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The Importance and Process of Deep Cleaning Your WordPress Options Table

Introduction: As a WordPress website owner, ensuring the health and efficiency of your database is crucial for optimal performance. Over time, your database can accumulate unnecessary data, leading to bloated tables, slower queries, and potential security risks. Deep cleaning your WordPress database is a vital maintenance task that helps improve site speed, optimize storage, and enhance overall stability. In this article, we will explore the importance of cleaning the options table and walk you through the process using some essential commands. Please read entire document, including disclaimer before proceeding.

1. Why is Deep Cleaning Your Database Important?

Your WordPress database stores various information related to your website, including posts, pages, comments, plugin settings, and more. However, with regular usage, it's common for the database to accumulate data that is no longer necessary. Here are some key reasons why deep cleaning your WordPress database is important:

a. Improved Performance: Cleaning up unnecessary data reduces the size of your database, resulting in faster query execution and improved site performance. Smaller database sizes also make it easier to back up and restore your website.

b. Optimal Storage: Removing redundant data frees up storage space, especially useful if your hosting plan has limited storage capacity. It helps prevent reaching storage limits and avoids additional costs associated with upgrading storage.

c. Enhanced Security: Eliminating unused data reduces the risk of potential security vulnerabilities. By removing outdated plugins, themes, or user data, you minimize the attack surface and improve the overall security posture of your WordPress site.

2. The Process of Deep Cleaning Your WordPress Database

There are a lot of plugins that can clean the database quickly and efficiently. I often use WP Optimize which seems to do a thorough job of helping you remove unused tables and then optimizing the remaining tables.

However one of the biggest problems is the overhead in the wp_options table and specifically the 'autorun' options which can grow to an amount that can really slow down the site and demand more resources. Similar to cleaning up the autostart programs on a computer, these are items that load automatically in your WordPress site and need to be cleaned up, especially as you will likely find items from themes and plugins you no longer use.

a. Determining Autorun Size: To determine the size of your autorun entries in the options table, you can run a SQL query that calculates the total size. Here's the query (in all the following queries you will need to replace 'wp_options' with the actual name of your options table):

SELECT SUM(LENGTH(option_value)) AS autorun_size
FROM wp_options
WHERE autoload = 'yes';

This query calculates the sum of the length of the option values from the wp_options table where the autoload column is set to 'yes'. The result will give you the autorun size in bytes. This amount should always be under 6 digits, I shoot for below 500000

b. Identifying Autorun Entries: The first step is to identify autorun entries in the options table that you want to remove. You can achieve this by running a SQL query that filters the options based on the keyword you mentioned, such as "bigcommerce." Here's the query (replace "oldpluginname" with the name of a plugin you are certain you no longer use):

SELECT option_name, option_value
FROM wp_options
WHERE option_name LIKE '%oldpluginname%' 

This query selects the option name and option value from the wp_options table where the option name contains the your plugin keyword.

c. Removing Autorun Entries: I typically then manually delete the entries, however, you can carefully proceed with deleting them using SQL queries. Here's an example query to remove the identified autorun entries:

DELETE FROM wp_options
WHERE option_name LIKE '%oldpluginname%' 

This query deletes the rows from the wp_options table where the option name contains your plugin keyword.

c. Finding largest remaining entries:

Next I look at the top 20 entries to see if I can further optimize the autorun:

SELECT option_name, option_value, LENGTH(option_value) AS value_length FROM wp_options WHERE autoload = 'yes' ORDER BY value_length DESC LIMIT 20;

I open the entries and look at the code to determine if this is something I really need running. It may initiate the removal of a bulky plugin, or I might do an additional backup of the database and then experimentally set the autorun of this entry to "no" or remove it completly and then check my site to make sure everyting is functioning as expected.

d. Optimizing Database Tables: After removing the autorun entries, it's a good practice to optimize your database tables. Optimization improves the structure, efficiency, and performance of the tables. You can optimize the tables using the following SQL query:

OPTIMIZE TABLE wp_options;

Conclusion: Deep cleaning your WordPress database is a vital maintenance task that should be performed regularly. By removing unnecessary data, optimizing tables, and enhancing database performance, you can ensure a faster, more secure, and efficient website. Remember to create backups before making any changes to your database and test your site thoroughly after performing deep cleaning operations. Taking these proactive steps will contribute to the long-term success of your WordPress website.

Disclaimer: Before making any changes to your WordPress database, it is crucial to create a backup and proceed with caution. If you are not familiar with SQL queries or database management, consider seeking assistance from a professional or using plugins specifically designed for deep cleaning tasks.

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