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HashMap vs. HashTable: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 19, 2023
HashMap allows null values and keys; Hashtable doesn't.

Key Differences

A HashMap is a part of the Java Collections Framework, introduced in Java 1.2. It allows for the storage of key-value pairs, and importantly, it permits null values and null keys. This feature can be both advantageous and problematic, depending on use-cases. On the other hand, a Hashtable is a legacy data structure, part of the original version of Java. A Hashtable does not allow null values or null keys. As a result, putting a null value or key into a Hashtable will result in a NullPointerException.
Another major distinction between HashMap and Hashtable revolves around synchronization. A Hashtable is synchronized, meaning it is thread-safe and can be shared among multiple threads without compromising data integrity. This comes at a cost, as it generally means slower performance compared to unsynchronized structures. Conversely, a HashMap is not synchronized. If multiple thread access is needed, it must be synchronized externally, using methods provided by the Collections framework or other mechanisms.
Both HashMap and Hashtable implement the Map interface, but due to their respective characteristics, their usage varies in modern Java applications. For instance, because of its non-synchronized nature and ability to handle nulls, HashMap tends to be more popular in single-threaded applications or scenarios where synchronization is managed externally. In contrast, Hashtable, due to its synchronized nature, may be preferred in scenarios where thread safety is a primary concern and performance trade-offs are acceptable.
While HashMap and Hashtable have differences, they also have similarities. Both structures store key-value pairs and can be used to efficiently retrieve a value based on its key. The decision to use one over the other should be based on specific requirements such as null handling and the need for synchronization.

Comparison Chart

Null Handling

Allows null keys and values.
Doesn't allow null keys or values.


Not synchronized (not thread-safe).
Synchronized (thread-safe).


Generally faster because it's not synchronized.
Slower due to synchronization.

Part of

Java Collections Framework (since Java 1.2).
Legacy, from the original version of Java.

Usage in Modern Java

More common, especially in single-threaded apps.
Less common due to legacy status.

HashMap and HashTable Definitions


A member of the Java Collections Framework introduced in Java 1.2.
For modern Java programming, the HashMap is often preferred over Hashtable.


A thread-safe Map implementation due to its synchronized methods.
In multi-threaded scenarios, Hashtable can be a safe choice for data storage.


An unsynchronized collection class that offers better performance in single-threaded scenarios.
Since the application is single-threaded, using a HashMap for data storage is ideal.


A legacy collection class that has been part of Java since its initial version.
Though Hashtable has been around since early Java days, HashMap is more commonly used now.


A data structure in Java that stores key-value pairs and allows null keys and values.
In the HashMap, the key apple corresponds to the value fruit.


Implements the Map interface, allowing for key-value pair storage and retrieval.
Using a Hashtable, I stored usernames and their associated email addresses.


A mutable structure, allowing for updates, additions, and deletions of key-value pairs.
After adding initial data, I updated the HashMap to include additional entries.


A synchronized data structure in Java that stores key-value pairs and prohibits null keys and values.
The Hashtable ensures thread-safety, making it suitable for multi-threaded environments.


A Map implementation that uses hashing to store and retrieve objects.
With a HashMap, accessing an object using its key is very efficient due to the underlying hashing mechanism.


Uses hashing for internal storage, ensuring efficient data access.
The Hashtable provides quick lookups because of its hashing mechanism.


Alternative spelling of hash map


Alternative spelling of hash table


Between HashMap and Hashtable, which one is synchronized?

Hashtable is synchronized, while HashMap is not.

Why would one choose HashMap over Hashtable?

HashMap is often chosen for its ability to handle nulls and its unsynchronized nature which offers better performance in single-threaded scenarios.

Which data structure is more modern in Java: HashMap or Hashtable?

HashMap is more modern as it's part of the Java Collections Framework, while Hashtable is legacy.

What is a HashMap in Java?

A HashMap is a data structure in Java that stores key-value pairs and can handle null keys and values.

Is the order of elements preserved in HashMap or Hashtable?

No, neither guarantees order. If order is important, consider using LinkedHashMap.

Does Hashtable allow null values or keys?

No, Hashtable doesn't allow null values or keys.

Are there alternatives to HashMap and Hashtable in Java?

Yes, there are other Map implementations like TreeMap and LinkedHashMap, each with its own unique properties.

Can HashMap replace Hashtable in all scenarios?

Not always. While HashMap is versatile, there might be cases where the synchronized nature of Hashtable or other specific features are required.

Why doesn't Hashtable allow null keys or values?

It's a design decision from early Java days to prevent potential issues and NullPointerExceptions.

Can you provide a simple example of how to use a HashMap?

Sure! HashMap map = new HashMap<>(); map.put("apple", 1);

How do you iterate over a HashMap or Hashtable?

You can iterate using methods like keySet(), values(), or entrySet() combined with enhanced for-loops or iterators.

Are there scenarios where Hashtable might be preferred over HashMap?

Yes, in scenarios where thread safety is paramount, Hashtable's built-in synchronization might be preferred.

Which data structure is generally faster: HashMap or Hashtable?

HashMap is generally faster due to its unsynchronized nature.

Do both HashMap and Hashtable implement the Map interface?

Yes, both HashMap and Hashtable implement the Map interface.

How do you create a Hashtable in Java?

You can create a Hashtable like this: Hashtable table = new Hashtable<>();.

What are the primary reasons for using HashMap or Hashtable?

Efficient data access and retrieval, flexibility in storing key-value pairs, and the choice of synchronization are primary reasons.

Can a HashMap be synchronized?

Yes, while HashMap is not synchronized by default, it can be synchronized externally using the Collections framework.

How does the internal hashing mechanism work in HashMap and Hashtable?

Both utilize an array of buckets and a hash function to distribute key-value pairs among those buckets, ensuring efficient data access.

What happens if you put a duplicate key in a HashMap or Hashtable?

The new value replaces the old value associated with that key.

How do you remove an entry from a HashMap or Hashtable?

You can use the remove(key) method, providing the key of the entry you wish to delete.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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