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Configuring Hive

A number of configuration variables in Hive can be used by the administrator to change the behavior for their installations and user sessions. These variables can be configured in any of the following ways, shown in the order of preference:

  • Using the set command in the cli for setting session level values for the configuration variable for all statements subsequent to the set command. e.g.

      set hive.exec.scratchdir=/tmp/mydir;

    sets the scratch directory (which is used by hive to store temporary output and plans) to /tmp/mydir for all subseq

  • Using --hiveconf option on the cli for the entire session. e.g.

      bin/hive --hiveconf hive.exec.scratchdir=/tmp/mydir
  • In hive-site.xml. This is used for setting values for the entire Hive configuration. e.g.

        <description>Scratch space for Hive jobs</description>

hive-default.xml.template contains the default values for various configuration variables that come prepackaged in a Hive distribution. In order to override any of the values, create hive-site.xml instead and set the value in that file as shown above. Please note that this template file is not used by Hive at all (as of Hive 0.9.0) and so it might be out of date or out of sync with the actual values. The canonical list of configuration options is now only managed in the HiveConf java class.

hive-default.xml.template is located in the conf directory in your installation root. hive-site.xml should also be created in the same directory.

The administrative configuration variables are listed below.  User variables are listed in Hive Configuration Properties.

Temporary Folders

Hive uses temporary folders both on the machine running the Hive client and the default HDFS instance. These folders are used to store per-query temporary/intermediate data sets and are normally cleaned up by the hive client when the query is finished. However, in cases of abnormal hive client termination, some data may be left behind. The configuration details are as follows:

  • On the HDFS cluster this is set to /tmp/hive-<username> by default and is controlled by the configuration variable hive.exec.scratchdir
  • On the client machine, this is hardcoded to /tmp/<username>

Note that when writing data to a table/partition, Hive will first write to a temporary location on the target table's filesystem (using hive.exec.scratchdir as the temporary location) and then move the data to the target table. This applies in all cases - whether tables are stored in HDFS (normal case) or in file systems like S3 or even NFS.

Log Files

Hive client produces logs and history files on the client machine. Please see Error Logs for configuration details.

For WebHCat logs, see Log Files in the WebHCat manual.

Derby Server Mode

Derby is the default database for the Hive metastore (Metadata Store). To run Derby as a network server for multiple users, see Hive Using Derby in Server Mode.

Configuration Variables

Broadly the configuration variables for Hive administration are categorized into:

Also see Hive Configuration Properties in the Language Manual for non-administrative configuration variables.

Hive Configuration Variables

Variable Name


Default Value


The data format to use for DDL output (e.g. DESCRIBE table). One of "text" (for human readable text) or "json" (for a json object). (as of Hive 0.9.0)



Wrapper around any invocations to script operator e.g. if this is set to python, the script passed to the script operator will be invoked as python <script command>. If the value is null or not set, the script is invoked as <script command>.






This directory is used by Hive to store the plans for different map/reduce stages for the query as well as to stored the intermediate outputs of these stages.

/tmp/<>/hive (Hive 0.8.0 and earlier)
/tmp/hive-<> (as of Hive 0.8.1)


This directory is used for temporary files when Hive runs in local mode. (as of Hive 0.10.0)



Determines whether the map/reduce jobs should be submitted through a separate jvm in the non local mode.

false - By default jobs are submitted through the same jvm as the compiler


Maximum number of serialization errors allowed in a user script invoked through TRANSFORM or MAP or REDUCE constructs.



Determines whether the output of the final map/reduce job in a query is compressed or not.



Determines whether the output of the intermediate map/reduce jobs in a query is compressed or not.



The location of hive_cli.jar that is used when submitting jobs in a separate jvm.



The location of the plugin jars that contain implementations of user defined functions and serdes.



A strict value for this variable indicates that an error is thrown by the compiler in case no partition predicate is provided on a partitioned table. This is used to protect against a user inadvertently issuing a query against all the partitions of the table.


Determines whether the map side aggregation is on or not.








Default file format for CREATE TABLE statement. Options are TextFile, SequenceFile, RCFile, and Orc.



Merge small files at the end of a map-only job.



Merge small files at the end of a map-reduce job.



Size of merged files at the end of the job.



When the average output file size of a job is less than this number, Hive will start an additional map-reduce job to merge the output files into bigger files. This is only done for map-only jobs if hive.merge.mapfiles is true, and for map-reduce jobs if hive.merge.mapredfiles is true.



Whether to log the plan's progress every time a job's progress is checked. These logs are written to the location specified by hive.querylog.location (as of Hive 0.10)



Directory where structured hive query logs are created. One file per session is created in this directory. If this variable set to empty string structured log will not be created.



The interval to wait between logging the plan's progress in milliseconds. If there is a whole number percentage change in the progress of the mappers or the reducers, the progress is logged regardless of this value. The actual interval will be the ceiling of (this value divided by the value of hive.exec.counters.pull.interval) multiplied by the value of hive.exec.counters.pull.interval i.e. if it is not divide evenly by the value of hive.exec.counters.pull.interval it will be logged less frequently than specified. This only has an effect if hive.querylog.enable.plan.progress is set to true. (as of Hive 0.10)



A flag to gather statistics automatically during the INSERT OVERWRITE command. (as of Hive 0.7.0)



The default database that stores temporary hive statistics. Valid values are hbase and jdbc while jdbc should have a specification of the Database to use, separatey by a colon (e.g. jdbc:mysql (as of Hive 0.7.0)



The default connection string for the database that stores temporary hive statistics. (as of Hive 0.7.0)



The JDBC driver for the database that stores temporary hive statistics. (as of Hive 0.7.0)



Whether queries will fail because stats cannot be collected completely accurately. If this is set to true, reading/writing from/into a partition may fail becuase the stats could not be computed accurately (as of Hive 0.10.0)



If enabled, enforces inserts into bucketed tables to also be bucketed



Substitutes variables in Hive statements which were previously set using the set command, system variables or environment variables. See HIVE-1096 for details. (as of Hive 0.7.0)



The maximum replacements the substitution engine will do. (as of Hive 0.10.0)



This flag controls the vectorized mode of query execution as documented in HIVE-4160 (as of Hive 0.13.0)


Hive Metastore Configuration Variables

Please see Hive Metastore Administration for information about the configuration variables used to set up the metastore in local, remote, or embedded mode. Also see descriptions in the Metastore section of the Language Manual's Hive Configuration Properties.

For security configuration (Hive 0.10 and later), see the Hive Metastore Security section in the Language Manual's Hive Configuration Properties.

Hive Configuration Variables Used to Interact with Hadoop

Variable Name


Default Value


The location of hadoop script which is used to submit jobs to hadoop when submitting through a separate jvm.



The location of the configuration directory of the hadoop installation








The url to the jobtracker. If this is set to local then map/reduce is run in the local mode.



The number of reducers for each map/reduce stage in the query plan.


The name of the map/reduce job


Hive Variables Used to Pass Run Time Information

Variable Name


Default Value

The id of the Hive Session.



The query string passed to the map/reduce job.



The id of the plan for the map/reduce stage.



The maximum length of the jobname.


The name of the hive table. This is passed to the user scripts through the script operator.

The name of the hive partition. This is passed to the user scripts through the script operator.



The alias being processed. This is also passed to the user scripts through the script operator.


Configuring HCatalog and WebHCat


Starting in Hive release 0.11.0, HCatalog is installed and configured with Hive. The HCatalog server is the same as the Hive metastore.

For Hive releases prior to 0.11.0, see the "Thrift Server Setup" section in the HCatalog 0.5.0 document Installation from Tarball.


For information about configuring WebHCat, see WebHCat Configuration.

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