Top 5 Free WordPress Caching Plugins

Do you want your WordPress website to load faster? The answer is obviously, yes! One of the easiest and quickest ways to speed up any WordPress-powered website is to install a caching plugin. If you’ve looked for a caching plugin, you already know how many options there are to choose from. How do you know which is best? Allow us to answer that question with this, the Top 5 Free WordPress Caching Plugins!

Before we jump into the list, let’s answer a few common questions about caching and discover why you should always cache your website.

What Is Caching?

When you visit a website for the first time, the files which make up the page (CSS, Javascript, HTML, and so on) are stored and re-used for when you visit again. This reduces the time needed to download the entire page again. Cached files can be stored on your computer or the website might use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to serve these files as quickly as possible to its visitors.

A common analogy is a simple math question. What is 2+2? You already know the answer is 4 without having to calculate anything, your brain has “cached” this answer. It’s the same thing with website caching. You already have the files needed to load a page properly, so there’s no need to calculate again and download everything. Faster brain, faster website!

Can I Use Multiple Caching Plugins?

No, you should use only 1 caching plugin. Using multiple achieves no extra speed and could mess up your website.

There are different types of caching, however. This includes object caching, opcode caching, and database caching which can safely be used together. What we’re talking about here are browser and file caching.

The Benefits of Caching

When configured correctly, caching can have amazing benefits for your website including:

  • Website speed. Your website will load much faster resulting in happier visitors who are more likely to read more and share articles.
  • Better rankings. Site speed is important to Google, your website will not rank well if it takes too long to load.
  • Increased sales. Studies have repeatedly shown that a slow website will lose customers and not just a small amount.

It’s very clear how important caching is, you don’t want to lose traffic and customers so let’s take a look at the Top 5 Free WordPress Caching Plugins!

Testing Methodology

We deployed a WordPress website on a $5 server from Vultr. The website is using the GeneratePress theme with a number of plugins including Elementor, Slimstat Analytics, and WP Show Posts. You can preview the demo website here.

This provides us with a typical WordPress website using a page builder and some additional plugins. With the website ready, we ran speed tests multiple times using GTmetrix (Dallas) then calculated the average speed with no caching vs caching with the plugins on this list.

No Caching Results

Load Time: 2.5s

PageSpeed Score: B (89%)

The demo website is pretty quick without any caching at all, now let’s see how far we can push it with caching plugins!

1. Cache Enabler

To start this list, we have Cache Enabler. This plugin is developed by the team at KeyCDN and they know a little something a website speed! Cache Enabler is very simple providing just 1 page of settings and nothing more. You can either install this plugin and forget about it, or tweak some additional settings yourself. There are also some additional tweaks that can be made using the .htaccess file, more info on that here. Cache Enabler scores 4.3 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org, a great score!

Cache Enabler Settings

As you can see, the interface is very simple. No ads, no nags. Just settings and descriptions. Good stuff!

Cache Enabler Top Features

  • Automatic or manual cache clearing
  • Manually purge specific pages
  • Displays cache size on the dashboard
  • Minify HTML and inline javascript
  • Custom post type support
  • WordPress multisite support
  • WebP image support

The feature list isn’t big, but what it does do, it does well. There are no pro or premium upgrades, this plugin is 100% free and has always been updated to work with the latest WordPress version. If you don’t want to mess around with tonnes of settings and just want a plugin to give your website an instant speed boost, Cache Enabler is a good choice!

Cache Enabler Speed Test

Load Time: 1.7s

PageSpeed Score: B (89%)

An average of 0.8 seconds faster than the website with no caching, a really good result! We enabled ‘Pre-compression of cached pages’ and ‘HTML & Inline JS Cache Minification’.

Cache Enabler Ratings

  • Speed: 4/5
  • Features: 3.5/5
  • Interface: 4.5/5
  • Support: 3/5
  • Overall: 3.75/5

2. Hyper Cache

Next up is one of our old favorites, Hyper Cache! This plugin has been around for a very long time and, as a result, is very popular and rock-solid stable. We recommend Hyper Cache to those who want more settings and control over what is cached and what isn’t. That’s not to say Hyper Cache doesn’t work out of the box because it does, but we do suggest tweaking the settings to your needs. With an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org, Hyper Cache is among the highest rating cache plugins around!

The interface is clean with the settings put into tabs for easier access, all with good descriptions. No complaints here!

Hyper Cache Top Features

  • Separate cache for desktop and mobile
  • Serve expired pages to bots for faster website crawling
  • Compresses pages on the fly
  • Bypass cache on cookies, matching URL strings, and more
  • Cache auto clean
  • CDN integration
  • Browser caching

Hyper Cache has a great selection of features which are laid out very nicely. If you have a different theme for desktop and mobile, this is the plugin for you. The bypasses feature is especially nice for more complex setups enabling you to not serve cached pages to specific visitors, commenters for example.

Hyper Cache Speed Test

Load Time: 1.9s

PageSpeed Score: B (89%)

Hyper Cache was 0.6 seconds faster than an uncached page which was quite surprising to us! We’ve always found this plugin to be the fastest cache plugin of them all but it just didn’t perform this time around. One possible explanation for this is that the server is running Nginx only, whereas we typically have used Apache with Nginx serving static files. Perhaps Hyper Cache is best suited for Apache servers only. Either way, Hyper Cache still adds a nice speed boost!

Hyper Cache Ratings

  • Speed: 3.5/5
  • Features: 4.5/5
  • Interface: 4/5
  • Support: 4/5
  • Overall: 4/5

3. Swift Performance (Lite)

Swift Performance is currently our top pick for a WordPress caching plugin. Time and time again it beats all the others in benchmarks, and today is no different. Swift Performance is not merely a caching plugin, it is an all-in-one meant to optimize your website as much as possible, you’ll see how in the impressive list of features below! Swift Performance scores an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org which is far too low for this amazing plugin. We suspect this is due to a large number of options allowing for more mistakes in the configuration.

The Swift Performance team have clearly worked hard on creating a nice interface, and the result is very nice indeed! No page reloads between tabs, descriptions for every setting, a dashboard with the information you want to see, this is great stuff! There is one ad on the dashboard page but it’s not obnoxious.

Swift Performance Top Features

  • Removes query strings from static resources
  • Gravatar caching
  • Image lazy loading
  • Optimization in the background/cache prebuild
  • Merge CSS and Javascript
  • Critical CSS generator
  • Disk caching with PHP or rewrites
  • Separate mobile cache
  • Browser caching and GZIP setup
  • Dynamic caching of GET and POST requests
  • Comprehensive cache exceptions settings
  • Varnish support
  • CDN support

Swift Performance is one of the most feature-packed caching plugins around! You very likely won’t need any other performance plugins if you install it. There are a few settings locked away in the Pro version but it’s definitely worth buying if you need them.

Swift Performance Speed Test

Load Time: 1.4s

PageSpeed Score: A (96%)

Wow, what a result! Swift Performance absolutely crushes it, 1.1s faster than no caching. That’s almost 50% faster! If you’re an advanced user and want the fastest website possible, this is the plugin for you.

Swift Performance Ratings

  • Speed: 5/5
  • Features: 4.75/5
  • Interface: 4.5/5
  • Support: 4/5
  • Overall: 4.6/5

4. WP-Optimize

WP-Optimize is not just a caching plugin. Its focus is on all aspects of WordPress optimization including database cleaning, image compression, transients removal, comments cleanup, and much more. Of course, we care most about the performance of the caching mechanism. WP-Optimize has over 800,000 active installations and scores 4.8 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org, let’s see why!

The interface is nicely done! Smartly tabbed options all with good descriptions. There is just one ad/promo which can be dismissed. Looking good!

WP-Optimize Top Features

  • Cache preloading
  • GZIP compression
  • Separate cache for desktop and mobile
  • Advanced cache exclusion rules
  • Browser cache
  • Serve cache to logged-in users

The feature list for the caching portion of the plugin isn’t very long, but it doesn’t have to be. It has the essentials and some nice exclusions settings as well. What matters most is the performance, let’s take a look!

WP-Optimize Speed Test

Load Time: 1.6s

PageSpeed Score: B (89%)

A really strong showing here from WP-Optimize! We didn’t expect such a good result given that caching isn’t the one and only focus of the plugin, a 0.9s average speed boost is a very welcome surprise! With the additional optimization features included in this plugin, we definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an all-in-one solution to solve WordPress speed issues.

WP-Optimize Ratings

  • Speed: 4.5/5
  • Features: 4.75/5
  • Interface: 4.5/5
  • Support: 4.75/5
  • Overall: 4.6/5

5. Powered Cache

Finally, we come to Powered Cache. You may not have heard of this plugin, it has less than 1000 active installations despite being in the WordPress plugin library for over 2 years. However, this is the only plugin on this list to include object caching which is used to speed up dynamic page views, or pages which are not cached. Powered Cache currently has a perfect 5 out of 5 stars on WordPress.org, let’s take a look at why more people should be using it!

The interface is okay, just a standard WordPress approach. It would be nice if navigating between tabs didn’t require a reload. The descriptions for each option are good, but clicking each question mark to get more info takes you to a different website, not so great. A little more effort would go a long way here!

Powered Cache Top Features

  • Object caching with Redis, Memcached, APCu
  • Separate cache for desktop and mobile
  • Logged-in user cache
  • CDN support
  • Cache preloading
  • Disable cache for certain pages, cookies, user agents

The feature list is small, but you can expand it a little with the offering of extensions. Remote Cron and Varnish potentially being very useful to some. As seen above, though, you don’t need a huge list of features to get high scores, let’s see how Powered Cache performs.

Powered Cache Speed Test

Load Time: 1.5s

PageSpeed Score: B (89%)

An excellent result from Powered Cache! Beaten only by Swift Performance which has a much larger set of features. Do note that we tested with object caching off which isn’t likely to speed up cached pages even more anyway, but worth mentioning. We recommend Powered Cache if you want the (almost) best speed, but don’t want to mess around with all of the options in Swift Performance.

Powered Cache Ratings

  • Speed: 4.75/5
  • Features: 4.75/5
  • Interface: 3.5/5
  • Support: 4.75/5
  • Overall: 4.4/5

And that concludes our list! Our recommendations are as follows:

Advanced user? Install Swift Performance for the absolute best performance possible

Beginner user? Install WP-Optimize for an all-in-one optimization solution or Powered Cache for the fastest, no fuss plugin.

We’d also like to encourage you to try Hyper Cache if you are using an Apache-powered server, it has usually performed much better than you’ve seen here on our Nginx servers.

To finish, let’s compare all 5 plugins together in a simple bar chart.

WordPress Cache Plugins Comparison

If you feel there’s a plugin that belongs on this list, leave us a comment! Also, let us know which plugins you use to speed up your WordPress website and share how fast it loads, we’d love to see some numbers!

Leave a Comment