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Pandas Users Beware: .Loc Doesn’t Solve Settingwithcopywarning Issue!

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Pandas is one of the most widely used data analysis tools in the world of programming. It is incredibly powerful and flexible, which makes it a popular choice among data scientists and business analysts. However, there is an issue that many Pandas users may not be aware of.

This issue is related to the use of the .loc operator, which is commonly used to select subsets of a DataFrame. While .loc is a very useful tool, its use can sometimes result in a SettingWithCopyWarning. This warning is meant to inform users that they are modifying a copy of the original DataFrame, rather than the original DataFrame itself.

Many Pandas users don’t fully understand what this warning means or how to address it. As a result, they may unwittingly make changes to their data that are not reflected in the original DataFrame. This can lead to serious errors and inaccuracies in their analysis.

If you use Pandas, it is essential that you understand the .loc operator and the dangers associated with the SettingWithCopyWarning. To learn more about this issue and how to avoid it, be sure to read our in-depth article on Pandas Users Beware: .Loc Doesn’t Solve SettingWithCopyWarning Issue!

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“Pandas Still Getting Settingwithcopywarning Even After Using .Loc” ~ bbaz

Comparison Blog: Pandas Users Beware: .Loc Doesn’t Solve Settingwithcopywarning Issue!


For anyone familiar with the data analysis and manipulation library Pandas, the warning message about setting with copy is a common occurrence. The SettingWithCopyWarning appears when you try to manipulate a dataframe using a slice of another dataframe. In the past, the standard recommendation to avoid this warning was to use the .loc method to make changes. However, recent research has shown that even .loc isn’t foolproof, and users should beware.

The SettingWithCopyWarning

The SettingWithCopyWarning is an indication that there could be unintended consequences when modifying a slice of a dataframe. Specifically, when you slice a dataframe, the resulting object may or may not share memory with the original dataframe. If it doesn’t share memory, making changes to the slice won’t affect the original. However, if it does share memory, changes to the slice can have side effects on the original that you may not expect.

The Old Solution: .loc

For years, the standard recommendation to avoid SettingWithCopyWarning was to use the .loc method when modifying a slice of a dataframe. This is because .loc creates a new dataframe, rather than a view on the original. By creating a new dataframe, memory is not shared, eliminating the potential for side effects.

A New Way To Think About It

Recently, researchers have discovered that even using .loc isn’t foolproof. The problem stems from the idea that Pandas is primarily designed to work with large datasets. Because large datasets can be expensive to copy, Pandas tries to minimize copying whenever possible. When you use the .loc method, Pandas tries to avoid copying the data by creating a view into the original. In some cases, Pandas can’t create a view, and instead falls back to making a copy. This is where problems can arise.

An Example

Consider the following code:

Code Explanation
df = pd.DataFrame({‘A’: [1, 2, 3], ‘B’: [4, 5, 6]}) Create a dataframe with two columns
subset = df.loc[df[‘A’] > 1] Select a subset of rows where column A is greater than 1
subset[‘B’] = [7, 8] Modify the ‘B’ column of the subset
print(df) Print the original dataframe

This code should produce the following output:

“` A B0 1 41 2 52 3 6“`

In this case, we would expect that only the ‘B’ values of the subset are changed, but the original dataframe remains untouched. However, what actually happens is that both the ‘B’ values of the subset and the original dataframe are changed:

“` A B0 1 41 2 82 3 8“`


The takeaway from this is that even though .loc is a useful tool for avoiding SettingWithCopyWarning, it’s not a foolproof solution. In cases where Pandas falls back to making a copy, .loc can still produce unexpected results. To avoid unintended consequences, it’s important to think carefully about the memory usage of your code and make sure you fully understand the underlying implementation of Pandas.


While it may be frustrating that .loc doesn’t solve all problems with SettingWithCopyWarning, I appreciate the fact that researchers are continuing to investigate how Pandas works under the hood. It’s important to have a deep understanding of the tools we use to avoid unexpected behavior and ensure we’re making accurate data-driven decisions.

As a pandas user, you may already be familiar with the .loc method used for selecting specific subsets of your data. However, it’s important to be aware that this method can also cause a common issue known as the SettingWithCopyWarning.

This warning occurs when you try to modify a subset of a DataFrame that has been created through indexing or slicing using the .loc method. In some cases, this can lead to unexpected changes in your original data, or even prevent you from modifying it at all.

To avoid this issue, it’s important to be mindful of how you are using the .loc method and to consider alternative methods such as using the .iloc method or creating copies of your data using the .copy() method.

By being aware of this issue and taking steps to prevent it from occurring, you can ensure that your pandas analysis runs smoothly and accurately. So, next time you’re working with pandas and the .loc method, remember to exercise caution and keep this warning in mind.

People also ask about Pandas Users Beware: .Loc Doesn’t Solve Settingwithcopywarning Issue!

  1. What is the SettingWithCopyWarning issue in Pandas?
  2. The SettingWithCopyWarning issue in Pandas is a warning message that is triggered when you try to modify a DataFrame or Series using chained indexing.

  3. What is .loc in Pandas?
  4. .loc is a Pandas method that allows you to access and modify a DataFrame or Series by label-based indexing. It is a preferred method over chained indexing to avoid triggering the SettingWithCopyWarning issue.

  5. Why doesn’t .loc solve the SettingWithCopyWarning issue?
  6. While .loc can help you avoid the SettingWithCopyWarning issue, it does not guarantee it will always solve the problem. This is because the warning is triggered when Pandas detects that you are trying to modify a copy of a DataFrame or Series, rather than the original object. In some cases, even when using .loc, you may inadvertently create a copy and trigger the warning.

  7. What are some best practices for avoiding the SettingWithCopyWarning issue?
  • Use .loc for label-based indexing and assignment.
  • Avoid chained indexing (e.g., df[col1][row1] = value) and instead use boolean indexing or .loc.
  • Explicitly make a copy of a DataFrame or Series using .copy() and modify the copy instead of the original object.
  • Disable the warning using pd.options.mode.chained_assignment = None, but be aware that this may hide potential issues in your code.