Webserver Tuning Tips

Improving MySQL database performance

If your server is performing poorly you may want to consider the following PHP and MySQL tuning suggestions.

First, review the Zen Cart Server Requirements document for the essentials.

PHP Tuning

  • memory_limit should be set to 32M or higher. Nowadays it’s very common to see it set somewhere between 128M-512M. Set it to as much as you need, but not higher, otherwise you’re wasting RAM resources on your server.
  • max_execution_time is commonly set to 60 seconds, which should be fine
  • max_input_time is commonly set to 60 seconds, which is normally fine, except if you’re doing large uploads such as huge photos or large input files with plugins like EasyPopulate
  • file_uploads must be set to “On” if you expect to be able to upload files either via your admin interface or receive files from your customers
  • post_max_size should be set to something that matches the size of files you will allow to be uploaded, whether by customers or by yourself as an administrator. Start with at least 8M, or even 32M or larger if you’re uploading large images or large attachments or doing large data-imports.
  • upload_max_filesize should be set to the same as post_max_size
  • gzip compression should be enabled: zlib extension should be loaded and zlib.output_compression should be set to a non-zero value

MySQL Tuning

In MySQL, the server’s my.cnf file contains the configuration settings for the database engine operation.  The default settings are typically inadequate for optimal use, and thus require tuning for your database to run smoothly.

Tuning MySQL is a carefully-guarded skill by industry professionals since the knowledge is specialized and the expertise of professionals skilled in this topic commands a high price because it typically affords the benefactor a competitive edge.

Here are some tips with which you can experiment if you have control over the MySQL configuration (most storeowners will not have this level of access, and must rely on their hosting company’s server administrator to do this sort of tweaking because it affects EVERYONE running on that server).

The following points talk about settings in my.cnf vs statistics on running processes which can be found in your phpMyAdmin screen.

MySQL Server RAM

Note that the more RAM you have available to MySQL, the more room you have to play when tweaking. It’s important to give a careful balance between MySQL and other services (especially Apache and PHP).

MySQL Memory Model

The default memory allocations for MySQL are not adequate for a live server. You need to increase the memory allocations beyond the standard settings.

The sum of all read/sort/join buffer size settings, and total tmp tables multiplied by tmp table sizes, and cache size settings plus memory per connection multiplied by max number of connections should be no more than 90% of available memory allocated to MySQL

MySQL Caching

table_cache should be large enough to handle the number of open_tables at any given time, plus 5-10% room to spare

table_definition_cache should be set similarly

thread_cache_size needs to be large enough to support the number of threads_created and threads_cached per second


key_buffer size should be set to a level which suits the amount of index usage occurring on your server. Using 15-20% of system memory is common. But if this value is too large you’re wasting resources that could be used better elsewhere.

read_buffer_size should be under 8M, and usually more than 2M. Increase it depending on the number of table scans happening on an ongoing basis.

read_rnd_buffer_size might benefit from being 2M or larger

join_buffer_size and sort_buffer_size often do well at 1M but sometimes increasing this to 2M may be beneficial

tmp_table_size needs to be large enough to handle the memory demands of any temporary-tables created by query joins. Poorly written joins on improperly indexed tables will create higher demands on this setting


max_connections vs max_used_connections – Don’t set max_connections way too high, else you’re wasting resources. Your max_used_connections should be more than 10% of your max_connections.

max_open_files vs open_files – you should be using less than 75% of your max_open_files setting


You’ll need to refine the number of child processes to be spawned before they are killed by the server. You do NOT want to have excess numbers of idle processes in MySQL, as this wastes resources. This is a combination of max_connections and connect_timeout, wait_timeout, max_connect_errors.

Slow Query Log

It may be useful to enable log-slow-queries so that someone skilled in understanding the logs and altering queries for performance can review them for tweaking.

When using this feature, setting long_query_time to a value short enough to catch slow-running queries will help. This number may need adjusting over time. 2 might be a good starting value.

Be aware that this log can grow VERY large very quickly if there are many problems and slow queries. Beware. Best to use this only temporarily from time to time.

General Advice

You can find many articles online regarding MySQL tweaking or optimization. There are many opinions, and it is really a balancing act. Determine what works best for you based on your actual site performance … especially when it is busiest.

Still have questions? No problem! Just head over to the Zen Cart support forum and ask there in the appropriate subforum. In your post, please include your Zen Cart and PHP versions, and a link to your site.

Is there an error or omission on this page? Please post to General Questions on the support forum. Or, if you'd like to open a pull request, just review the guidelines and get started. You can even PR right here.
Last modified September 20, 2020 by Scott C Wilson (f3bd368).