Can We Change Data Type in Hive?


Angela Bailey

Can We Change Data Type in Hive?

Hive is a powerful data warehouse infrastructure built on top of Hadoop that provides an SQL-like interface for querying and analyzing large datasets. When working with Hive, you may encounter situations where you need to change the data type of a column in your table. In this tutorial, we will explore whether or not it is possible to change data types in Hive and how to do it.

Can Data Types Be Changed?

Data types define the kind of values that can be stored in a column. In Hive, once a table is created, the data type of a column is fixed and cannot be directly altered. This means that you cannot use an ALTER TABLE statement to change the data type of an existing column.

However, there are alternative approaches that can be used to achieve the desired result. Let’s explore some of these options:

Create a New Table

If you want to change the data type of a column in Hive, one approach is to create a new table with the desired schema and then insert the data from the old table into the new one. This can be done using the following steps:

  1. Create a new table with the desired schema, including the updated data types for the columns.
  2. Insert data from the old table into the new table using an INSERT INTO SELECT statement.
  3. Optionally, drop or rename the old table and rename the new table to match.

This method allows you to effectively change the data type of a column while preserving your existing data.

Use CAST or CONVERT Functions

In some cases, you may only need to temporarily change the data type for specific queries or operations. Hive provides the CAST and CONVERT functions that allow you to convert values from one data type to another on the fly.

To use these functions, you can include them in your SELECT statement. For example:

SELECT CAST(column_name AS new_data_type) FROM table_name;

This will convert the values in the specified column to the new data type for the duration of the query, without permanently changing the schema of your table.

Create a View

If you frequently need to work with a different data type for a specific column, you can consider creating a view that presents the column with the desired data type. A view is a virtual table that is defined by a query and does not store any data itself.

To create a view with a different data type for a column, you can use the CAST or CONVERT functions in your SELECT statement within the view definition. This way, whenever you query the view, you will get results with the converted data type.


It’s important to keep in mind that changing data types can have implications on your queries and analysis. It may lead to loss of precision or unexpected results if not handled carefully. Therefore, it’s crucial to thoroughly test and validate your changes before implementing them in production environments.


In summary, while it is not possible to directly change the data type of an existing column in Hive using ALTER TABLE statements, there are alternative methods available. Creating a new table and inserting data into it allows for permanent changes while preserving existing records.

Using CAST or CONVERT functions provide temporary changes for specific queries or operations. Additionally, creating views with modified data types can be useful for frequent usage scenarios.

Remember to exercise caution when changing data types and always test your changes to ensure accuracy and reliability in your Hive environment.

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