What is serialization?

Serialization is the process of converting an object into a stream of bytes. Deserialization is the opposite process of creating an object from a stream of bytes. Serialization / Deserialization is mostly used to transport objects (e.g. during remoting), or to persist objects (e.g. to a file or database).

Does the .NET Framework have in-built support for serialization?

There are two separate mechanisms provided by the .NET class library – XmlSerializer and SoapFormatter/BinaryFormatter. Microsoft uses XmlSerializer for Web Services, and uses SoapFormatter/BinaryFormatter for remoting. Both are available for use in your own code.

Can I customise the serialization process?

Yes. XmlSerializer supports a range of attributes that can be used to configure serialization for a particular class. For example, a field or property can be marked with the [XmlIgnore] attribute to exclude it from serialization. Another example is the [XmlElement] attribute, which can be used to specify the XML element name to be used for a particular property or field. Serialization via SoapFormatter/BinaryFormatter can also be controlled to some extent by attributes. For example, the [NonSerialized] attribute is the equivalent of XmlSerializer’s [XmlIgnore] attribute. Ultimate control of the serialization process can be acheived by implementing the the ISerializable interface on the class whose instances are to be serialized.

Why is XmlSerializer so slow?

There is a once-per-process-per-type overhead with XmlSerializer. So the first time you serialize or deserialize an object of a given type in an application, there is a significant delay. This normally doesn’t matter, but it may mean, for example, that XmlSerializer is a poor choice for loading configuration settings during startup of a GUI application.


Why do I get errors when I try to serialize a Hashtable?

XmlSerializer will refuse to serialize instances of any class that implements IDictionary, e.g. Hashtable. SoapFormatter and BinaryFormatter do not have this restriction.