Last Updated on January 29, 2024 by Sunny Staff
The WordPress backend, casually referred to as wp-admin, is the control center of any WordPress installation. Productivity is often the main casualty when wp-admin slows down, followed closely by your peace of mind.
Your WordPress backend can slow down for various reasons, from too few resources to server location and, the usual suspect, poorly coded plugins. Below we’ll look at why some of these cause wp-admin to drag its feet, and how you can fix it.
Every site and application needs storage space, memory, and processing power. Too little of any of these, and it will likely slow down, produce errors, or go down. The WordPress wp-admin area also needs these resources – sometimes more than the front end – to cater to all the resource-intensive queries and complex functionality.
Given the affordability of storage, it’s often oversupplied with hosting accounts. And yet, it’s not infinite. Media files, large downloads, and mail (if stored on the same server) are often to blame for consuming the bulk of available storage. And when the amount of free space edges closer to zero, your WordPress website, including wp-admin, can slow down or crash.
Your hosting account’s admin panel or web control panel should display the total amount of storage space available to your account, the amount used, and the amount of free space left.
What to do
You’ll either have to reclaim existing storage space by deleting files and other data that are no longer needed (see Database Issues below for a list of plugins that can help you reclaim storage space) or upgrade your hosting account.
Like storage space and memory, processing power is finite, which means it can be overwhelmed if your site has to handle too many requests, or if it has to cater to the demands of too many plugins and content. Check your hosting account’s admin panel or web control panel for CPU statistics.
What to do
If you’re on a cloud server, hosts typically allow you to upgrade your existing server within a few clicks and no downtime – choose a server with more CPUs / a larger CPU and click apply. If you’re on shared hosting, the only way to add more processing power to your account is to upgrade your hosting account.
However, as with memory below, it’s important to ensure that your site is running as efficiently as possible. This means removing unnecessary plugins, themes, custom code, and other components that could be needlessly using up a lot of processing power.
You can easily check the amount of memory a single PHP script is allowed to use from Tools > Site Health > Info > Server.
This number is important because it tells you how much of the total amount of memory that a single script can use, and you could have multiple PHP scripts running simultaneously.
When the total amount of memory consumed by individual scripts gets close to the total amount of memory available to your site (as indicated in your hosting account’s control panel), your site may slow down, or, when all memory has finally been exhausted, ultimately crash.
Again, as with disk space and CPU usage, it’s best to check your hosting account’s admin panel or web control panel for memory / RAM statistics.
What to do
The easiest way to solve insufficient memory is to upgrade your hosting account. However, there’s a caveat here: there might be an underlying reason why your site is slowing down that has nothing to do with more visitors or longer sessions. It could be that you’re running unnecessary plugins, widgets, or other components that could be chewing away at your site’s memory.
If good housekeeping isn’t part of your WordPress routine, it should be – otherwise, you may end up spending much more on your hosting account than you should.
Too many plugins, or even just one plugin with bad code can easily affect system performance, and with that drain the speed from WordPress’s wp-admin backend.
Excessive resource consumption
Even the most lightweight plugins consume resources – some only when they’re run, and others from the moment they are activated. On their own, they barely move the needle, but when combined with other plugins – some more resource-hungry – they can slow down your entire site.
Similarly, inefficient code can cause memory leaks or, plainly, just consume a lot of resources which, in turn, can slow down the entire website.
Poorly coded plugins can also cause a slow wp-admin section by using inefficient database queries or too many database queries. Database bloat can also play a role and occurs when the size of the database ‘bloats’ due to excessive, redundant, or obsolete data added by plugins.
Additional scripts and styles
What to do
Plugin management is an important part of the overall WordPress management process. It’s important to:
- Use only necessary plugins
- Use plugins by reputable authors or that have good ratings
- Keep your plugins up to date
- Deactivate and delete plugins that aren’t used
Performance profiling tools such as Code Profiler can also be used to measure the performance of plugins and themes at the PHP level.
Server load can severely affect overall website speed, especially if you’re on shared hosting. This can be down to high traffic volumes, or processes that require a lot of processing power, such as busy high-impact sites on the same server, backups, automated updates, and so on. However, since you don’t have access to system resources, determining the exact cause could be difficult.
If your WordPress site is hosted on its own server (e.g. cloud server or dedicated server), you can use your system’s built-in resource monitoring tools (e.g. top on Linux or Task Manager on Windows) to see which processes are consuming the most resources.
Where a site is on shared hosting, and you don’t have access to system monitoring tools, the best course of action is to note down the times during which your WordPress site’s wp-admin slows down and look for patterns. High server loads (whatever the cause) are more often than not temporary, and may only occur at certain times of the day.
What to do
You’ve noted down the times of day things tend to slow down and have realized it’s another site on the same server. Shared hosting is meant for beginner WordPress websites and, well, perhaps you’re no longer as entry-level as you once were. Time to upgrade to hosting that includes performance checks and site optimization, and that keeps you away from resource-hungry neighbors.
Software updates usually include improvements and optimizations, which in turn lead to better security and enhanced performance. When your WordPress version, themes, or plugins are out of date, you could experience a significant slowdown in your WordPress admin area.
Similarly, running an old PHP version, working with an incorrect PHP configuration, or too little PHP memory can significantly slow down WordPress.
WordPress will provide notifications in the admin area when updates for WordPress core, plugins, or themes become available.
The newest releases of PHP are published here. Make a note of the version number.
The easiest way to check which version of PHP your site is using (which will work regardless of your hosting type), is to create a file – let’s call it phpinfo.php – in your site’s root directory (the directory where you can also see the wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-include directories). This file should only contain three lines of code:
When the file has been created and you’ve added the lines of code, navigate to your domain and add
/phpinfo.php. For example, https://www.yoursite.com/phpinfo.php.The PHP version used by your site will be in the ‘Core’ section.
|Important: Delete the phpinfo.php file once you’ve made a note of the PHP version. It contains potentially sensitive information that could pose a security risk.
Available WordPress, plugin, and theme updates can easily be run from wp-admin by navigating to Dashboard > Updates.
Updating the PHP version is slightly more challenging since it could vary from host to host, and also your current hosting plan. As such, the recommended course of action is to speak to your host’s support team.
Post revisions, trashed posts, and spam comments are just some of the things that can cause database bloat. The more bloated your database, the longer it takes to perform queries. Where the WordPress backend is concerned, this can cause a significant delay in response.
But database bloat isn’t the only reason your database can cause wp-admin to slow down. Here are a few more:
Inefficient database queries
Badly coded plugins and themes are (again) the usual suspects in this case. They can contain poorly written or inefficient database queries or queries that aren’t optimized for performance.
Shared hosting environments can have limitations on database resources, or the number of concurrent database connections. In practice, this means that there’s a traffic threshold which, when crossed, you’ll find that your entire site could slow down. If you have caching or a CDN in place, this slowdown could only affect the WordPress backend.
Physical database distance
Few people ever consider that their database may be located on a server halfway around the world from the server that hosts their website. Unfortunately, some hosts prioritize their bottom line, which means it could take time for database queries (and their responses) to reach their destinations due to increased latency.
Your database and the management system that powers it are all software. Just like outdated themes and plugins can contain code that can cause a sitewide slowdown, so too can your database software. Staying up to date means your database benefits from optimizations and improvements that can speed up operations.
What to do
Without experience in database maintenance, solving database issues can be difficult. Luckily, several plugins exist that can help get rid of database bloat and keep your database in trim shape. They include:
WPOptimize does a number of things, not least of which is tidying up your database. They include site caching and image compression to speed up page load times, and minification which helps improve site performance.
WP-Sweep is an uncomplicated plugin that promises to clean up your WordPress database using best practices – nothing more, nothing less. Judging by the 100,000 active installs an overwhelming number of 5-star reviews, it’s safe to assume it does it pretty well.
As the name suggests Advanced Database Cleaner provides you with advanced options for database maintenance, including repairing corrupted database tables, scheduling tasks, and so much more. Best of all, it’s compatible with WordPress multisite installations.
FAQ: Speed Up WP-Admin WordPress
What are some of the most common causes of a slow WordPress backend?
Some of the most common causes of a lagging WordPress admin section include limited resources (storage, CPU, and RAM), too many and / or poorly coded plugins, a high server load, outdated software, and database issues. In many cases, each of these issues is the result of poor WordPress maintenance. It’s good practice to do the following to keep your WordPress website running smoothly:
- Keep WordPress core, plugins, and themes updated. Also, ensure that your site is running on a recent version of WordPress. Newer software versions often contain performance enhancements and bug fixes.
- Ensure that themes and plugins are from reputable authors. Where plugin modules can be activated / deactivated, only keep those you’re using activated.
- Periodically optimize your database
- Ensure your site is secure
- Use caching, image optimization, and minification.
Are there any plugins that can help speed up WP-admin in WordPress?
There are several plugins that can help speed up the WordPress backend, like WP Optimize, WP-Sweep, and Advanced Database Cleaner (see above). However, keep in mind that your first course of action should always be to follow proper maintenance best practices to ensure that your WordPress website is running efficiently.
How can I check if my hosting resources are adequate for my WordPress site?
WordPress requires very little processing power, memory, and storage to run. However, this isn’t necessarily true for all sites. You can accurately gauge whether your site’s resources are sufficient by checking the RAM, CPU, and disk usage stats in your hosting account’s control panel.
If you have too few resources to support your WordPress website, RAM and CPU usage will be consistently high. Disk space, on the other hand, is not necessarily an adequate indicator of a site’s resource utilization, unless the site and all associated storage locations have been properly maintained.
How do the PHP version and configuration impact WordPress admin speed?
Newer PHP versions include performance improvements such as better memory usage and faster execution times. They also tend to be more secure and include bug fixes.
PHP contains various configuration parameters that can affect a site’s performance. The
memory_limit setting determines how much memory is allocated to a script. Too little memory can lead to performance issues and even crashes where memory-intensive operations are performed.
max_execution_time Determines the length of time a script can run before being terminated. A lower value can lead to timeouts for longer-running operations, which could be detrimental where, for example, large media uploads are concerned.
post_max_size dictate the maximum file size that can be uploaded. When not properly configured, you won’t be allowed to upload large files, themes, and plugins.
How does server load affect my WordPress admin speed and what can I do about it?
Server load refers to the amount of work that has to be done by a server to complete all the tasks required of it. If the amount of tasks exceeds the available resources (CPU, RAM, bandwidth, and storage space), the server will slow down.
In a hosting context, this can occur in a shared hosting environment where one or two tenants with resource-intensive or busy sites slow down the server for all other tenants. The speed at which the WordPress site (and therefore also the admin area) loads is then negatively affected. The same can occur on servers with dedicated resources when other sites and background processes consume resources needed by your WordPress website.
If you’re on shared hosting and the speed of your WordPress admin area is consistently slow as a result of high server loads, the recommended course of action is often to upgrade to a server with dedicated resources (e.g. a cloud server or a dedicated server). If you’re already on a server with dedicated resources that are managed efficiently, then the recommended course of action would be to add more resources.
Sunny HQ is your one-stop shop for all things WordPress. We’re WP experts and your single point of contact for your WordPress site. If you’d like to find out how we can help, give us a call or check out our comprehensive WordPress maintenance and support plans.