W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin Review – Beware – A 350GB Caching Directory!

Wed, Feb 22, 2012

Blogging, Web Consulting



I use The SEO System everyday to get my pages to the top! --Richard

The W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin is one of the most popular caching plugins for WordPress. However, you will want to be careful with this plugin because it may cause more headaches than it cures. In this quick article, I will tell you the headache that it caused me.

Why I Selected The W3 Total Cache Plugin

I host many websites on a Hostgator dedicated server platform, which I fully recommend to improve website performance so that you are not at the mercy of unknown websites in a shared hosting environment. One of these websites is an article directory which has over 100,000 articles. With so many articles, I was looking for a good caching solution that I could setup and forget. After reading many reviews and on the recommendation of Hostgator, I selected the W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin.

I installed the plugin, implemented the suggested settings, and forgot about it.

The W3 Total Cache Plugin: What Happened?

Now, fast forward 6 months…which brings us to yesterday.

While working on one of my websites, I was using WS FTP Pro to upload files to the site and received an error message 552, which prevented me from uploading files to the server. I did a little research on this error message and here is what the message means: “Requested file action aborted. Exceeded storage allocation (for current directory or dataset).”

This was one of those messages that make you go…hmmm. I have 500GB of storage available to me and I know that I am not using even 20% of that. This message must be wrong. It must an FTP program error. So, I decided to use Fielzilla even though WS FTP Pro has always been my FTP client of choice. The result? Same message.

Out of space? There is no way that I have used 500GB of space. WordPress sites and databases simply do not take up that much space! I did some research in my WHM panel and put in a call to Hostgator. Sure enough…I was out of space.

What could be the culprit? Well, WHM and cPanel both have tools that can display disk usage. However, these tools were having “timeout” problems because they were attempting to access 500GB of data…somewhere. Where is this 500GB? It’s like trying to find an elephant in your house but being unable to do so.

After much clicking around in the article directory’s cPanel, I clicked the w3tc directory. I now know that this is the directory that was hosting the caching files of the W3 Total Cache plugin. When I clicked on a subdirectory of w3tc, I experienced that long delay that screamed to me: YOU HAVE JUST FOUND YOUR ELEPHANT!

In the end, W3 Total Cache had created caching files that exceeded 350GB. Yes, 350 Gigabytes!

We all know how easy it is to delete a file on website. You just simply choose the file and delete it. Well, it’s not so easy when that file and/or directory is 350GB! Routine deletion procedures did not work. In the end, I had to access the server through the root and it took the better part of 24 hours to delete all of the cached files from the server. During much of this time, my this website was inaccessible and I had to manually delete the W3 Total Cache plugin which caused some problems as well.

W3 Total Cache Review: Conclusion

In conclusion, you should not implement the W3 Total Cache plugin as I did. I simply set it up according to how Hostgator said to do it and forgot about it. I find it a bit ironic that Hostgator told me to use this plugin and then did not have any idea that this plugin could be the culprit of my “out of space” messages. Clearly though, the set it up and forget about it approach did not work for me.

To be fair to the author of this plugin, I did not look at any of the settings of the plugin other than what I was instructed. In addition, I was using this plugin on a site with over 100,000 articles which is very different than most usage scenarios.

If you find yourself in a similar situation and need to manually uninstall the W3 Total Cache Plugin, check out this article entitled: How to Uninstall with no Admin Panel.

The W3 Total Cache Plugin seems to have both supporters and detractors. Some have said it destroys their website, gives them a blank screen, destroys permalinks, and much more. Others, though, say that this plugin increases blog performance and is a necessity.

When you have conflicting recommendations like this, there is only one way to proceed with this plugin and it reminds me of an old joke:

How do you make love to a porcupine?

Very carefully!

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  1. [...] 1 – W3 Total Cache:  Visitors are impatient, so give your site-loading time a turbo-boost.  Once installed correctly, you will be amazed at the performance.  Remember that ClickHOST is the WordPress expert, so support is just a moment away!  Once you install W3 Total Cache, your visitors will see a marked improvement in how fast your page loads. <<<Read a review. [...]

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