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Problem: Items from the customer cart on a Magento site were disappearing before they were able to check out 

The function of any shopping cart – online, or offline – is to hold your items until you are ready to check out. When the customers of a major eCommerce retailer began experiencing items vanishing from their cart before they were ready to check out – we knew there was a problem!




Every site built with Magento has a “garbage collection” function built into the directory. This is what determines how long a users session files stay on the server. Meaning, how long your items stay in the cart after you leave that page.

In this case, user sessions were being erased before they could even get to their carts to check out. So what was going wrong?


We know from experience that we can leave a site and come back days later to see our carts still ready for check out. However, there is eventually a point that site no longer stores your cart. With this situation, we discovered the settings that govern garbage collection were set up a little differently. By differently, we mean, their garbage man was permanently out to lunch.

Issue: Garbage collection functions not running correctly

Before our developer fixed the site, if you had the same computer and browser, and came back to your cart 5 years later on this particular site, your cart would still be there waiting for you to check out. Each instance of a website saving your cart creates a very small file on their server. Over time these files build up until they hit a certain threshold. Once a limit is reached the garbage collection function runs.

When this function is not running correctly, these files will continue to be stored until the server is completely full. And, when the server is full it can not store any more files. This is exactly what happened with this website. Their server was full of old sessions and could not store anymore new instances of the user’s cart.


A garbage bin sits full after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York November 22, 2012. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT) - RTR3AQV8

You wouldn’t want to see this on the street – and you wouldn’t want it on your server.

Taking Out The Trash


Technical Solution: Edit the settings in the php.ini file that govern the garbage collection operations

Our Magento Certified Developer Scott found that the solution for this website was to reset the variables in the garbage collection to default values. By reseting these values this would allow normal garage collection operations to resume. He also set up a script to run a clean up when the website server hit 95% capacity. This was a quick fix to return normal cart functionality to the site and prevent a repeat of the problem in the future.

Do you need help or support with your Magento ecommerce site? We provide a wide range of consulting and support services to our clients – from emergency fixes, to guidance about upgrades our expert programmers can help you troubleshoot a variety of issues!  Call 303.473.4400 or visit here to have a real person contact you now >>

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