If you do not use a caching plugin, or set up server level caching, your WordPress CMS and theme/plugins will pull data from the database every time a visitor opens any page. Installing and configuring a caching plugin is the only way to fix slow WordPress sites. WP Super Cache is the most widely used caching plugin. W3 Total Cache is another popular one. WPSC was developed by Automattic Inc. BoldGrid owns W3TC. Both caching plugins are popular with 1.5+ million users and have high ratings. Below are the differences and similarities between these two WordPress plugins.

WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache: Feature comparison

UI and first impressions

W3 Total Cache is a very complex plugin. There are more options than WPSuper Cache. It is important to learn the settings and customize it according to your needs.

. When you activate W3TC and install it on a website that uses the Nginx webserver you will see an alert message saying that the plugin has modified the webserver configuration file. You should restart the webserver to make the changes take effect. After seeing this message, I was able to view the configuration and realized that it was the same configuration as before. W3 Total Cache did not modify the file.

.WP Super Cache installation and configuration is very simple. It does not modify the server configuration files. Here’s the screenshot of the plugin’s Settings page:

WP Super Cache

Minify

WP Super Cache doesn’t minify the CSS/JS files but it can compress the pages. See the below screenshot:

wp super cache compress pages
wp super cache compress pages

W3TC can minify your WordPress website’s Cascading Style Sheet and JavaScript files. Minification is a way to reduce the size of JS/CSS files. It does this by fixing repetitive code and removing empty spaces. The server will send smaller files to visitors if they minify the files. Minification will result in smaller JS/CSS files. For example, if a theme has 4 stylesheets, minification will result with 4 smaller JS/CSS file.

W3TC Minify
W3TC Minify

W3TC allows users to choose the library they want the plugin to use to minify CSS or JS files. It supports JSMin and YUI Compressor as well as Google Closure Compiler and CSS Tidy. There are two types of minification: manual and automatic.

CDN support

Content delivery networks cache the pages of your site and static assets such as images, JS, CSS files and transfers it to the computer from the server nearest to the user. You can use both WordPress caching plugins to access the CDN service that you are currently using with them.

Ads

WP Super Cache cache has textual ads i.e. Automattic Inc. has links to other plugins. When configuring the plugin, it prompts you for purchase add-ons.

Also see: WordPress speed optimization tips

Page Caching

The page caching feature improves the loading speed of a website. W3TC plugins and WPSC can save pages from your website to the hard disk. The PHP code will instead of creating a new page and sending it, when an internet user requests the page. WordPress pulls data from various database tables (postmeta and posts, options, etc.) to generate a page. Your plugins will run queries and perform tasks. The page has been generated by W3 Total Cache’s cacher module and WPSuper Cache. Therefore, WP CMS will not run SQL queries nor execute tasks.

. WP Super Cache only supports disk caching. Redis, MemCached and WinCache are supported by W3 Total Cache.

Database Cache

w3tc database cache
W3TC DB Cache

The DB cache feature of the W3TC plugin is similar to the MySQL query cache (deprecated). It stores the results of SQL select queries and serves them up when a plugin/theme functions requests them. W3TC users can set the expiry time for their “Database Cache”. The plugin can be configured to disable DB cache for specific pages. WP Super Cache doesn’t support “Database cache”.

Preloading

The WordPress Total Cache and WPSC plugins can preload all pages and posts of your site. These plugins can be configured to update preloaded posts at a specific time. Preload creates many files on your server. The number of posts on your site will determine the size of the files. Preloading can cause an increase in CPU usage.

Pricing

Super Cache is a completely free plugin. W3TC community edition offers more features than WPSC. Some of the plugin’s features include: Fragment Cache, Genesis Framework support, render blocking CSS eliminator, etc are a part of the W3 Total Cache Pro plugin which is priced at 99$. The best and cheapest alternative to the paid version of the plugin is WP Rocket.

Other free features of W3TC you won’t find in WP Super Cache

  • Object caching.
  • Pagespeed widget.
  • Brotli compression (requires extension).

Reasons to use W3 Total Cache

  • Customizable (you can use the features you want to use). You may need to install the module on your server in order to use this feature.
  • Built-in minifier.
  • Lazy image loading.

Reasons to use WP Super Cache

  • Easy to configure.
  • Less confusing.
  • Page compression feature.

W3TC vs Super Cache: Which plugin is better?

Well, both WPSC and W3TC plugins are effective in improving the loading time of the website posts by caching them. W3TC plugins can be used to improve the page speed score of your website. WPSC does not support lazy loading and minification.

Download: W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache.