Presto SQL Engine

What is the difference between a managed table and external tables?

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Managed Table & External Tables: Main Difference

There are a few differences between these. However, the main difference between a managed and external table is that when you drop an external table, the underlying data files stay intact. This is because the user is expected to independently manage the data files and directories. With a managed table, the underlying directories and data get wiped out when the table is dropped. See the additional differences between the two and learn when to use each below.

Managed tables with presto

Managed Table & External Table: Within Presto

Regarding Presto tables are developed as such:

External Table: Table created using WITH has ‘external_location’
Managed Table: Table created in schema which has WITH used has ‘location’

You cannot “insert into” an external table (By default, the setting hive.non-managed-table-writes-enabled=false prevents you from doing so). 

The expectation that the data and information in the external table is managed externally. e.g. Spark, Hadoop, Python Scripts, or another external ETL process.

Internal Tables vs. External Tables in Apache Hive

Below are the major differences between Internal vs External tables in Apache Hive:

By default, Hive creates an Internal or Managed Table.Use EXTERNAL option/clause to create an external table
Hive owns the metadata, table data by managing the lifecycle of the tableHive manages the table metadata but not the underlying file.
Dropping an Internal table drops metadata from Hive Metastore and files from HDFSDropping an external table drops just metadata from Metastore without touching the actual file on HDFS/S3
Metadata on Inserts, creation of new partitions, etc. are updated automatically during inserts through the metastoreYou need to explicitly run sync_partitions to sync changes on S3 with the metastore


There tends to be a sense of confusion regarding when to pick managed tables and when to decide to use external tables. However, you can rely on this rule of thumb for future planning.

In short, you should opt to use managed tables when the metastore should manage the lifecycle of the table. Also, when you are generating temporary tables. However, you should use external tables when files are already present or in remote locations, and the files should remain even if the table is dropped.

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