Advanced Topics

Missing Value Handle

  • LightGBM enables the missing value handle by default. Disable it by setting use_missing=false.
  • LightGBM uses NA (NaN) to represent missing values by default. Change it to use zero by setting zero_as_missing=true.
  • When zero_as_missing=false (default), the unshown values in sparse matrices (and LightSVM) are treated as zeros.
  • When zero_as_missing=true, NA and zeros (including unshown values in sparse matrices (and LightSVM)) are treated as missing.

Categorical Feature Support

  • LightGBM offers good accuracy with integer-encoded categorical features. LightGBM applies Fisher (1958) to find the optimal split over categories as described here. This often performs better than one-hot encoding.
  • Use categorical_feature to specify the categorical features. Refer to the parameter categorical_feature in Parameters.
  • Categorical features must be encoded as non-negative integers (int) less than Int32.MaxValue (2147483647). It is best to use a contiguous range of integers.
  • Use min_data_per_group, cat_smooth to deal with over-fitting (when #data is small or #category is large).
  • For a categorical feature with high cardinality (#category is large), it often works best to treat the feature as numeric, either by simply ignoring the categorical interpretation of the integers or by embedding the categories in a low-dimensional numeric space.


  • The label should be of type int, such that larger numbers correspond to higher relevance (e.g. 0:bad, 1:fair, 2:good, 3:perfect).
  • Use label_gain to set the gain(weight) of int label.
  • Use max_position to set the NDCG optimization position.

Parameters Tuning

Parallel Learning

GPU Support

Recommendations for gcc Users (MinGW, *nix)