Is Your WordPress Admin Panel Slow? Here Are 11 Ways to Speed It Up

Have you ever wondered why your WordPress admin is running slowly and if there is a way to fix it?

The truth be told, there is nothing more annoying than when your WordPress dashboard starts to misbehave. You know the scenario – you are trying to publish a post urgently, but WordPress isn’t playing ball. What should take moments seems to take forever.

Fortunately, there are many tricks to help alleviate this common problem, and I shall discuss some of those in this post.

What’s Causing Your Slow WordPress Admin Dashboard?

There are many reasons why your WordPress backend may be running slowly. Common ones include:

  • Choice of hosting provider
  • Too many speed-sapping plugins
  • Poorly configured plugins
  • Theme issues
  • Outdated PHP version
  • Unoptimized database
  • WordPress memory limit too low
  • Incorrect WordPress Heartbeat API frequency

Please note the above list is not exhaustive, and often pinpointing the exact culprit(s) may require much trial and error.

11 Ways To Speed Up Your Slow WordPress Admin

I will now show you some tips to help speed up your slow WordPress admin dashboard.

You might find just one of them makes a significant difference. However, chances are you will need to implement several to get the best performance boost.

I advise trying the simple ones first, moving on to the more complex ones if those don’t help.

1. Consider Migrating To Another Hosting Provider

Switching to a new host is a rather drastic measure to fix your slow WordPress admin, but it may well be the one you need.

It is a sad fact of WordPress life that not all hosting providers were created equal, with some offering better performance than others. A slow host will not only mean your site performs slowly, but the WordPress backend will dawdle along too.

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Furthermore, while you may not experience issues when your site is new, as it grows, the increased traffic could impact it. This is why switching to a more capable host makes sense.

While there is nothing wrong with opting for cheaper hosting, particularly in the early days of your WordPress journey, it can often be a false economy. This is because budget hosting providers will cut corners to keep costs down. Unfortunately, that usually equates to them using equipment of a much lower spec than that used by more expensive, performance-oriented WordPress hosting companies.

If you are a newbie, SiteGround would be a good option. That is the host WPLift uses, and you can read a review of it here. Kinsta is a slightly pricier option, but it does offer consistently fast WordPress dashboard load times. Check out this Kinsta review to find out more.

Migrating to a new host is not as daunting as it seems, and often the company you are shifting to will help you with the move.

Finally, for some additional options, please do check out WPLift’s article 5 Best Managed WordPress Hosting Providers (2021).

2. Locate Speed-Sapping Plugins

Often, some plugins not only will cause a site’s frontend to run slowly, but they can also slow down the WordPress admin dashboard.

There are several ways to identify which plugins might be slowing down your dashboard:

This method involves deactivating all plugins on your site to see if that helps speed up the dashboard. If it does, you can reactivate each plugin one by one until you identify the culprit (s).

It may seem a little contradictory, but you can use an extra plugin like Query Monitor to identify other plugins that are hogging system resources:

Example of a Query Monitor report showing plugin performance that can cause a slow WordPress admin
  • Use WP Hive Chrome Extension

WP Hive is a Google Chrome extension that gives some indications of how a plugin will impact a site’s performance. After you install the extension, whenever you search for a plugin in the WordPress plugin directory, WP Hive will add simple metrics alongside the plugin description:

Example of the panel that WP Hive adds to the WordPress plugin directory pages to show how each plugin performs

Once you have identified any problematic plugin(s), you will then need to do one or more of the following:

  • Check it is configured correctly and that any unnecessary features have been deactivated (where possible). Broken Link Checker is an excellent example of this because it is often set to run continually, slowing everything down. In this case, it is better to disable the plugin entirely, only running it manually whenever you need to check for broken links.
  • Replace the plugin with a similar one that is better optimized for performance.
  • Delete the plugin altogether if it isn’t absolutely necessary on your site.
  • Use a plugin manager such as Freesoul Deactivate Plugins to deactivate plugins on specific pages (including backend ones.)

3. Remove Bloat Caused by Plugins

Some plugins are prone to bloating sites (front and backend) with unwanted features and scripts. Unfortunately, removing that bloat is difficult ­– impossible even – unless you use an additional plugin to help.

For example, Hide SEO Bloat helps you remove many of the unnecessary backend features that the Yoast SEO plugin introduces. Similarly, Disable WooCommerce Bloat enables you to eliminate unwanted chaff from your WooCommerce installation.

4. Disable Object Cache in Your Caching Plugin

If you happen to be using it, W3 Total Cache is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it has so many settings and configurations designed to improve your site’s performance. However, on the other, using lots of those settings can slow things down. This problem manifests even more with cheaper shared hosting.

If you are using W3 Total Cache and your WordPress admin dashboard has slowed down, the first thing to check is Object Caching is disabled. To do this, simply go to your W3 Total Cache settings and ensure that ‘Object Cache’ is disabled:

Location of the Object Cache enable fields in W3 Total Cache

For further information on properly configuring W3 Total Cache, check out WPLift’s article How to Install and Setup W3 Total Cache for WordPress (2021.)

While I have specifically mentioned W3 Total Cache, even if you are using another caching plugin, it’d be wise to check its settings to ensure it is not impacting the backend performance of your WordPress.

5. Check Your Theme

It might sound a little bonkers given that they are primarily for the frontend of your site, but often themes can also slow down the WordPress admin dashboard.

Theme developers often use the flexible functions.php file to add additional functionality, as with plugins. And just like plugins, some of that added functionality may also be dragging down the speed of your backend.

Checking to see if your theme is the root cause of your speed problems is easy. Simply switch back to the default WordPress theme (currently Twenty Twenty Two), and if your WordPress admin speed then normalizes, you’ll know the issue probably lies in your theme’s functions file.

Once you have confirmed that the problem lies with your theme, you can first try contacting the theme developer about it. Alternatively, you can appoint a freelance developer to try and fix the problem for you. What’s more, you can always consider switching to another theme.

6. Check Your PHP Version

WordPress is built using PHP, a general-purpose scripting web development language.

Like the WordPress core, PHP continues to develop. Unfortunately, while most people are pretty good at regularly updating their WordPress, relatively few realize that their PHP also needs periodic updating.

Updating your WordPress’s PHP brings several benefits, including tighter security and greatly improved performance. However, not all web hosts automatically install the latest version, and you may have to do it manually yourself.

How you do this varies from host to host, but in many cases, it is through C-Panel. For example, here is a screenshot of my GreenGeeks C-Panel showing the active version of PHP on my account:

Screenshot from the C-Panel of GreenGeeks showing where the current PHP version can be found

In the above case, even though there are a couple of later versions available, GreenGeeks automatically applies the latest stable version of PHP automatically. You will need to check with your own host to see what the arrangements are for PHP updates.

7. Optimize Your Database

As time passes, your WordPress database will gain plenty of unwanted clutter, predominantly post revisions and transients. In particular, the databases of WooCommerce sites are prone to expired transient accumulation. All of this can cause a slow WordPress admin dashboard.

Thankfully, caching plugins such as WP Rocket or LiteSpeed Cache usually have integral tools to help you safely delete this clutter from your database, thereby helping improve the speed of the front and backend of your site.

8. Check Your Memory Limit

Your site’s PHP memory limit could be the culprit causing your backend to slow down.

Fortunately, this is a relatively easy fix, especially if your host provider allows you to do it manually. In that case, all you must do is insert this line of code at the very top of your wp-config.php file:

define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘256M’);

If your host doesn’t permit manual increases to the PHP memory limit, you’ll need to request they increase it for you.

9. Check the WordPress Heartbeat API Frequency

The WordPress Heartbeat API facilitates communication between your browser when you’re logged in to your WordPress dashboard and the web server. Put simply, it syncs data between the two.

The Heartbeat API allows WordPress to do useful things like automatically saving drafts, showing when another user is editing a post, etc.

However, as is often the case with useful features, they can also have the downside of slowing the WordPress backend. Thankfully, there are ways of fixing this without disabling them altogether.

One way is to use the free Heartbeat Control plugin. In this, you can go to Settings → Heartbeat Control Settings and then either:

  • Disable the Heartbeat API altogether, or
  • Adjust the frequency so that it runs less often, for example, to 60+ seconds:
Screenshot of the WordPress HeartBeat API frequency being set using Heartbeat Control plugin to help fix a slow WordPress admin

By doing this, you’ll get all the benefits of the Heartbeat API, but using fewer resources.

If you continue to experience issues after adjusting the frequency, you can try completely disabling the Heartbeat API to see if that helps.

By the way, if you use a cache plugin such as WP Rocket or LiteSpeed Cache, you may find that it has integral settings to control the Heartbeat API.

10. Use Third-Party Tools To Fix a Slow WooCommerce Dashboard

If you run a WooCommerce store, you may have noticed the backend slowing as you add more products. Unfortunately, as your store expands, so does this problem. All of this makes running queries and reports a real pain.

The fastest solution to this problem is to use a WooCommerce analytics plugin such as Metorik. This will give you a better interface to work with, plus it will help improve performance. This is because Metorik is not constrained by the same database structures as the WordPress dashboard.

The speed improvement can be dramatic, with reports that can take over 30 seconds to load in the WordPress dashboard taking just a split second in Metorik.

11. Update the ‘wp-admin’ and ‘wp-includes’ Folders

If everything you have tried so far still has not improved the speed of your WordPress admin dashboard, you can, as a last resort, upload fresh copies of the ‘wp-admin‘ and ‘wp-includes‘ folders to your website.

To do this, download a completely new copy of the latest version of WordPress from WordPress.org. If you are still using an older version of WordPress, you should download that one instead.

Next, extract the ZIP folder and use FTP to upload only the wp-includes and wp-admin folders. When prompted, select the option to overwrite existing files.

Hopefully, your WordPress admin panel will now be working at its normal speed.

What’s Your Favorite Way To Speed Up Your WordPress Backend?

As I have explained, fixing a slow WordPress admin dashboard can involve much trial and error because there are so many variables. However, the methods I have outlined in this article should help in most cases. Should you have any other suggestions, I’d be delighted if you could drop them into the comments below.

Finally, for further reading on improving your site’s performance, I recommend checking out WPLift’s posts on ways to speed up WordPress, the best CDN services, and the best caching plugins.



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