Entity Framework Core Code First Migration Using Separate Assembly

This blogpost explains how to achieve Entity Framework code first migrations having Models, DBContext, and Model Snapshot files in assembly different than web or startup projects.

By following this tutorial you will create a Class library project, data models with DataAnnotations validation, ApplicationContext class implementing DBContext, and implement IDesignTimeDbContextFactory to avoid the use of startup class.

Steps to create Category, Product Data Model, DBContext and implement IDesignTimeDbContextFactory interface.

  1. Create a .NET Core Class Library

    From Visual Studio File Menu -> Click on New Project
    From left the pane of New Project dialog box select Visual C# or Visual Basic -> .NET Core
    Then from middle pane select Class Library(.NET Core)
    Give a name to the project of your choice or GeeksStoreDataAccess
    You may remove Class1.cs file.

  2. Create Data Model

    Add a new folder with name DataModels under the root of the GeeksStoreDataAccess project.
    Now in this step, you will add Category.cs and Product.cs for respective data models.
    Right Click on DataModels folder -> Select Add -> Class.
    Give class name as Category.cs and click ok.

    Category data models will be used to a create Category table in SQL database. Add columns for the Category table as shown below using properties. You can generate models from existing database for all tables using EF Core Database first approach.

    namespace GeeksStoreDataAccess.DataModels
        public class Category
            public Category()
            public int CategoryID { get; set; }
            public string CategoryName { get; set; }            
            public string Description { get; set; }
            public virtual List<Products> Products { get; set; }

    Similarly, create a Product data model by creating a new class with the name Product.cs.
    Add below properties to Products.cs file to create Product table and its columns.

    namespace GeeksStoreDataAccess.DataModels
        public class Product
            public Product()
            public int ProductID { get; set; }
            public string ProductName { get; set; }
            public int CategoryID { get; set; }
            public int QuantityPerUnit { get; set; }
            public decimal UnitPrice { get; set; }
            public int UnitsInStock { get; set; }
            public int ReorderLevel { get; set; }
            public bool Discontinued { get; set; }
            public virtual Category Category { get; set; }

    Notice Category column from Products and Products column from Category class, it indicates One to Many relationships between Category and Products table.

  3. Add EntityFrameworkCore Nuget Package

    In this step, you will add required NuGet packages to run EntityFramework Core.

    Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore for using DbContext, DbSet etc.
    Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Sqlserver for using SQL Server with DbContextOptionsBuilder.
    Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools for using Migration related commands. Microsoft.Extensions.Configuration.FileExtensions for accessing appsettings.json or other config files.

    Open the NuGet Package Manager console and execute the below commands in sequence.

    install-package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore
    install-package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Sqlserver
    install-package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools
    install-package Microsoft.Extensions.Configuration.FileExtensions
  4. Creating ApplicationContext using DBContext

    DBContext is the main entry point of EntityFramework which allows you to manage database connection, configure data models and their relationship, query tables, making DML operations on data, caching, etc.

    Add a new class to your class library project with the name StoreContext.

    Create a constructor for StoreContext class having DbContextOptions injected in it.

    public class StoreContext : DbContext
            public StoreContext(DbContextOptions options) : base(options)

    If you want to configure Domain Models you can use the OnModelCreating method. Models can be configured with DataAnnotations or Fluent API. In this tutorial, you will use DataAnnotations to implement validation or relationships.

    Create DBSet type properties for Products and Category classes to create tables and perform CRUD operations. Context class must use DBSet type properties for the entities which map database tables and views.

    Add below code in StoreContext.cs file.

    public DbSet<Category> Categories { get; set; }
    public DbSet<Product> Products { get; set; }
  5. Add appsettings.json file

    The purpose of using appsettings.json is only to add SQL server connection string or other required configuration that can be used in the DesignTimeDbContextFactory class.

    Right click on GeeksStoreDataAccess Class library project -> Select Add -> New Item -> Select Web from left pane -> Select JavaScript JSON Configuration File from middle pane -> name it appsettings.json -> click Ok.

    Add your connection string to appsettings.json with the below configuration setting.

      "ConnectionStrings": {
        "DefaultConnection": "<your server name>Catalog=GeeksStore;
            Integrated Security=True;Connect Timeout=30;Encrypt=False;
  6. Implement IDesignTimeDbContextFactory<ApplicationContext> in Class Library

    To avoid reference to Entity Framework in your web or start up project, you will have to implement the IDesignTimeDbContextFactory interface in your Data Access project.

    CreateDbContext method of IDesignTimeDbContextFactory interface will create required configuration and returns ApplicationContext.

    Create a new class with name DesignTimeDbContextFactory.cs and inherit IDesignTimeDbContextFactory interface. Implement method CreateDbContext with code as below and add required references.

    using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore;
    using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Design;
    using Microsoft.Extensions.Configuration;
    using System.IO;
    public class DesignTimeDbContextFactory : 
            public StoreContext CreateDbContext(string[] args)
                IConfigurationRoot configuration = new ConfigurationBuilder()
                var builder = new DbContextOptionsBuilder<StoreContext>();
                var connectionString = configuration.GetConnectionString("DefaultConnection");
                return new StoreContext(builder.Options);
  7. EFCore Add-Migration

    Now you are all set to create your database with initial migration using Entity Framework code first.

    Add-Migration command creates an initial set of tables using referred models. It creates a class file inherited by ModelSnapShot, this class defines column data types, table constraints, etc.

    You might want to keep initial migration and subsequently updated migration to separate folder. Create a parent folder with name Migration and then create a subfolder with name as Initial.

    Open NuGet Package Manager Console and execute the command

    Add-Migration InitialCreate -OutputDir Migrations\initial

    The database is not yet created, at this point only ModelSnapshot file is generated under Migration -> initial folder.

    To create database use update-database -verbose command in PMC(package manager console) as shown below. This will actually create a database at the location mentioned in the connection string. -verbose is used to see details if there is an error otherwise it just shows build failed.

        Update-Database -verbose

    Your database should be created now.

    ef core code first create database

    Notice the column has created with default data type and default length or primary key is created with no identity value. For managing column data type, constraints, identity value and other validations you may use DataAnnotations with Data Models or use Fluent API creating Data Models for Entity Framework code first.

Source code on Git hub Source Code on Github

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