How to Remove W3 Total Cache

I recently got an email from my hosting company about one of the sites I run. It seems that it suddenly started hogging all the CPU resources (it’s on a shared hosting account), so they had to temporarily take it offline. After a lot of back and forth and investigating, we found that the culprit was the W3 Total Cache Plugin, which I’ve used for years on a number of sites, and had – up to now – a really great experience with it.

Since I knew what the cause was, it was time to get rid of the offending plugin. However, I discovered that W3 Total Cache isn’t removed by simply deactivating and deleting it. To completely remove W3 Total Cache, you need to follow a multiple step process. Since I ran into this problem, I figured I’d write out the steps for anyone else who needs to remove W3 Super Cache.

Tutorial Requirements

This tutorial assumes you have a WordPress site setup and you’re using the W3 Total Cache plugin. You’ll need admin access to the WordPress site, as well as FTP access to the web server.

Estimated Completion Time: < 15 Minutes
Difficulty: Medium

Turn Off All Caching, Minifying, Etc.

Sign into WordPress, and browse to the W3 Total Cache settings page, which you can find at Performance > General Settings in the left-hand toolbar.

Scroll down the page and disable all the caching, minifying, and miscellaneous options. Simply remove the check from the “Enable” check box every time you see it.

Disable W3 Total Cache

At the bottom of the page, click “Save All Settings”

Deactivate and Delete the Plugin

Once everything is turned off, go to your plugins page, which you can find at Plugins > Installed Plugins.

Find W3 Total Cache and click the “Deactivate” button.

Uninstall W3 Total Cache

Once the Plugin has been deactivated it will be grayed out. You should see the “Delete” option available. Click that to remove the folder from your plugin directory.

Remove Files from Webserver

And here is where the uninstall is a little different from most plugins. Fire up your favorite FTP program and log into your site. Browse to the “wp-content” directory, and look for the following files:

  • w3-total-cache-config.php
  • db.php
  • advanced-cache.php

Don’t worry if you don’t see all of them; they don’t seem to be on every install.

Before you remove them, I would recommend backing them up somewhere, just in case. They should be completely safe to delete, but I always like to create a backup before I make and changes to a live site.

Once you’ve backed up the files locally, delete them.

In the same folder, look for these two directories:

  • w3tc
  • w3tc-config

Back them up, just in case, then delete.

Check .htaccess

How to Remove W3 Total Cache

Finally, you’ll want to check your .htaccess file to see if it has an W3 Total Cache rules still configured after the uninstall. If you find some here, create a backup of .htaccess. This is a very important file, and you want to be able to restore is, just in case something goes wrong.

Once you have a backup, remove the W3 Total Cache rules, and upload the updated file to your server.

Optional Step: Turn Off WP-Cache in WP-Config.php

This final step is completely optional, and you’ll only want to do it if you aren’t planning to use another caching tool, like WP Super Cache.

Again, you will most likely skip this step.

Go up to the root of your WordPress install and find “wp-config.php”. This is another very important file, so make a backup.

Once you’ve got a back up, edit it, and look for “define (WP_CACHE’, true);”. Change the “true” to “false”, save, and upload.


That’s it, W3 Total Cache is now gone.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that W3 Total Cache is necessarily a bad plugin. I used it quite successfully for a number of years (I even recommended it a while back). However, I ran into an issue with it on one of my sites, and needed to remove it. So think of this as a how-to, not an indictment of W3 Total Cache.

As an alternative, I’m now using WP Super Cache, which seems to be working quite well.

In this tutorial, we covered the follow:

Any questions? Don’t be shy.


88 Responses to “How to Remove W3 Total Cache”


    Hi David, just wanted to say a big thank you. W3 Total Cache turned out to be quite night-marish. Your tutorial on how to uniinstall W3TC was real helpful. Thanks!

    • David

      My pleasure. There was definitely some frustration, trial, and error the first time I removed it.

      What’s unfortunate is that, when it worked, it worked really well, but not I’m gun shy about going back to it, even though it’s had a couple of rolls since I removed it.


    David, I took your advice and installed WP Super Cache. Urgh! Even that had problems. No defined path to WPCACHEHOME and missing files. But I finally got it all fixed up. So thanks too for the suggested plugin.

    • David

      I’m probably going to go back to W3 Super Cache at some point when I think it’s more stable. It seems to be a better solution, but that might just be because it’s easier to get going than WP Super Cache.


    Heeheee. David, do you mean that you might be going back to W3 Total Cache? πŸ˜‰

    I am not surprised as so many people seem so happy with it. However for my little sites, I think I will stick with what gives me the least problems and minimal fiddling πŸ˜€ But then again, who knows what tomorrow brings!

    • David

      Oops, yes, I meant Total Cache. They have far too similar names!

  4. Mark

    I just had a horrible experience. Long story short, when I deleted the plugin from WP Admin, it removed ALL my plugins — all 25 or so!!!! Then it gave me errors until I removed the files you mentioned. What a nightmare.

    This is the second time that WTC has bit me in the ##$$! I should know better.

    • David

      I know they’ve recently released a couple of huge updates. I’ve been playing with it on an local environment and haven’t run into any problems myself. Were you up-to-date with the plugin?

    • HELENA

      Mark, that sounds absolutely terrifying. Horrible! I know I won’t be trying W3TC again for a very long while. That is why I prefer MINIMAL plugins. However, it is virtually impossible not to have to rely on plugins with WP. If WordPress wasn’t so great a platform and so highly recommended and so beloved by Google, I would never have returned!
      Good luck Mark.

    • David

      It’s definitely easy to get carried away with plugins and end up in a world of hurt if something stops being supported after a major update. Simplicity is the way to go as far as I’m concerned.

      There’s also the subject of grace degradation, so if something stops working, the effect is minimal and not – like in this case – taking down the whole site.

    • David

      Damn. I was hoping that all these updates would fix the underlying problem. Thanks for the update, Mark.

  5. Mark

    A little more detail: Luckily backed up my database before installing it. I do that for ANY plugin change/update as I don’t trust anything. Good thing, because once I installed it and went through the general settings, when I went back to other admin pages, they were blank. So I could not even disable the plugin because I could not see it on the admin pages. Only thing I could do was delete the W3TC folder in plugins through FTP. That left me with other errors which stopped my site from loading. So I uploaded the folder again. Site back up, and this time was able to get to the plugins page where disable was not available, just Delete (since it disabled itself). I choose Delete, thinking it would do a tidy delete of the plugin. Nope, it deleted ALL my plugins, every one. I check in FTP and yup, they where gone.

    So I called my web host, where I pay for constant backups of my dedicated server. He restored files and database as if a few hours back. Still had errors, but he found some W3TC files to delete and the site was up. However, one of my custom post type tables was missing. Strange! So I restored my own backup of the database I made. Then things looked fine.

    However, I was scared that something I could not see was still perhaps wrong, after all this. So I had the web host’s professional “restore team” FULLY restore from earlier in the day — a full restore, byte-by-byte image restore. Now it’s better.

    I really want to speed up my site with a caching plugin. I’ve had success with Quick Cache, but it’s very minimal, and it doesn’t let me use my CDN.

    It was on my site, Hopefully it’s all good. It was a long day yesterday.

  6. Wendell

    Great article, thank you! This helped tremendously. FYI — I also had to delete object-cache.php from my wp-content directory to clear up W3 errors after deletion.

    • David

      Thanks Wendell. It’s weird how different each install of W3 is. I had it on three different sites, and every removal was a little different.

    • Don Adrian

      I also encountered the same issue just now when I tried deactivating and deleting it. The most recent release of W3 Total Cache is still problematic at this point (April 11, 2014) using WordPress 3.8.2.

    • David

      My pleasure Kamran! I do use WP Super Cache now. I don’t like it as much, but it seems much more stable.

  7. Dennis

    Hi, and thank you. I run into the same issues as you, I use W3TC in a lot of sites without any issues, but recently some of my sites using it started consuming all the cpu on the server, at one point that Hostgator banned every site that was using the plugin, I transfered the sites to a VPS over at Media Temple, and the same happened there. Until I realize that maybe the plugin was the one affecting the cpu, so I turned it off and like magic , my sites where faster than ever, and the cpu was back at 5%. I dont know if you notice that they added a new button to the plugin telling us to upgrade ( pay ) so we can have access to more features… it makes me wonder that maybe something is going on under the hood, I hope I am wrong.
    Anyway thanks again, and please let us know if you find a solution to these mess, or if WP Super Cache is the best way to go.

    • David

      That’s very, very similar to my experience, Dennis. The CPU usage went through the roof and sites crashed.

  8. Scot

    I see a bunch of folders in the wp-content/cache folder that belongs to W3 TOTAL CACHE please advise on save way to remove those also.

    • David

      The plugin seems to create different files and directories for different installs; I’m not really sure why.

      I haven’t used this plugin in quite a while, so I’m probably a couple of releases behind. I would recommend Googling the files/directories before removing them to see if other people had any issues. Odds are, they’re all fine to get rid of, but I like to be sure.

  9. chrissy

    Hi – great post thank you but I have a problem – I deleted the plugin before doing step1 of this tutorial – any tips?

    Many thanks

    • David

      Hey Chrissy,
      I’d FTP into your site and see if the files and directories the plugin creates are still there. If so, delete them. Hopefully you’re good to go after that.

  10. NKS

    Hi! There’s actually one additional file you will need to remove via ftp from the wp-content/ directory: object-cache.php

  11. Angie Petersen

    How do you remove the object cache after I removed the plugin already? I have tried to instal it again so I could follow your directions but it wont allow me due to missing files and saying this “W3 Total Cache Error: some files appear to be missing or out of place. Please re-install plugin or remove /home/desireto/public_html/wp-content/object-cache.php.”
    Help please…..

    • David

      Hi Angie,
      I just sent you a response via email too.

      I would see if there are still files/directories on the server and remove them. If that doesn’t work, try reinstalling the plugin, and then remove it using the steps outlined above. If you’re still having problems, I’d recommend contacting W3TC’s support.

  12. Andrew Rezk

    I ran into the same issue with wp total cache, and i had to witch to wp super cache. Thanks much for this helpful tutorial, i didn’t know that there will be still some leftover files after deleting the plugin.

  13. Bella

    Hi David,
    I tried all the instruction above. Unfortunately I still could not deactivate w3-total-cache. I have non of above you mentioned enable. only Browser Cache enable. I tried to uncheck it and save all setting. It would show W3 Total Cache Error below. If i click deactivate, they would show “W3 Total Cache Error: some files appear to be missing or out of place. Please re-install plugin or remove/home2/church/public_html/wp-content/advanced-cache.php.”
    I have to keep removing advanced-cach.php. in order for my site to work. Would you please help. By the way, general setting page showed some warning “W3 Total Cache: Default settings are in use. The configuration file could not be read or doesn’t exist. Please to create the file.”

  14. Dorien

    Hi there!

    I’m having troubles with w3TC.. I installed it, but didn’t understand the settings etc. Also it didn’t make my website any faster. So I wanted to remove plugin, clicked uninstall.. And now.. ERROR!!

    W3 Total Cache Error: some files appear to be missing or out of place. Please re-install plugin or remove /home/weiwha/domains/
    Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /home/weiwha/domains/ in /home/weiwha/domains/ on line 896

    I reinstalled it, but then again I couldn’t activate the plugin, so I wasn’t able to turn off some settings, deactivate it and delete it.

    Could someone help me? I’m going crazy right now! I have to finish the website by wednesday.

    • David

      You might need to reach out to the folks that make W3TC, but the first thing I would do is check your server for the files I outlined above, and remove them.

  15. Vitor

    Hi! in my case i unchecked all the enable boxes, then i deactivated and deleted but in wp-content i donΒ΄t have those php files you speak about, just one folder called w3tc-config and inside, index.html; master.php and master-admin.php.
    what should i do to get rid of this plugin!?
    backupbuddy is not working, stops in the middle when backing up and wp-slimstat is not tracking! i think is the w3 responsability!
    Please i need help



    • David

      Hey Vitor,
      It seems like the files W3TC sets up are pretty inconsistent. In your case, I’d be wary of removing anything without a full backup. I’d reach out to the W3TC support team in your case.

      Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

  16. Chad Warner

    Thanks, your instructions worked. I believe there’s a typo in the section Remove Files from Webserver. I believe “advanced-cache-php” should be “advanced-cache.php”.

    • David

      Oh, right you are. Thanks for the head’s up; I’ve corrected the typo.

  17. Mike

    Thanks so much for this explanation. W3 was giving me fits as I was trying to move some posts to a new site. I had made the mistake of trying to activate a new caching plugin without fully removing W3 and it wouldn’t even let me into my admin area. Your guide helped me to figure things out.

  18. Martijn

    Hi David,

    Thank you for the article. It is exactly The information I needed!

    Do you know if the folder wp-content/cache is also part of W3 Total Cache. Or is this a standard folder of WordPress? Do I need to delete this folder or certain content within this folder as well?

    • David

      I believe that it is, but I’d make a backup before you remove it, just in case.

  19. Shaun

    Really appreciate this post – I deleted W3TC ages ago and so thought it couldn’t be the cause of my strange problem, but thanks to you I got rid of it properly and my site’s fully functional again! πŸ™‚

    • David

      Glad it’s working for you now. That is indeed a weird issue.

  20. chris

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your post.
    my problem is sovled now.
    it is tooooooooooo terrible, and spend me and the host many days to solve it.

  21. Matias

    Hi! I moved from another hosting in which I was using W3 TC. This new hosting includes it’s own caching solution (Super Cacher) so they advised me to deactivate W3 Total. Using that with a free CloudFlare account I reached loading speed lower than 1 secs, when before I was between 2 and 3,5. This was key in my Pagespeed Score. However, I was hungry for more: trying to solve the “Minify CSS” and “Minify Javascript” issues I made the mistake of reactivating the W3 TC to see if I could use this aspects of the plugin. It wreak havoc in my site and I had to retrieve a file from a backup because of a fatal error. I didn’t want to restore the full backup as I had made some changes since then. I started having server response time issues again, I went back to 3 seconds times and I was MAD. After uninstalling it, trying a lot of other things and asking for support in the hosting it occured to me that perhaps something of the W3TC was still present, so I googled and found this article.

    THANKS im back in the miliseconds mark! It’s unbelieveable but each thing I deleted made my site go faster.

    There was a folder named Cache and inside had another folders like Minify which had their own htaccess files. I had to delete those too. As others said, please be careful, as is seems that each installation is different. Don’t make the same dumb mistake I made.

    Im still haunted by the idea that there’s another little piece of W3TC awaiting to ruin my site or it’s speed. If I find something else, would let you know!

  22. Emtin

    Thanks man. I’ve had and really bad expirience with this plugi, even though it speed up my site, it made me loose rankings on google (i don’t why) just after installing it. So I had to uninstall it. Thanks for the tutorial. Greeting (And sorry for my English haha)

  23. Marisa

    Thanks a lot for this informative post. W3 total cache generated a 404 for my blog and it had issues in webmaster tool. When I removed it according to what you said, my new sitemap was accepted in webmaster and the site is being indexed again.

  24. Ryan

    Someone please help!

    I recently made changes to W3 Total Cache plugin on my WordPress site and it caused a 500 – Internal Server Error.

    I freaked out and went into my file manager on my hosting site and made these changes:

    – Deleted the W3 Total Cache plugin
    – Deleted :

    I am still having the 500 – Internal Server Error. Please help I will send $30 via Paypal to whoever can help me fix my site!! THANK YOU!!!

    skype: socialagentsmarketing


  25. shallum

    this plugin is pain in the a** i installed it and im unable to show post update to visitor when ever i create new post the same particular post is shown to visitor, i have installed the new wp with db with no plugin and cache still exists, how to fix this?

    • David

      Have you gone through the manual uninstall steps listed above? Do you see any of the folders that were listed in the article? I’m guessing there’s something leftover from your old setup that needs to be cleared out.

  26. brett

    the main issue in my opinion is the .htcaccess entries for w3. Disable the plugin, delete the plugin and then remove all w3 entries in your htcaccess and you should be good to go.

    Overall, well done Dave on posting such a clearly written and incredibly useful post. Great stuff, thanks mate.

  27. Nadeem

    Hi, after install this plugin my url auto enter the code like this “?5ff446” is there any solution for this. ?

    • David

      I Nadeem,
      I’m not familiar with that one; I’d advise you to reach out to the plugin’s support team.

  28. Amy

    You are my new hero. Thank you so much for this article. I’ve been struggling with w3 Cache for weeks and this finally helped me clear it up. Thanks!

  29. GazRevs

    Just to let you know that you saved me today! Thanks for the help. This plugin completely crashed my website! I can’t believe there are files all over the place!

    You’ve got another fan, thanks again!

  30. elf1

    I really appreciate this tut. I’m about to dump W3 for WP-Rocket. The latter, by all accounts, plays much nicer with WooCommerce. Thanks again for sharing this.

  31. Giang Nguyen

    Thank you! I worked for a client who used W3TC and while removing it, I ran in MAJOR problems and you helped me solved it! Thank you so much!

  32. Roger Perkin


    I have an issue with my site where the homepage has not updated in 6 days – I followed your instructions to remove W3 Total Cache, all traces are gone, but my home page is still stuck I have been told the expires header is set to 1 month – tried re-installing W3 and setting it lower but no dice.

    Any ideas?

  33. Barbara

    I have an old site and am fearful of doing much to other than deactivating the W3 Total Cache plugin, however it is still caching objects. I have noticed that the wp-content/cache/object/000000 file is HUGE and that is probably what has flagged the site by the host for having too many files. I went into the w3-config and turned the object caching to “false” from true, and am thinking that I can just delete that /000000 group of files. What do you think?

    • Thiago Siqueira

      Barbara, went through the same problem! Remove the entire structure manually W3 Total Cache, because the -rf rm can not remove the directory 00000 due to processes still stuck with the W3.

      After removing the entire structure, you can easily apply the RM -RF in 0000.

  34. pieter

    I followed your instructions but when deleting the w3tc-config folder i received the message that i didn’t have permission to do that. CMOD=777. How to solve that?

    • David

      You have to change the file permission; you can use a file manager or possibly an FTP client to do that. Just Google CHMOD.

  35. shelly

    Thanks saved my site from a real mess. w3 total cache was messing it up with that plugin gone all screwy thanks.
    Then had issue logging into WordPress between you guys and this site here we got it all sorted. Yay


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