PHP 8.4.0 Alpha 2 available for testing

Serializing objects - objects in sessions

serialize() returns a string containing a byte-stream representation of any value that can be stored in PHP. unserialize() can use this string to recreate the original variable values. Using serialize to save an object will save all variables in an object. The methods in an object will not be saved, only the name of the class.

In order to be able to unserialize() an object, the class of that object needs to be defined. That is, if you have an object of class A and serialize this, you'll get a string that refers to class A and contains all values of variables contained in it. If you want to be able to unserialize this in another file, an object of class A, the definition of class A must be present in that file first. This can be done for example by storing the class definition of class A in an include file and including this file or making use of the spl_autoload_register() function.

// A.php:

class A {
$one = 1;

public function
show_one() {

// page1.php:

include "A.php";

$a = new A;
$s = serialize($a);
// store $s somewhere where page2.php can find it.
file_put_contents('store', $s);

// page2.php:

// this is needed for the unserialize to work properly.
include "A.php";

$s = file_get_contents('store');
$a = unserialize($s);

// now use the function show_one() of the $a object.

It is strongly recommended that if an application serializes objects, for use later in the application, that the application includes the class definition for that object throughout the application. Not doing so might result in an object being unserialized without a class definition, which will result in PHP giving the object a class of __PHP_Incomplete_Class_Name, which has no methods and would render the object useless.

So if in the example above $a became part of a session by adding a new key to the $_SESSION superglobal array, you should include the file A.php on all of your pages, not only page1.php and page2.php.

Beyond the above advice, note that you can also hook into the serialization and unserialization events on an object using the __sleep() and __wakeup() methods. Using __sleep() also allows you to only serialize a subset of the object's properties.

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User Contributed Notes 4 notes

php at lanar dot com dot au
14 years ago
Note that static members of an object are not serialized.
michael at smith-li dot com
9 years ago
Reading this page you'd be left with the impression that a class's `serialize` and `unserialize` methods are unrelated to the `serialize` and `unserialize` core functions; that only `__sleep` and `__unsleep` allow you to customize an object's serialization interface. But look at and you'll see that there is a more straightforward way to control how a user-defined object is serialized and unserialized.
3 years ago
Until such time as these documents are updated, note that `session_register()` is not needed to automatically serialize & unserialize objects in sessions. Any objects in `$_SESSION` are serialized when the session is closed (via `session_write_close()` or upon script exit) & unserialized when opened (via `session_start()`). The note about including classes throughout an app (either by including the definition globally or autoloading it) still holds.
Yahia Fouda
1 year ago
This trick can be useful when you need to pass object data as strings of text between scripts and applications. Common situations include:

* Passing objects via fields in web forms
* Passing objects in URL query strings
* Storing object data in a text file, or in a single database field

and Sometimes it’s useful to do some cleaning up before serializing an object. For example, you might want to write unsaved object data to a database and close the database connection. Similarly, after you’ve unserialized an object, you might want to restore its database connection and perform other setup tasks so that the new object can be used properly.
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