Troubleshooting Guide: How to Fix TypeError: Cannot Pickle _thread.RLock Object in Python

When working with Python, you may encounter the error TypeError: Cannot Pickle _thread.RLock Object. This error is raised because the pickle module is unable to serialize an object of type _thread.RLock. In this guide, we will discuss the causes of this error and provide step-by-step solutions to resolve it.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Error
  2. Solution 1: Avoid Pickling RLock Objects
  3. Solution 2: Implement Custom Pickling
  4. Solution 3: Use Dill or Cloudpickle
  5. FAQs

Understanding the Error

The pickle module in Python is used to serialize and deserialize objects, allowing you to save and load objects from files. However, not all objects can be pickled. In particular, the _thread.RLock object, which is a reentrant lock object from the _thread module, cannot be pickled.

The error occurs when you attempt to pickle an object containing a _thread.RLock instance. This is common when using the multiprocessing module, which internally uses pickling to transfer objects between processes.

Here's an example that raises the error:

import pickle
import threading

lock = threading.RLock()
pickle.dumps(lock)  # Raises TypeError: cannot pickle '_thread.RLock' object

Solution 1: Avoid Pickling RLock Objects

The first solution is to refactor your code to avoid pickling objects containing _thread.RLock instances. You can do this by:

  1. Removing the RLock object from the class or object you're trying to pickle.
  2. Creating a separate class or function that handles the locking mechanism without being pickled.

For example, consider the following class that uses a threading.RLock object:

import threading

class Example:
    def __init__(self):
        self.lock = threading.RLock() = []

You can refactor the code to separate the locking mechanism, like this:

import threading

class LockHandler:
    def __init__(self):
        self.lock = threading.RLock()

class Example:
    def __init__(self): = []

Now, you can safely pickle instances of Example without encountering the error.

Solution 2: Implement Custom Pickling

Another solution is to implement custom pickling for your class or object that contains an RLock object. To do this:

  1. Define the __getstate__ and __setstate__ methods in your class.
  2. In the __getstate__ method, return a dictionary containing the state of the object without the RLock object.
  3. In the __setstate__ method, reconstruct the object from the state dictionary and create a new RLock object.

Here's an example:

import threading

class Example:
    def __init__(self):
        self.lock = threading.RLock() = []

    def __getstate__(self):
        state = self.__dict__.copy()
        del state['lock']
        return state

    def __setstate__(self, state):
        self.lock = threading.RLock()

Now, instances of Example can be pickled without raising the error.

Solution 3: Use Dill or Cloudpickle

As an alternative to the default pickle module, you can use external libraries like Dill or Cloudpickle that can serialize more types of objects, including RLock objects.

To use Dill or Cloudpickle, simply replace the pickle import with the respective library:

# Using Dill
import dill as pickle

# Using Cloudpickle
import cloudpickle as pickle

Now, your code should work without raising the error.


1. Why can't the pickle module serialize RLock objects?

The pickle module cannot serialize RLock objects because they represent low-level system resources that cannot be easily serialized and reconstructed. Moreover, serializing lock objects may lead to deadlocks or other synchronization issues.

2. Can I use the copy module to copy RLock objects?

No, the copy module also raises a TypeError when attempting to copy RLock objects, as they represent low-level system resources that cannot be safely copied.

3. Are there any other limitations to the default pickle module?

Yes, the default pickle module has some limitations, such as:

  • It cannot pickle certain objects like file objects, sockets, or running threads.
  • It cannot pickle instances of user-defined classes that have non-picklable attributes.
  • It may not work correctly with third-party libraries or custom classes that implement their own __getattr__ or __getattribute__ methods.

4. When should I use Dill or Cloudpickle instead of the default pickle module?

You should consider using Dill or Cloudpickle when the default pickle module fails to serialize the objects you need, or when you need to handle more complex object hierarchies. Both libraries are more flexible and can handle a wider range of object types.

5. Are there any other alternatives to pickle, Dill, or Cloudpickle?

Yes, there are other alternatives for object serialization in Python, such as:

However, these alternatives may require additional code or schema definitions to handle custom classes or complex object hierarchies.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.