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Pandas 2.0 Guide: Everything You Need to Know for Seamless Upgrading and Adaptation

April 14, 2023



Pandas 2.0 introduces improved functionality and performance by integrating with Apache Arrow. Key updates include API changes, enhanced nullable dtypes and extension arrays, PyArrow-backed DataFrames, and Copy-on-Write improvements. Migration from older Pandas versions may require updating dtype specifications, handling differences in data type support, and addressing potential performance implications. The new release represents a significant milestone in data processing efficiency and offers best practices for optimizing your code.

What is Pandas?

You’re probably familiar with Pandas, the powerful open-source data manipulation library for Python. Providing intuitive data structures and functions, Pandas enables users to effortlessly work with structured data, streamlining the process of cleaning, analyzing, and visualizing datasets.

What’s new on Version 2.0

The much-anticipated Pandas 2.0 has finally been released! This major update, years in the making, is the most significant overhaul since the library's inception. While most existing Pandas code will likely run as before and the changes might not be immediately apparent, the new version introduces substantial improvements. The shift from NumPy to Apache Arrow for data representation addresses many limitations and boosts the performance of numerous Pandas tasks. 

The integration with the Apache Arrow project brings enhanced support for string, date, and categorical data types, along with improved internal memory management. These updates not only boost performance but also reduce memory overhead, making it easier to work with large-scale datasets. 

Let's dive into the key updates and technical innovations.

API Changes

In this major release, Pandas 2.0 enforces all deprecations from the 1.x series, resulting in approximately 150 warnings in version 1.5.3. If your code runs without warnings on 1.5.3, it should be compatible with 2.0. Notable deprecations include changes to Index dtype support and a behavior change in the numeric_only argument for aggregation functions.

A key highlight of this release is the introduction of pyarrow as an optional backing memory format. Initially, Pandas was built using NumPy data structures for memory management, but now users can choose to leverage pyarrow to gain performance improvements and achieve more memory-efficient operations.

Arrow is an open-source, language-agnostic columnar data format designed to represent data in memory, enabling zero-copy sharing of data between processes. By storing columns of data together in memory, columnar data stores can perform operations like calculating the mean of a column more quickly. Arrow datatypes also incorporate useful concepts such as null values.

Improved Nullable Dtypes and Extension Arrays

Pandas 2.0 brings faster and more memory-efficient operations to the table by adding support for PyArrow. As a new feature, the PyArrow backend allows users to use Apache Arrow as an alternative data storage format for Pandas DataFrames and Series. Consequently, when reading or writing Parquet files in Pandas 2.0, PyArrow is used by default for data handling, resulting in faster and more memory-efficient operations.

Here's an example with modified variable names and data:

This code demonstrates reading a CSV file with sample data, converting numeric columns to nullable data types, and saving and reading the data as a Parquet file using the pyarrow engine.

PyArrow-backed DataFrames

Pandas 2.0 allows for the creation of DataFrames backed by PyArrow arrays, providing better performance when working with string columns. Here's an example of utilizing the pyarrow backend while loading a CSV file:

When creating the DataFrame, we set the ‘dtype_backend’ parameter to "pyarrow" to request a PyArrow-backed DataFrame. This is especially beneficial for string columns, as PyArrow arrays provide a more efficient representation which can improve performance and interoperability.

Copy-on-Write (CoW) Improvements 

CoW was first introduced in Pandas 1.5.0, and version 2.0 brings further enhancements. This mechanism helps in managing memory more efficiently by deferring actual data copies until an object's data is modified, reducing memory overhead and improving performance.

By enabling CoW, Pandas can avoid making defensive copies when performing various operations, and instead, it only makes copies when necessary, which results in more efficient memory usage. These improvements are part of the overall enhancements made to internal memory management in Pandas 2.0.

In this code snippet, we enable the Copy-on-Write (CoW) feature in this line:

This improves internal memory management by deferring actual data copies until an object's data is modified. We create a DataFrame called df1 and make a copy of it called df2. When we modify the "a" column in df2, the underlying data is copied, but the unmodified columns still share the same memory. This results in reduced memory overhead and improved performance.

Migrating to Pandas 2.0

When migrating from older versions of Pandas to Pandas 2.0, you may encounter some compatibility issues. This section will provide a short guide on how to address these issues and help you migrate your code smoothly.

Update your Python environment to the latest version of Pandas:

Review your code and update it to use Arrow-backed data types.

Handling Differences in Data Type Support

As mentioned earlier, Apache Arrow has a broader set of data types compared to NumPy. Some operations may behave differently, and you might need to update your code accordingly.

For instance, Arrow strings are well supported in Pandas 2.0. However, you may need to adjust your code when dealing with new data types or list types, as some operations might not yet be supported.

Here’s an illustration of the process of creating a Pandas DataFrame that incorporates Apache Arrow-backed data types within a practical context.

In cases where some operations are not yet supported for specific Arrow types, you can either wait for future updates to Pandas 2.0, which will improve support over time, or write your own operations using any language with an Apache Arrow implementation.

Evaluating Performance Implications

When migrating to Pandas 2.0, it's essential to be aware of the performance implications of using Arrow-backed data types. In many cases, the performance will be significantly improved, especially when working with large datasets. However, some operations might be slower or not yet optimized, so it's crucial to benchmark your code and compare the performance with older versions of Pandas.

Here's an example of how you can measure the performance of different data manipulation tasks in Pandas 2.0 compared to other data processing libraries such as Polars, DuckDB, and Dask:

This code snippet demonstrates how to benchmark the performance of different data manipulation tasks across Pandas 2.0, Polars, DuckDB, and Dask. Keep in mind that the results may vary depending on the specific operation and dataset size. It's crucial to benchmark your code to ensure that you're achieving the desired performance improvements when migrating to Pandas 2.0.


In this blog post, we've discussed Pandas 2.0, its new features, and the adoption of Apache Arrow for efficient data manipulation tasks. We've also provided tips and tricks for optimizing your code, as well as a short guide on migrating from older versions of Pandas to Pandas 2.0. Lastly, we've compared the performance of Pandas 2.0 with alternative libraries such as Polars, DuckDB, and Dask.

Pandas 2.0 represents a significant milestone for the library, as the integration of Apache Arrow allows for simpler, faster, and more efficient data processing tasks. Using Pandas 2.0 with Shakudo's advanced infrastructure and tools will enhance your data processing workflows and elevate your experience. Don't hesitate – book a demo today to see the difference firsthand!

Would you like to experiment with the code snippets yourself and see the results? You can find them on our GitHub.

Sabrina Aquino

Sabrina is a creative Software Developer who has managed to create a huge community by sharing her personal experiences with technologies and products. A great problem solver, an above average Age of Empires II player and a mediocre Linux user. Sabrina is currently an undergraduate in Computer Engineering at UFRN (Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte).

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