Internal Working of Java HashMap [Java 17]

Java HashMap is a member of the Collections framework and stores key-value pairs. Each key is mapped to a single value, and duplicate keys are not allowed. In this tutorial, we will learn how HashMap internally stores the key-value pairs and how it prevents duplicate keys.

1. Internal Data Structure

The HashMap is a Hash table based implementation of the Map interface. A hash table uses a hash function to compute an index, also called a hash code, into an array of buckets or slots, from which the desired value can be found. During lookup, the supplied key is hashed, and the resulting hash indicates where the corresponding value is stored in the Hash table.

To keep things together, Java Map defines an inner class Node of type Map.Entry. It stores the key, generated hash (to avoid calculating hash every time during comparisons), the value and the pointer to the next node.

static class Node<K,V> implements Map.Entry<K,V> {
  final int hash;
  final K key;
  V value;
  Node<K,V> next;

  //other code

As shown above, multiple keys can produce the hash that maps them into a single bucket. In such cases, the Map entries are stored as LinkedList.

But when entries in a single bucket reach a threshold (TREEIFY_THRESHOLD, default value 8) then Map converts the bucket’s internal structure from the linked list to a RedBlackTree (JEP 180). All Entry instances are converted to TreeNode instances.

Basically, when a bucket becomes too big, HashMap dynamically replaces it with an ad-hoc implementation of TreeMap. This way, rather than having a pessimistic O(n) performance, we get a much better O(log n).

Note that when nodes in a bucket reduce less than UNTREEIFY_THRESHOLD the Tree again converts to LinkedList. This helps balance performance with memory usage because TreeNodes takes more memory than Map.Entry instances. So Map uses Tree only when there is a considerable performance gain in exchange for memory wastage.

2. Internal Hashing

Hashing, in its simplest form, is a way to assign a unique code for any object after applying a formula/algorithm to its properties.

A true hash function should return the same hash code every time the function is applied to the same or equal objects. In other words, two equal objects must consistently produce the same hash code.

In Java, all objects inherit a default implementation of hashCode() function defined in Object class. It produces the hash code by typically converting the internal address of the object into an integer, thus producing different hash codes for all different objects.

public class Object { 
    public native int hashCode();

Java designers understood that end-user created objects may not produce evenly distributed hash codes, so Map class internally applies another round of hashing function on the key’s hashcode() to make them reasonably distributed.

static final int hash(Object key) {
  int h;
  return (key == null) ? 0 : (h = key.hashCode()) ^ (h >>> 16);

This is final hash, generated from the initial hash of the Key object, that is used to find the bucket location.

3. How put() API Works?

So far, we understood that each Java object has a unique hashcode associated with it, and this hashcode is used to decide the bucket location in the HashMap where the key-value pair will be stored.

Before going into put() method’s implementation, it is very important to learn that instances of Node class are stored in an array. Each index location in the array is treated as a bucket:

transient Node<K,V>[] table;

To store a key-value pair, we invoke the put() API as follows:

V put(K key, V value);

The put() API, internally, first calculates the initial hash using the key.hashcode() method and the calculates the final hash using the hash() method discussed in the previous section.

static final int hash(Object key) {
  int h;
  return (key == null) ? 0 : (h = key.hashCode()) ^ (h >>> 16);

This final hash value is ultimately used to compute an index in the array or bucket location.

public V put(K key, V value) {
    return putVal(hash(key), key, value, false, true);

4. How are Collisions Resolved?

Here comes the main part now, as we know that two unequal objects can have the same hash code value, how two different objects will be stored in the same array location called bucket.

If you remember, Node class had an attribute "next". This attribute always points to the next object in the chain. So, all the nodes with equal keys are stored in the same array index in the form of a LinkedList.

When an Node object needs to be stored at a particular index, HashMap checks whether there is already a Node present in the array index?? If there is no Node already present, the current Node object is stored in this location. If an object is already sitting on the calculated index, its next attribute is checked. If it is null, and current Node object becomes next node in LinkedList. If next variable is not null, the process is followed until next is evaluated as null.

if ((e = == null) { = newNode(hash, key, value, null);

Note that if the first node in the bucket is of type TreeNode then TreeNode.putTreeVal() is used to insert a new node in the red-black tree.

else if (p instanceof TreeNode)
    e = ((TreeNode<K,V>)p).putTreeVal(this, tab, hash, key, value);   

5. How get() API Works?

The Map.get() API takes the key object ar method argument and returns the associated value, if it is found in the Map.

String val = map.get("key");

Similar to the put() API, the logic to find the bucket location is similar for the get() API. Once the bucket is located using the final hash value, the first node at the index location is checked.

If the first node is TreeNode type then TreeNode.getTreeNode(hash, key) API is used to search for the equal key object. If such a TreeNode is found, the value is returned.

if (first instanceof TreeNode)
  return ((TreeNode<K,V>)first).getTreeNode(hash, key);

If the first node is not TreeNode then search happens in the Linked list fashion and the next attribute is checked in each iteration until the matching key object is found of a Node.

do {
    if (e.hash == hash &&
        ((k = e.key) == key || (key != null && key.equals(k))))
        return e;
} while ((e = != null);   

6. Conclusion

This Java tutorial discussed the internal working of the HashMap class. It discussed how the hash is calculated in two steps, and how the final hash is then used to find the bucket location in an array of Nodes. We also learned how the collisions are resolved in case of duplicate key objects.

Happy Learning !!

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