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When WordPress cache plugin goes bad

Is a short reminder on how easy it can be to lose control of your CMS

The problem

So the last 24 hours have been quite interesting, I managed all on my own to take my site (discontinued) site to the shitters and back.
After doing some research I did wake up to the fact that WordPress does not come as optimized as I would like out of the box in regards to caching. Yslow and other site checkers where giving me the finger for my site  In search of all the right stuff in all the wrong plugins, I found that my attempt to rectify a wrong had resulted in utter and complete chaos. I had no idea on how many plugins I had tested or what settings I had altered in my hosting environment.
Now as an IT pro this is highly unacceptable.


The result

After giving myself, a good lecture and a warning I promised to never ever do silly things like not noting down changes or have backup of configuration files before proceeding.
Sitting back down I did some reading and made a game plan, clean my installation of all other plugins that do not need to be there.
When trying to open up wp-admin part of my site I found out that my W3 Total cache plugin had totally taken over my environment. I do blame the W3 plugin because it was the last one I installed. Now that’s not to say that the reason for my problems could be because of leftovers from another plugin that results in chaotic behavior from W3 , but I had been using it for a couple of hours without problem, just going over some of the settings until it finally snapped.

So here I am, just lunched my site anxiously waiting traffic and was down because of plugins.


The Solution

Starting with the most vital thing, are my hardware resources still available, looking at my process with [top] command in my ssh console I saw that my memory was approaching 0%.
Just be 100% that this was indeed my site that was messing up my memory I arranged the processes after memory consumption.
command [ps aux –sort –rss]

To avoid utter and complete meltdown I restarted the apache2 service
command [/etc/init.d/httpd restart]

This gave me the opportunity to take a look at my configuration files and disable the plugin that was creating this mess.



When I opened the wp-config.php I found the following line and commented that out.

To comment out an line in php you can use the pound sign #

and to my surprise I found this in there as well so I commented that out as well.
//Added by WP-Cache Manager
define( ‘WPCACHEHOME’, ‘/<path to your site>/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/’ )

Once that was done, I was quite sure that my cache was disabled, but still I was unable to access my wp-admin.


Cache plugins have some .htaccess rules as well so I ended by moving my .htaccess file to bad.htaccess file.
command [mv .htaccess bad.htaccess]


Finally I was able to access the backend and deactivate and remove the W3 Total cache plugin (was the only one left on the server).

Because I moved my .htaccess to bad.htaccess my pages did not work anymore. This is because WordPress permalinks had made some entries in the .htaccess file. The easiest way to get back on track is to go to permalinks change one option and save , then change it back to the original setting and save once more.

In my years as a Software developer I have learned that in most cases uninstallers miss something , either due to a bug or just on purpose.
To properly clean up WordPress i removed the following.

  • Cache referances in wp-config.php (see above)
  • Found the directory of the plugin in the wp-content\plugins folder and deleted it.
  • Remove the files advanced-cache.php , db.php , w3-total-cache-config.php from the wp-content folder
  • Remove the folder cache from the wp-content folder.


Final thoughts

In closing, I must admit that as an it pro and developer I should have known better than randomly bombard my site with plugins, but I did it and that cost me some debugging time.
I will be optimizing my sites without the use of plugins and will make sure to note down my settings and try to explain them to the best of my abilities.

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