Deep copy arrays in PowerShell

PowerShellJust a quick post for something I had to deal with for another post I’m writing. I wanted to do some work where I’d reuse a base array over a number of passes in a loop, and didn’t want any change made impacting on later iterations. If you’ve tried copying an array containing arrays or other objects in PowerShell in the usual manner then you’ll have come across this problem:

Copying array of arrays fails in powerShell

As is common in .Net, the copy is ‘Copy by Reference’ so you don’t get a nice shiny new independent array to play with. All that’s copied is the references to the original’s place in memory. Therefore any changes to either object affects both, as both variable names are looking at the same piece of memory. This is nice and efficient in terms of storage and speed of copying, but not great for my purposes.

There are various workarounds kicking around if you’re using simple arrays, but they tend to breakdown when you’ve got arrays that contain arrays or other PowerShell objects. My method for copying them is a little down and dirty, but it works 95% of the time for what I want. The trick is to Serialize the object, and then DeSerialize it into the new one:

Deep Copy Powershell array using serialization

And, voila we have the outcome I wanted. Just to make the line of code easier to read, here it is:

$arr3 = [Management.Automation.PSSerializer]::DeSerialize([Management.Automation.PSSerializer]::Serialize($arr2))

Now, I mentioned up front that this works ~95% of the time. The times it doesn’t work for me are when the underlying object type doesn’t serialize nicely. The most common one I come across is BigInt. This ‘deserializes’ back in as a non integer type and then won’t play nice when compared to other ‘real’ BigInt value, so make sure to check you have the values you think you should do

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *