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So in .NET Core projects, we can use EF Command to execute database migrations.
However, in current DOTNET Core 1.0.0-preview, the EF Command only works on the runnable projects (such like Website, Console…)*.

See issue :
CLI Commands: support targeting .NET Core class library projects #5320

And that means we could only put our DbContext and DAOs in the website project?
That seems it will mess up the website with too much responsibility within it.

In this article, we will try to make a clean architecture for Entity framework Core and let the EF Command works.

Supported framework

EF supports .NET Core CLI commands on these frameworks:

  • .NET Framework 4.5.1 and newer. (“net451”, “net452”, “net46”, etc.)
  • .NET Core App 1.0. (“netcoreapp1.0”)


  • Visual Studio 2015 Update 3
  • DOTNET Core 1.0.0- DOTNET Core 1.0.0-preview


Create two projects

  1. Sample.Website : ASP.NET Core
  2. Sample.DAL : Class library (.NET Core)

Sample.DAL will have the DbContext, Database Models.

Data Access layer (DAL)

Install the following package(s):

  • /Models/DAO/Customer.cs

You can create your own DAO. This one is just for reference.

    public class Customer
        public int Id { get; set; }
        public string Name { get; set; }
        public string Phone { get; set; }
        public int Age { get; set; }
        public string  Description { get; set; }
  • /DbContext/NgDbContext.cs
    public class NgDbContext : DbContext
       public NgDbContext(DbContextOptions options) : base(options) 
       { }
       public DbSet<Customer> Customers { get; set; }

Presentation Layer (Website)

Install the packages.

  1. Microsoft.AspNetCore.Identity.EntityFrameworkCore
  2. Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore
  3. Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools

(For Sql server)
4. Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Relational
5. Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer

The most important is Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools, which supports the EF Command Line tooling.

Test if the EF command works

Open command line or Powershell or Package Management Console*, change directory to the root of the website, and type the command to see if EF Command works.

dotnet ef –-version

Or dotnet ef --help to see the helps.

Sometimes you may see the following error message:
dotnet ef throws Could not load file or assembly Microsoft.DotNet.Cli.Utils

Clear(delete) the nuget caches will helps

  1. C:\Users\{LoginName}\.nuget\packages\.tools\Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools
  2. C:\Users\{LoginName}\.nuget\packages\Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools

and restore them under the website's root. (dotnet restore)

Also see this reference.

Start Migration

The original add-migration and update-database commands are simple, like this

dotnet ef migrations add [migration_name] –c [DbContext_name]

dotnet ef database update [migration_name]

PS. [migration_name] = "0" will revert all migrations, or skip this argument to apply all pending migrations.

However, while we put the DbContext in the other project but not the one we are running EF Command, so we have to appoint the target project with DbContext and the startup project for EF Command.

Add migration

dotnet ef  --project ../Sample.DAL --startup-project . migrations add [migration_name] -c [DbContext_name]

Update database

dotnet ef  --project ../Sample.DAL --startup-project . database update

Implement IDbContextFactory

Okay, now it seems works but right away we get the following error:

No parameterless constructor was found on 'NgDbContext'. Either add a parameterless constructor to 'NgDbContext' or add an implementation of 'IDbContextFactory<NgDbContext>' in the same assembly as 'NgDbContext'.

This error is telling us that the migration would need to create a DbContext instance to get things done. We will create a class and implement IDbContextFactory<TContext> in Sample.DAL.

  • MigrationFactory.cs
    public class MigrationFactory : IDbContextFactory<NgDbContext>
        public NgDbContext Create()
            var builder = new DbContextOptionsBuilder<NgDbContext>();
            return new NgDbContext(builder.Options);

PS. I create another class: Configuration, to store the database connection string.

Re-run the add-migration and update-database commands, the CLI create/update the table: Customers for us.
For more EF Command usage, take a look at

How to initialize data

The data initializing function is on the roadmap of Entity framework Core team and will be released in the future.
However we can make a trick to achieve the data-initializing.

Create a class: Configuration,

  • Configuration.cs
    public class Configuration
        //Connection string for code first
        public static string DEFAULT_CONNECT_STR = "Server=.;Database=XXX;Trusted_Connection=True;MultipleActiveResultSets=true";

        public void Seed()
            var dbContext = DbContextFactory.Create(DEFAULT_CONNECT_STR);


        private void initCustomers(NgDbContext dbContext)
            dbContext.Customers.Add(new Customer { Name = "JB",  Phone = "0933XXXXXX", Age = 35, Description = "JB is a good programmer :)" });
            dbContext.Customers.Add(new Customer { Name = "Leia",Phone = "-", Age = 3, Description = "A cute girl!" });

We should call the Seed function after running add-migration command but before update-database command. Add the Seed function to the migration class which is created by the CLI.

So when the update-database command is executed, the data is also be initialized.


  1. - .NET Core CLI
  2. Dotnet EF Migrations for ASP.NET Core
  3. How to migrate dbcontext in class library?

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