The maximum number of row versions to store is configured per column family via HColumnDescriptor. The default for max versions is 3. This is an important parameter because as described in Chapter 5, Data Model section HBase does not overwrite row values, but rather stores different values per row by time (and qualifier). Excess versions are removed during major compactions. The number of max versions may need to be increased or decreased depending on application needs.
It is not recommended setting the number of max versions to an exceedingly high level (e.g., hundreds or more) unless those old values are very dear to you because this will greatly increase StoreFile size.
Like maximum number of row versions, the minimum number of row versions to keep is configured per column family via HColumnDescriptor. The default for min versions is 0, which means the feature is disabled. The minimum number of row versions parameter is used together with the time-to-live parameter and can be combined with the number of row versions parameter to allow configurations such as "keep the last T minutes worth of data, at most N versions, but keep at least M versions around" (where M is the value for minimum number of row versions, M<N). This parameter should only be set when time-to-live is enabled for a column family and must be less than the number of row versions.