W3 Total Cache Settings Explained – A Beginner’s Guide 
Who doesn’t need a faster website? A fast website is what makes your visitors happy. And happy visitors suggest your site to other people which ultimately increases your site’s traffic. A good web hosting and good plugins are what make your website faster. Apart from that, you also need a proper caching.
If your site is new or you don’t want to spend your cash on paid plugins to make your site faster, there are reliable free tools that do the same thing. In this tutorial, we are going to talk about and learn how to configure a free plugin tool called W3 Total Cache. There are a lot of settings you can tinker with, but in this tutorial, we will only talk about those from which you can benefit from.
W3 Total Cache Settings
So what is W3 Total Cache? It is a framework that optimizes the performance of your WordPress site. It helps improve the page load speed and overall user experience. It helps you get the most out of caching – storing data from previous sessions which can we re-used for the sessions that follow. This reduces the server load, which helps load up the contents faster.
Setup W3 Total Cache
Setting up this plugin is not as easy as installing a plugin and forgetting about it. There are tons of options to play with. But after you get through each one, the ultimate result is worth it. This will be a step by step tutorial, and we will try to make it as simple and understandable as possible. Follow all the steps that follow.
Step #1: Install W3 Total Cache
The plugin can be installed for free. You can get it from the dashboard through Plugins -> Add New and search for W3 Total Cache. Install it and make sure you activate it too. Now that has been taken care of, head over to the Performance tab.
Step #2: Compatibility Check
Once you are on the Performance tab, select Dashboard.
Here, you can run a compatibility check and clear caches. You can click on the Check Compatibility button to run a test on the server configuration you are currently running. Based on the results, you will know what options can be enabled and what the server you are currently running on needs additionally. If your site is running on shared hosting, you may not be able to fix all the issues.
Step #3: Configure General Settings
First, you will need to configure the General Settings. This tab what lets you enable the features what you will set later on. All the option below are listed in the order you’ll see in the General Settings.
Step 3a: General
This option lets you enable all the features that W3 Total Cache provides automatically. You need to turn it off as you do now need all of those.
You can enable the Preview Mode if you want to test all the change before deploying. This could be a good idea, but if you follow this article word by word, then you do not need this feature. We will not enable this feature.
Step 3b: Page Cache
You need to enable this feature. This is what you are here for. We need Page Cache to make your site’s performance better.
After you enable Page Cache, choose Disk: Enhanced as the Page Cache Method. That should be selected by default, so you need not worry about it.
Step 3c: Minify
Enable this feature. What Minify does is it makes the site’s code smaller without any loss of functionality. This improves the site’s load time. We need this. Leave the Mode to Auto, select Disk as the Method, leave HTML minifier to Default, JS minifier to JSMin(default) and CSS minifier to Default.
Step 3d: Database Cache
Enabling or disabling Database Cache depends entirely on you. The database is what everything on your site is stored in. Database Cache can optimize the database’s performance which in turn improves the overall performance of your site. If you are on a dedicated server, it is best if you enable it. However, if your site in on shared hosting, enabling this option can hurt the performance o your site by overloading the server’s CPU.
Step 3e: Object Cache
This is another option that depends entirely on what type of hosting your site is on. If you are on shared hosting, you may notice some performance issues. This may not be the case for everyone, but you can enable it and disable it later on if you experience such a problem.
If you want to enable it, choose Disk as the Object Cache Method.
Step 3f: Browser Cache
You need to enable Browser Cache. This helps speed up the site by storing resources in the browsers. This way, the visitors do not need to constantly reload your website.
Step 3g: CDN
You need to enable this. Content Delivery Network or CDN let you serve the static content from not just one server, but from many. This reduces the load time and therefore speeds up your site. Leave the options as default.
Step 3h: Reverse Proxy
Leave Reverse Proxy disabled as this requires private hosting.
Step 3i: Monitoring
You can ignore this option as you do not need to configure it.
Step 3j: Debug
You may need this if you are a developer. But since this tutorial is written for beginners, we will not enable it.
You are now done configuring the General Settings. You may see some options are left out; don’t worry about them. We are only talking about those settings that we think you will need. Now it is time to configure all the options we enabled in detail. Again, you should only be concerned about the options that you have enabled previously.
Step #4: Configuring Page Cache in detail
You do not see any option mentioned; you do now need to worry about it. Leave them as default.
Step 4a: General
Enable the items mentioned below:
- Cache front page
- Cache feeds
- Cache SSL – Enable this only if you are using SSL.
- Don’t cache pages for logged in users.
Step 4b: Cache Preload
As the name suggests, enabling Cache Preload will automatically build a cache even before a user’s request. Use the following settings.
- Automatically prime the page cache: Enable
- Update interval: 900 seconds
- Pages per interval: 10
- Sitemap URL: If you have one.
- Preload the post cache upon publishing events: Enable
Purge Policy: Page Cache
This configures what pages’ cache will be cleared whenever a post is published, or an old post is edited. You can use the settings from the picture below, or you can select the pages that suit your need.
Here, you have further options that include creating exceptions, but all you need to be concerned about is the Compatibility mode. Enable it and leave other as they are.
Step #5: Configuring Minify in detail
All the options that are needed are already checked by default. You can move on or double check the settings using the pictures below as a reference.
Other than enabling Minify error notification, leave everything else as default.
HTML & XML
Other than Don’t minify feeds, enable all the options.
JS and CSS
Use the screenshot below as a reference. The settings should be enabled by default.
Here, you will have the option to change update interval for external files, garbage collection interval, etc. The default values will do just fine.
Step #6: Configuring Object Cache in detail
Enter the setting as mentioned below. Leave everything else as default.
- Default lifetime of cache objects:180 seconds
- Garbage collection interval: 3600 seconds
Step #7: Configuring Browser Cache in detail
Enable / Check the following options under the General options. Leave the option that is not mentioned as default.
- Set Last-Modified header
- Set expires header
- Set cache control header
- Set entity tag (eTag)
- Set W3 Total Cache header
- Enable HTTP (gzip) compression
Now you are good to go. Now you are set for a lifetime of improved performance.