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Differences between HashMap and Hashtable?

Which is more efficient for non-threaded applications?


asked Jun 19, 2015 in Core java by rajesh
retagged Jun 29, 2015 by rajesh
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There are several differences between HashMap and Hashtable in Java:

Hashtable is synchronized, whereas HashMap is not. This makes HashMap better for non-threaded applications, as unsynchronized Objects typically perform better than synchronized ones.

Hashtable does not allow null keys or values.  HashMap allows one null key and any number of null values.

One of HashMap's subclasses is LinkedHashMap, so in the event that you'd want predictable iteration order (which is insertion order by default), you could easily swap out the HashMap for a LinkedHashMap. This wouldn't be as easy if you were using Hashtable.

Since synchronization is not an issue for you, I'd recommend HashMap. If synchronization becomes an issue, you may also look at ConcurrentHashMap.

answered Jun 19, 2015 by rajesh
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No one's mentioned the fact that Hashtable is not part of the Java Collections Framework - it just provides a similar API. Also, Hashtable is considered legacy code. There's nothing about Hashtable that can't be done using HashMap or derivations of HashMap, so for new code, I don't see any justification for going back to Hashtable.
answered Jun 19, 2015 by rajesh
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This question is often asked in interview to check whether candidate understands correct usage of collection classes and is aware of alternative solutions available.

The HashMap class is roughly equivalent to Hashtable, except that it is non synchronized and permits nulls. (HashMap allows null values as key and value whereas Hashtable doesn't allow nulls).
HashMap does not guarantee that the order of the map will remain constant over time.
HashMap is non synchronized whereas Hashtable is synchronized.
Iterator in the HashMap is fail-safe while the enumerator for the Hashtable is not and throw ConcurrentModificationException if any other Thread modifies the map structurally by adding or removing any element except Iterator's own remove() method. But this is not a guaranteed behavior and will be done by JVM on best effort.
Note on Some Important Terms

Synchronized means only one thread can modify a hash table at one point of time. Basically, it means that any thread before performing an update on a hashtable will have to acquire a lock on the object while others will wait for lock to be released.
Fail-safe is relevant from the context of iterators. If an iterator has been created on a collection object and some other thread tries to modify the collection object "structurally", a concurrent modification exception will be thrown. It is possible for other threads though to invoke "set" method since it doesn't modify the collection "structurally". However, if prior to calling "set", the collection has been modified structurally, "IllegalArgumentException" will be thrown.
Structurally modification means deleting or inserting element which could effectively change the structure of map.
HashMap can be synchronized by

Map m = Collections.synchronizeMap(hashMap);

Map provides Collection views instead of direct support for iteration via Enumeration objects. Collection views greatly enhance the expressiveness of the interface, as discussed later in this section. Map allows you to iterate over keys, values, or key-value pairs; Hashtable does not provide the third option. Map provides a safe way to remove entries in the midst of iteration; Hashtable did not. Finally, Map fixes a minor deficiency in the Hashtable interface. Hashtable has a method called contains, which returns true if the Hashtable contains a given value. Given its name, you'd expect this method to return true if the Hashtable contained a given key, because the key is the primary access mechanism for a Hashtable. The Map interface eliminates this source of confusion by renaming the method containsValue. Also, this improves the interface's consistency ‚ÄĒ containsValue parallels containsKey.
answered Jun 19, 2015 by rajesh
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HashMap: An implementation of the Map interface that uses hash codes to index an array. Hashtable: Hi, 1998 called. They want their collections API back.

Seriously though, you're better off staying away from Hashtable altogether. For single-threaded apps, you don't need the extra overhead of syncrhonisation. For highly concurrent apps, the paranoid synchronisation might lead to starvation, deadlocks, or unnecessary garbage collection pauses. Like Tim Howland pointed out, you might use ConcurrentHashMap instead.
answered Jun 19, 2015 by rajesh
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Keep in mind that HashTable was legacy class before Java Collections Framework (JCF) was introduced and was later retrofitted to implement the Map interface. So was Vector and Stack.

Therefore, always stay away from them in new code since there always better alternative in the JCF as others had pointed out.

Here is the Java collection cheat sheet that you will find useful. Notice the gray block contains the legacy class HashTable,Vector and Stack.

enter image description here


answered Jun 19, 2015 by rajesh
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Beside all the other important aspects already mentioned here, Collections API (e.g. Map interface) is being modified all the time to conform to the "latest and greatest" additions to Java spec.

For example, compare Java 5 Map iterating:

for (Elem elem : map.keys()) {
versus the old Hashtable approach:

for (Enumeration en = htable.keys(); en.hasMoreElements(); ) {
  Elem elem = (Elem) en.nextElement();
In Java 1.8 we are also promised to be able to construct and access HashMaps like in good old scripting languages:

Map map = { "orange" : 12, "apples" : 15 };
answered Jun 19, 2015 by rajesh
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HashMap and Hashtable have significant algorithmic differences as well. No one has mentioned this before so that's why I am bringing it up. HashMap will construct a hash table with power of two size, increase it dynamically such that you have at most about eight elements (collisions) in any bucket and will stir the elements very well for general element types. However, the Hashtable implementation provides better and finer control over the hashing if you know what you are doing, namely you can fix the table size using e.g. the closest prime number to your values domain size and this will result in better performance than HashMap i.e. less collisions for some cases.

Separate from the obvious differences discussed extensively in this question, I see the Hashtable as a "manual drive" car where you have better control over the hashing and the HashMap as the "automatic drive" counterpart that will generally perform well.
answered Jun 19, 2015 by rajesh