Top 5 free caching plugins

What is caching?

Caching, in its simplest form, improves your websites load speed.  In a computing context a cache is a place where data can be temporarily stored.

Caching plugins will cache a large chunk of your websites data for you and store it on your browser, effectively speeding up the websites load speed on your next visit. This is due to the browser needing to receive less ‘new/fresh’ information from the site and therefore loading a whole lot faster.

Why Cache?

Long, excessive load times can damage your sites popularity by limiting your traffic, lowering your Google search rank and overall ruin your websites full potential, I know scary right? However caching can be the answer to boosting your site in all these aspects.

In this post we are going to run through 5 of, what we think, are the best free WordPress caching plugins.

WP Super Cache

We’ll start with WP Super Cache, WordPress’s most downloaded caching plugin boasting over 1 million user downloads. WP Super Cache generates static html files (using the mod_rewrite method) from your website and your web server will serve the serve that file instead of processing the larger/heavier WordPress PHP scripts. This means each visitor to the site will not have to load all of the WordPress PHP files.

A good feature in WP Super Cache is the ability to change the order in which plugins load, so if you need a certain plugin to load super fast, then this plugin might suit you well.  Along with scheduled plugin loads you can also, for convenience, schedule in advance when you want your cached pages to clear and allows you to export your own custom settings so that you can import them into your future sites.

One disclaimer is that, if a user is logged in, then they will not experience the supercaching other than that it is updated regularly, last update 3 weeks ago, and is compatible with all versions of WordPress, available in 15 languages, supports Content Delivery Networks (CDN) and hosts its own support forum and a fairly reasonable, detailed FAQ.

Overall we like WP Super Cache, its as easy as hitting a switch, literally.  just activate it.

Try it for yourself | Download


W3 Total Cache

Second up we’ve gone with W3 Total Cache which, in their own words, ‘improves the SEO and user experience of your site by increasing website performance, reducing download times via features like content delivery network (CDN) integration.’ W3 Total Cache is also a caching plug in that has over 1 million downloads and is kept up to date, not as regularly as Super Cache with the last update being 7 months ago.

When fully configured W3 Total Cache claims to bring you an A grade in WebPagetest or significant Google Page Speed improvements.  This sounds amazing however the settings area is divided into 16 pages, so W3 Total Cache sure make you work for that lightening fast load speed but it does allow your own precise specifications, nonetheless the default settings work pretty well too.

W3 Total Cache utilises file minification and GZIP compression and by doing so they cut out a huge amount of load time.  Similarly to WP Super Cache, WP Total Cache also supports CDN’s and allows you to export your personalised settings.

This caching solution gets some high praise from many top hosting providers such as Flywheel and SiteGround, and makes a great addition to your plugin arsenal if you decide on W3 Total Cache as you caching solution.

Try it for yourself | Download

WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache uses an image of the worlds fastest land animal, the cheetah, to imply they, themselves are the fastest caching solution and well although they do not boast as many active installations as the other plugins mention thus far, they do have over 400,000+ installs, a 5 star rating and are a great solution to your caching problems.

Similarly to WP Super Cache, WP Fastest Cache take advantage of the Mod_rewrite method and use it to create static html files from your dynamic WordPress site and use these on a users next visit instead of using PHP and mysql to render the page. It also offers minification, GZIP compression, browser caching, and an option for combining JavaScript and CSS files together to reduce requests from your server.

Setup for WP Fastest Cache is super simple, you dont need to modify the .htaccess file as it will be modified automatically for you. Sadly WP Fastest Cache does not support WordPress Multisite as of yet but they are definitely working on it. Other than that, updates roll our regularly with the last one being 17 hours ago, available in 16 languages and has been tested on the last version of WordPress.

Try it yourself | Download

Comet Cache

Formerly known as Quick Cache and ZenCache, Comet Cache is one of the newer caching plugins gaining lots of popularity with over 60,000+ installs. It is updated regularly with the latest update being 5 hours ago and requires WordPress version 4.2 or higher.

Comet Cache does not take advantage of the mod_rewrite method and instead takes a real-time snapshot (building a cache) of every page, post, link etc. Which are then stored so they can be referenced later, in order to save processing time and load your pages quicker.

It is becoming popular because of its simple configuration, which is merely hitting a ‘Yes, enable Comet Cache’ button.  However you can adjust options to control the automatic cache clearing behaviour for home and post page, author page, category, tag, and custom term archives, custom post type archives, RSS/RDF/ATOM feeds, and XML sitemaps.

Some other features include setting automatic expiration times for cache files, ability to cache or ignore chosen URLs that contain query strings and Apache optimisation to enable GZIP compression and quiet a few more features.

Try it yourself | Download

Cache Enabler

Cache Enabler is another caching plugin which is newer than others mentioned and growing quick, this is because of its lightweight caching solution for WordPress.  What Cache Enabler does to decrease your websites load time is it generates static HTML files with the static files being saved onto the servers hard disk.

When the web server delivers the static file it will avoid the resource intensive backend processes (core, plugins and database). This WordPress cache engine will improve the performance of your website. Cache Enabler will also display the actual cache size in your dashboard so you can easily and always see how much cached data is being stored.

Requirements for Cache Enabler are WordPress Version 4.6 or greater and PHP version 5.4 or greater.  Its latest update was 1 day ago and brought minor fixes and fixed settings form issue. This plugin also has an easy to read documentation website, which will help you if you have trouble configuring your own settings.  If you do not want to configure your own don’t worry, it comes with default settings at the click of a button which work perfectly.

Lastly when Cache Enabler is combined with Optimus it will help improve the websites load speed just that little bit more, which on the internet, those milliseconds are big thing. The plugin will check your upload directory for any JPG or PNG images that have an equivalent WebP file. If there is, the URI of these image will be cached in a WebP static file by Cache Enabler. The plugin will deliver images that do have a WebP equivalent and will fall back to the JPG or PNG format for images that don’t.

Try it yourself | Download

Side note – If you are looking to download a caching plugin make sure to check with your hosting company to check they do not cache for you. Its not the worst thing in the world but there is no need to have two caching solutions if your hosting already give you one. If you think a plugin would be a better solution, ask your hosting to not cache your site and do it yourself. Hosting companies such as WPengine offer a great caching solution for its customers.

What caching plugin do you use?  Your caching solution not made our list?  Reply below to let us know some of your thoughts and what features you look for in a caching plugin.

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