A different take on Deep Copy

This article has been revised here.

I have seen several examples of different methods to perform a deep copy in C#. The most common one is with a Stream, implemented like this:

public static T DeepClone<T>(T obj)
 using (var ms = new MemoryStream())
   var formatter = new BinaryFormatter();
   formatter.Serialize(ms, obj);
   ms.Position = 0;

   return (T) formatter.Deserialize(ms);

That is certainly one way to do it but it won’t work in Silverlight.

The suggested Sliverlight approach:

public static T DeepCopy<T>(this T oSource)
    T oClone;
    DataContractSerializer dcs = new DataContractSerializer(typeof(T));

    using (MemoryStream ms = new MemoryStream())
        dcs.WriteObject(ms, oSource);
        ms.Position = 0;
        oClone = (T)dcs.ReadObject(ms);

    return oClone;

All right, that works in Silverlight but it requires that all objects passed are Serializable. That is actually a bit of a daunting task for custom objects at times, and we should try to use a simpler more universal approach.

So, I suggest using reflection:

/// <summary>
/// Copies all public properties from one object to another.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="source">The source.</param>
/// <param name="destination">The destination.</param>
/// <exception cref="System.Exception">Source and destination cannot be null and must be 
/// of the same type!</exception>
public static void DeepCopy(object source, object destination)
    if ((source != null &amp;&amp; destination != null) &amp;&amp; 
        (source.GetType() == destination.GetType()))
        // Get properties
        var propertyInfos = source.GetType().GetProperties();
        if (propertyInfos.Length <= 0) return;

        // Evaluate
        foreach (var propInfo in propertyInfos)
            // Process only public properties
            if (!propInfo.CanWrite) continue;

            // Get value from source and assign to destination
            object value = propInfo.GetValue(source, null);
            propInfo.SetValue(destination, value, null);
            if (value == null) continue;

            // Check for properties and propogate if they exist
            var newPropInfos = value.GetType().GetProperties();
            if (newPropInfos.Length > 0)
                // Copy properties for each child where necessary

        throw new Exception(
            "Source and destination cannot be null and must be of " +
            "the same type!");

This will work in Silverlight because of the if block for propInfo.CanWrite. This is added because based on Silverlights rigid security constraints we can only copy public properties.

That’s all for now.


Cleaned up code a bit and added exception handling.

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