Difference Between DataFrame's head(), take(n), and collect() in Python/Pyspark?

What is the Difference Between DataFrame's head(), take(n), and collect()?

When working with PySpark DataFrames, there are several methods available to retrieve data from them. Among these, head(), take(n), and collect() are commonly used methods, but they serve different purposes and have different implications. Let's explore the differences between them.

head() Method

The head() method returns the first n rows of a DataFrame as a new DataFrame. It is useful for quickly inspecting the structure and content of a DataFrame without bringing all the data to the driver node. This method is typically used to:

  • Check column names and data types
  • Examine initial data values
df_head = df.head(5)

take(n) Method

The take(n) method also retrieves the first n rows of a DataFrame, but it returns the result as a Python list of Row objects. This method is useful when you need to work with the data as Python objects or when you want to process a small portion of the data on the driver node. It is similar to head(), but it returns a list instead of a DataFrame:

take_rows = df.take(5)

collect() Method

The collect() method retrieves all the rows of a DataFrame and returns them as a list of Row objects. However, caution should be exercised with this method, especially on large datasets. It brings all the data to the driver node, which can lead to memory issues and performance bottlenecks if the data is too large. This method is generally not recommended for large datasets:

all_rows = df.collect()


In summary, the key differences between head(), take(n), and collect() methods are:

  • head() and take(n) are used for quick data inspection and sampling.
  • collect() should be used with caution on large datasets due to potential memory and performance issues.

For most tasks, it's recommended to use distributed transformations and actions in PySpark to process and analyze data efficiently without bringing all the data to the driver node.


from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

# Initialize Spark session
spark = SparkSession.builder.appName("DataFrameMethods").getOrCreate()

# Read data from a CSV file
df = spark.read.csv("data.csv", header=True, inferSchema=True)

# Using head()
head_rows = df.head(5)
print("Head Rows:")
for row in head_rows:

# Using take()
take_rows = df.take(5)
print("Take Rows:")
for row in take_rows:

# Using collect()
collect_rows = df.collect()
print("Collect Rows (Limited):")
for idx, row in enumerate(collect_rows[:5]):

# Stop Spark session

Remember, while head() and take(n) are generally safe to use for quick data inspection, you should avoid using collect() on large datasets to prevent memory and performance issues.



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