Jordan Arron Jordan Arron - 4 months ago 35
C# Question

Deep cloning objects

I want to do something like:

MyObject myObj = GetMyObj(); // Create and fill a new object
MyObject newObj = myObj.Clone();


And then make changes to the new object that are not reflected in the original object.

I don't often need this functionality, so when it's been necessary, I've resorted to creating a new object and then copying each property individually, but it always leaves me with the feeling that there is a better or more elegant way of handling the situation.

How can I clone or deep copy an object so that the cloned object can be modified without any changes being reflected in the original object?

Answer

Whilst the standard practice is to implement the ICloneable interface (described here, so I won't regurgitate), here's a nice deep clone object copier I found on The Code Project a while ago and incorporated it in our stuff.

As mentioned elsewhere, it does require your objects to be serializable.

using System;
using System.IO;
using System.Runtime.Serialization;
using System.Runtime.Serialization.Formatters.Binary;

/// <summary>
/// Reference Article http://www.codeproject.com/KB/tips/SerializedObjectCloner.aspx
/// Provides a method for performing a deep copy of an object.
/// Binary Serialization is used to perform the copy.
/// </summary>
public static class ObjectCopier
{
    /// <summary>
    /// Perform a deep Copy of the object.
    /// </summary>
    /// <typeparam name="T">The type of object being copied.</typeparam>
    /// <param name="source">The object instance to copy.</param>
    /// <returns>The copied object.</returns>
    public static T Clone<T>(T source)
    {
        if (!typeof(T).IsSerializable)
        {
            throw new ArgumentException("The type must be serializable.", "source");
        }

        // Don't serialize a null object, simply return the default for that object
        if (Object.ReferenceEquals(source, null))
        {
            return default(T);
        }

        IFormatter formatter = new BinaryFormatter();
        Stream stream = new MemoryStream();
        using (stream)
        {
            formatter.Serialize(stream, source);
            stream.Seek(0, SeekOrigin.Begin);
            return (T)formatter.Deserialize(stream);
        }
    }
}

The idea is that it serializes your object and then deserializes it into a fresh object. The benefit is that you don't have to concern yourself about cloning everything when an object gets too complex.

And with the use of extension methods (also from the originally referenced source):

In case you prefer to use the new extension methods of C# 3.0, change the method to have the following signature:

public static T Clone<T>(this T source)
{
   //...
}

Now the method call simply becomes objectBeingCloned.Clone();.

EDIT (January 10 2015) Thought I'd revisit this, to mention I recently started using (Newtonsoft) Json to do this, it should be lighter, and avoids the overhead of [Serializable] tags. (NB @atconway has pointed out in the comments that private members are not cloned using the JSON method)

/// <summary>
/// Perform a deep Copy of the object, using Json as a serialisation method.
/// </summary>
/// <typeparam name="T">The type of object being copied.</typeparam>
/// <param name="source">The object instance to copy.</param>
/// <returns>The copied object.</returns>
public static T CloneJson<T>(this T source)
{            
    // Don't serialize a null object, simply return the default for that object
    if (Object.ReferenceEquals(source, null))
    {
        return default(T);
    }

    // initialize inner objects individually
    // for example in default constructor some list property initialized with some values,
    // but in 'source' these items are cleaned -
    // without ObjectCreationHandling.Replace default constructor values will be added to result
    var deserializeSettings = new JsonSerializerSettings {ObjectCreationHandling = ObjectCreationHandling.Replace};

    return JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<T>(JsonConvert.SerializeObject(source), deserializeSettings);
}