What is Hash Code? Hash Code Explained.

Last Updated on October 10, 2023

A Hash Code is a numerical value, typically generated by a hash function, that represents the information contained in a set of data in a condensed form. This code serves as an identifier for the data, enabling quick comparisons and retrievals in data structures like hash tables. While it’s designed to be unique for unique sets of data, it’s possible for two different inputs to produce the same hash code (known as a collision) due to the finite length of the hash codes.


What is the primary purpose of a Hash Code?

The primary purpose of a hash code is to allow efficient data lookup in data structures, such as hash tables or hash maps. By converting data (like a string or object) into a hash code, systems can quickly locate the data in a collection without scanning each element.

How is a Hash Code different from a Checksum?

While both hash codes and checksums provide a condensed representation of data, their purposes differ. A hash code is used mainly for data retrieval in structures like hash tables, whereas a checksum is designed primarily to verify data integrity, ensuring that data has not been altered during storage or transmission.

Is a Hash Code secure for cryptographic purposes?

Not necessarily. Standard hash codes, especially those generated by general-purpose algorithms, are not designed for cryptographic security. They might be predictable or susceptible to collisions. For cryptographic purposes, cryptographic hash functions (like SHA-256) are used, which are designed to resist various types of attacks and provide security assurances.

What happens when two different inputs produce the same Hash Code (collision)?

Collisions in hash codes are inevitable due to the pigeonhole principle, as there are more possible inputs than hash code values. When a collision occurs in a data structure like a hash table, the structure is designed to handle it, often by storing multiple items in the same slot and using a secondary method, like chaining, to distinguish them.

Can Hash Codes be used as unique identifiers for database entries or files?

Due to the possibility of collisions, relying solely on hash codes as unique identifiers can be risky. However, they can be combined with other mechanisms or used as a preliminary quick check in scenarios where speed is crucial. For guaranteeing uniqueness, it’s better to use methods specifically designed for that purpose, like primary keys in databases or cryptographic hash functions for file verification.

Author of This Article:

Rahul Bhatia

Rahul Bhatia

Rahul Bhatia

Rahul Bhatia

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