Powershell arrays are passed by reference, unlike basic variables‏

PowerShell is great in many ways yet very unintuitive in others.

Consider following example:

$a = 0
$b = $a
$b = 1
$a #0
$b #1

All seems good and logical? Now introduce arrays:

$a=@(1)
$a #1
$b=$a
$b[0]=2
$a #2!
$b #2

What? How did $a change? Surely this is an artifact of direct modification or something. Let’s try passing array to a function.

$a=@(1)
function b {param($c);$d=$c;$d[0]=2;$d}
$a #1
b $a #2
$a #2!

Now that’s annoying if you’re passing the same array around in a script. No level of scoping or any other tinkering will fix that. A bit of MSDN and StackOverflow reveals that arrays are always, and I mean always, passed by reference, something inherited from .Net. There are a few not-so-pretty workarounds.

use .Clone() method. Caveat is that it only works one level. So it you use multidimensional arrays, you’re out of luck. Example:

$a=@(1,@(1))
function b {param($c);$d=$c.Clone();$d[0]=2;$d[1][0]=2;$d}
$a #1,1
b $a #2,2
$a #1,2!

As you can see, first level of array works fine but second does not.

Serialize-deserialize array. That’s a really ugly workaround but it’s guaranteed to work. Take a look here. I haven’t tested it because cloning worked for my needs but I have a feeling that it is much slower. That may or not be an issue depending on your requirements. Might be a good idea to wrap it in a function for easy use.

Wishlist: runtime flag or global variable to pass arrays by value.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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