Frequently Asked Questions

We maintain most Q&A on Stack Overflow under the #Dask tag. You may find the questions there useful to you.

  1. Q: How do I debug my program when using dask?

    You may want to look at the diagnostics documentation

    If you want to dive down with a Python debugger a common cause of frustration is the asynchronous schedulers which, because they run your code on different workers, are unable to provide access to the Python debugger. Fortunately you can change to a synchronous scheduler like dask.get by providing a get= keyword to the compute method:

  2. Q: In ``dask.array`` what is ``chunks``?

    Dask.array breaks your large array into lots of little pieces, each of which can fit in memory. chunks determines the size of those pieces.

    Users most often interact with chunks when they create an array as in:

    >>> x = da.from_array(dataset, chunks=(1000, 1000))

    In this case chunks is a tuple defining the shape of each chunk of your array; for example “Please break dataset into 1000 by 1000 chunks.”

    However internally dask uses a different representation, a tuple of tuples, to handle uneven chunk sizes that inevitably occur during computation.

  3. Q: How do I select a good value for ``chunks``?

    Choosing good values for chunks can strongly impact performance. Here are some general guidelines. The strongest guide is memory:

    1. The size of your blocks should fit in memory.
    2. Actually, several blocks should fit in memory at once, assuming you want multi-core
    3. The size of the blocks should be large enough to hide scheduling overhead, which is a couple of milliseconds per task
    4. Generally I shoot for 10MB-100MB sized chunks

    Additionally the computations you do may also inform your choice of chunks. Some operations like matrix multiply require anti-symmetric chunk shapes. Others like svd and qr only work on tall-and-skinny matrices with only a single chunk along all of the columns. Other operations might work but be faster or slower with different chunk shapes.

    Note that you can rechunk() an array if necessary.

  4. Q: My computation fills memory, how do I spill to disk?

    The schedulers endeavor not to use up all of your memory. However for some algorithms filling up memory is unavoidable. In these cases we can swap out the dictionary used to store intermediate results with a dictionary-like object that spills to disk. The Chest project handles this nicely.

    >>> cache = Chest() # Uses temporary file. Deletes on garbage collection


    >>> cache = Chest(path='/path/to/dir', available_memory=8e9)  # Use 8GB

    This chest object works just like a normal dictionary but, when available memory runs out (defaults to 1GB) it starts pickling data and sending it to disk, retrieving it as necessary.

    You can specify your cache when calling compute


    Alternatively you can set your cache as a global option.

    >>> with dask.set_options(cache=cache):  # sets state within with block
    ...     y =


    >>> dask.set_options(cache=cache)  # sets global state
    >>> y =

    However, while using an on-disk cache is a great fallback performance, it’s always best if we can keep from spilling to disk. You could try one of the following

    1. Use a smaller chunk/partition size
    2. If you are convinced that a smaller chunk size will not help in your case you could also report your problem on our issue tracker and work with the dask development team to improve our scheduling policies.
  5. How does Dask serialize functions?

    When operating with the single threaded or multithreaded scheduler no function serialization is necessary. When operating with the distributed memory or multiprocessing scheduler Dask uses cloudpickle to serialize functions to send to worker processes. cloudpickle supports almost any kind of function, including lambdas, closures, partials and functions defined interactively.

    Cloudpickle can not serialize things like iterators, open files, locks, or other objects that are heavily tied to your current process. Attempts to serialize these objects (or functions that implicitly rely on these objects) will result in scheduler errors. You can verify that your objects are easily serializable by running them through the cloudpickle.dumps/loads functions

    from cloudpickle import dumps, loads
    obj2 = loads(dumps(obj))
    assert obj2 == obj