What Type of Tables Are Stored in the Hive Data Warehouse?


Heather Bennett

Tables in the Hive data warehouse are a fundamental component of the Hive ecosystem. They provide a structured way to store and organize data, making it easier for users to query and analyze large datasets. In this article, we will explore the different types of tables that can be stored in Hive and their unique characteristics.

Internal Tables

Internal tables are the default type of table in Hive. They store both the table’s metadata (such as column names, data types, and partitioning information) and the actual data within the Hive warehouse directory. Internal tables are tightly coupled with their data, meaning that if the table is dropped, all its data will also be deleted.

Key features of internal tables:

  • Data Storage: Internal tables store data physically within the Hive warehouse directory.
  • Data Loss: Dropping an internal table also deletes its associated data.
  • Data Accessibility: Internal tables can be accessed only by Hive itself.

External Tables

External tables differ from internal tables in that they only store metadata within Hive while keeping the actual data outside of the warehouse directory. This provides more flexibility as it allows users to access and manipulate data from sources external to Hive without moving or modifying it.

Key features of external tables:

  • Data Storage: External tables do not physically store data within the Hive warehouse directory; instead, they reference external files or directories.
  • Data Loss: Dropping an external table does not delete its associated data since it resides outside of Hive.
  • Data Accessibility: External tables can be accessed by both Hive and external tools.

Managed Tables

Managed tables are a type of internal table where Hive has full control over the lifecycle of both the metadata and the data. This means that Hive handles tasks such as data loading, data storage, and deletion. Managed tables are suitable for scenarios where users want Hive to manage all aspects of their data.

Key features of managed tables:

  • Data Loading: Hive manages the process of loading data into managed tables.
  • Data Storage: Hive stores the data physically within the warehouse directory for managed tables.
  • Data Deletion: Dropping a managed table deletes both its metadata and associated data from the warehouse directory.

External tables, on the other hand, allow users to have more control over their data. Users can manually load, update, or delete files associated with external tables without impacting the metadata stored in Hive. This makes external tables useful when dealing with constantly changing datasets or when sharing data between different systems.

Key features of external tables:

  • Data Loading: Users manually load or update files associated with external tables.
  • Data Storage: External table metadata is stored in Hive while actual data resides outside of the warehouse directory.
  • Data Deletion: Dropping an external table only removes its metadata from Hive; it does not delete the associated data outside of Hive.


In addition to internal and external tables, Hive also supports partitioned tables. Partitioning allows users to divide their data into logical partitions based on specified criteria such as date, region, or any other relevant column. This can greatly improve query performance by limiting the amount of data that needs to be scanned.

Key features of partitioned tables:

  • Data Organization: Data is logically organized into partitions based on specific criteria.
  • Data Querying: Partition pruning enables efficient querying by only scanning the relevant partitions.
  • Data Loading: Data can be loaded directly into specific partitions, improving load performance.

In summary,

Hive provides a versatile range of table types to suit different data management needs. Internal tables are tightly coupled with their data and are managed entirely by Hive, while external tables allow more flexibility by referencing data outside of the warehouse directory.

Managed tables give full control to Hive for data loading and storage, while external tables allow manual manipulation of data files. Finally, partitioned tables enable logical organization and efficient querying of large datasets.

Understanding the various types of tables in Hive is crucial for designing an effective data storage and retrieval strategy. Whether you choose internal or external, managed or external tables, or even partitioned ones will depend on your specific use case and requirements.

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