W3TC and LiteSpeed remain the best free caching plugins.

But for, people who would like to see all their core web vitals metrics green has no better option than to upgrade their web hosting and performance optimization plugin.

We have achieved a 100% score because we made a change in our web hosting and caching plugin. 

Yes, we were also hesitant, but now we are pleased with our decision. The WPX (free CDN) hosting and WP Rocket helped us to provide users – “the ultimate speed experience.”

Do you’ve any more questions related to this plugin or its settings? Let us know in the comments below.

About Author
Anil Agarwal who owns Bloggerspassion.com, is a full-time blogger and SEO expert who has been helping people build profitable blogs for over a decade. BloggersPassion has been featured on premium online sites like Forbes, Huffingtonpost, Semrush, Problogger, Crazy Egg, The Next Web and so on.

6 thoughts on “W3 Total Cache Plugin Review: Is It A Better Cache Plugin for WordPress?”

  1. this post s just awesome , step by step guide is just great for newbie person like me .thx alot

    Reply
  2. I was looking at ways to keep the speed of my blogsite high, this post gave info on W3 Total Cache. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. thanks sir……actually i found how to configure this plugin on your blog……..it helped me alot and decreases site load time by 4 seconds and yes it is better than super cache…..

    Reply
    • Great to know my efforts are helping you in improving the speed of your WordPress blog.

      Reply
  4. Hey Anil,

    I had Super-Cache installed, but in all honesty it was lacking in functionality.

    Then discovered the w3 plugin and feels like its working better.

    I like the option of who see the cache, an all the other features.

    Reply
  5. Good one where that kind of thing is available which will be give you totally new kind of experience in blogging.

    Reply

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