Matt Forney
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W3 Total Cache vs. WP Super Cache

Those of you who’ve read Confessions of an Online Hustler know that I recommend W3 Total Cache if you’re looking for a caching plugin for your WordPress-powered blog. That said, a couple months back, I had to switch over to a different plugin—WP Super Cache—because the former was causing massive problems with my site. For some reason, something like half to two thirds of my readers were getting 403 Forbidden errors when accessing my blog, problems that went away when I deactivated the plugin.

Am I about to change my recommendation? Not exactly, but I am adding a caveat.

The reason why caching is so important when running a self-hosted blog is because WordPress is a massively inefficient piece of software; even a low-traffic blog will wreak havoc if left uncached. Caching plugins serve your site’s pages as static HTML files, saving you considerable bandwidth and making your site load up faster, which is both more convenient for your readers and improves your Google search rankings. But which plugin do you go with: Super Cache or Total Cache?

I recommended Total Cache initially because out of the two, it has the greater number of features by far. Super Cache has only basic caching, while Total Cache has minification, object caching, database caching, browser caching and more. Additionally, while both plugins have CDN integration, Total Cache’s is more reliable and easy to use; while both are compatible with Amazon Cloudfront (if you don’t mind paying for it), you can set up your own basic content delivery network by creating a subdomain with cPanel and inputting the data into Total Cache. It also has CloudFlare integration, if you don’t mind signing control of your site over to Big Brother.

So what’s the problem with it? It’s a complex, difficult to use program.

Total Cache requires a lot of fiddling to get working properly, and the wrong options can break your site if you’re not careful. It’s so laborious that when I was initially setting up, I just used the “Import/Export Options” setting to download the settings from In Mala Fide; I couldn’t be bothered with the headache. Even when I brought The Electric Camel online three months ago, I was still using the same configuration file I’d created for IMF three years ago; I even made copies for a couple friends who were setting up their own blogs.

The other problem with Total Cache is that the sheer number of options it gives you causes anarchy on some hosts, particularly if you’re using shared hosting. When you have all of its features activated, the sheer number of cron jobs required puts an incredible strain on your server’s memory and can even cause your site to shut down due to overuse. Super Cache’s big selling point is that it’s so dead simple your grandma could figure it out, and it’s lightweight enough that it won’t cause any major issues.

So which should you use?

My opinion: try them both out for yourself. W3 Total Cache might be overkill for newer/low-traffic blogs, given its compatibility issues with some webhosts. However, its powerful suite of features means you can’t simply ignore it. You probably can get away with using WP Super Cache if you’re a neophyte blogger, but higher traffic sites will need something like Total Cache to function.

Read Next: An Easy Way to Get More Hits on Your Blog

  • How many uniques per month (according to awstats) do I need to start thinking about switching from super to total cache?

  • Ironthumb: Not sure, but I had over 650,000 unique visitors last month and I’m still using Super Cache without problems, so you’ll need a fuckton more than that.

  • whoah cool!
    I can use super for a long time
    I used total cache before – hostgator hates it. . literally…..

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  • Total cache is a beast. Super cache is pretty decent, really you can’t go wrong with either for a smaller sized blog. But any blog should be using some form of caching just to speed up the site. There are also some tweaks you can make to your .htaccess file to really help improve things and get those page speeds up.

    Your hosting also plays a big part in that. I left shared hosting a long time ago.

  • Man I’m so behind on all this stuff.

    Thanks for the recommendation, hombre.

  • Question-

    Got Super Cache. I took down the “Welcome to the new NLU” page we had up, but the post was still displaying and accessible (even when I viewed the page incognito) until I deleted the cache.

    Is this normal? Seems like a problem to me

  • Nate: Do you have “Don’t cache pages for known users.” selected on the Super Cache options page? If yes, this is a problem. If no, it isn’t.

  • Nice! Thanks man.

    I’m trying to understand all of this caching business but it’s all new to me. Is dynamic caching something that should be on as well?

  • Probably not. I use mod_rewrite caching, which is easiest on my server, and doesn’t allow dynamic caching.

  • Josh

    Well I just change from Total to Super, since my site was crashing and my host complaining (using Hostgator) and I don´t have numbers that big,

    Jan 2014 38,397 83,538 915,692 8,034,881 153.59 GB
    Feb 2014 22,381 41,734 479,709 3,875,106 74.24 GB

    Any thoughts?

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