What are deletion vectors?


This feature is available in Delta Lake 2.3.0 and above. This feature is in experimental support mode with Limitations.

Deletion vectors are a storage optimization feature that can be enabled on Delta Lake tables. By default, when a single row in a data file is deleted, the entire Parquet file containing the record must be rewritten. With deletion vectors enabled for the table, some Delta operations use deletion vectors to mark existing rows as removed without rewriting the Parquet file. Subsequent reads on the table resolve current table state by applying the deletions noted by deletion vectors to the most recent table version.

Enable deletion vectors

Delta Lake 2.4 and above leverages deletion vectors to accelerate DELETE operations on a supported Delta table.

You enable support for deletion vectors on a Delta Lake table by setting a Delta Lake table property:

ALTER TABLE <table_name> SET TBLPROPERTIES ('delta.enableDeletionVectors' = true);


When you enable deletion vectors, the table protocol version is upgraded. Table protocol version upgrades are not reversible. After upgrading, the table will not be readable by Delta Lake clients that do not support deletion vectors. See How does Delta Lake manage feature compatibility?.

Apply changes to Parquet data files

Deletion vectors indicate changes to rows as soft-deletes that logically modify existing Parquet data files in the Delta Lake tables. These changes are applied physically when data files are rewritten, as triggered by one of the following events:

  • An UPDATE or MERGE command is run on the table.

  • An OPTIMIZE command is run on the table.

  • REORG TABLE ... APPLY (PURGE) is run against the table.

UPDATE, MERGE, and OPTIMIZE do not have strict guarantees for resolving changes recorded in deletion vectors, and some changes recorded in deletion vectors might not be applied if target data files contain no updated records, or would not otherwise be candidates for file compaction. REORG TABLE ... APPLY (PURGE) rewrites all data files containing records with modifications recorded using deletion vectors. See Apply changes with REORG TABLE


Modified data might still exist in the old files. You can run VACUUM to physically delete the old files. REORG TABLE ... APPLY (PURGE) creates a new version of the table at the time it completes, which is the timestamp you must consider for the retention threshold for your VACUUM operation to fully remove deleted files.

Apply changes with REORG TABLE

Reorganize a Delta Lake table by rewriting files to purge soft-deleted data, such as rows marked as deleted by deletion vectors with REORG TABLE:


 -- If you have a large amount of data and only want to purge a subset of it, you can specify an optional partition predicate using `WHERE`:
REORG TABLE events WHERE date >= '2022-01-01' APPLY (PURGE);

  WHERE date >= current_timestamp() - INTERVAL '1' DAY


  • REORG TABLE only rewrites files that contain soft-deleted data.

  • When resulting files of the purge are small, REORG TABLE will coalesce them into larger ones. See OPTIMIZE for more info.

  • REORG TABLE is idempotent, meaning that if it is run twice on the same dataset, the second run has no effect.

  • After running REORG TABLE, the soft-deleted data may still exist in the old files. You can run VACUUM to physically delete the old files.


  • In Delta Lake 2.3, users are only allowed to read Delta tables that have Deletion vectors feature supported. Write operations to the table, such as INSERT, UPDATE, MERGE, and ALTER TABLE, are explicitly blocked. Change data feed reads are also blocked on tables that support Deletion vectors.

  • In Delta Lake 2.4, users are allowed to read and write Delta tables that have Deletion vectors feature supported. UPDATE or MERGE operations may apply changes to Parquet files which contains updated or deleted rows, see Apply changes to Parquet data files.