Generating a model from an existing database

If you have an existing database, you can use Entity Framework Core commands to speed up development by reverse-engineering the files for the model from the database schema.

Command Line Interface

The following example illustrates how to do this from a SQL Server database in a new console application using the CLI tools.

First, create a folder for the project:

> mkdir EFCoreScaffoldexample

Then navigate to it:

> cd EFCoreScaffoldExample

Then create a new project:

> dotnet new console

Add the Entity Framework Core and Tools packages to the project:

> dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer
> dotnet add package --version 1.1.0-msbuild3-final Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools 
> dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer.Design

The first package is the EF Core provider for SQL Server. The second package contains the Entity Framework Core commands. Both of these packages are required for any Entity Framework Core application that targets SQL Server. The final package is required for supporting the scaffolding of the model.

Modify the .csproj file to include the following section:

        Version="1.0.0-msbuild3-final" />

This step is only necessary if the .csproj file wasn't automatically modified to add the entry when the Tools package was installed. See

Restore the packages:

dotnet restore

Test to see if ef commands are available to you:

dotnet ef -h

This should result in the initial help for the EF tools being displayed:

EF commands Help

You use the DbContext Scaffold command to generate the model. The command has two required arguments - a connection string and a provider. The connection string will depend on your environment and database provider. The provider argument is the Entity Framework provider for your chosen database. This example uses the AdventureWorks sample database for SQL server provided by Microsoft.

> dotnet ef dbcontext scaffold "Server=.\;Database=AdventureWorksLT2012;Trusted_Connection=True;" Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer -o Model

Once you have executed the command, you will see that a folder named Model has been created in the project folder, containing a collection of class files representing the entities in addition to a file for the DbContext class:

Scaffolded Model in Visual Studio Code

The -o option (or alternatively --output-dir) specifies the directory where the class files will be generated. If it is omitted, the class files will be generated in the project directory (where the .csproj file is located).

The DbContext class will take the name of the database plus "Context", You can override this using the -context option e.g.

> dotnet ef dbcontext scaffold "Server=.\;Database=AdventureWorksLT2012;Trusted_Connection=True;" Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer -o Model -context "AdventureContext"

Visual Studio

If you are working with Visual Studio, you can use the Package Manager Console to generate the the code files for the model. The equivalent command to the last CLI command just above is:

PM> Scaffold-DbContext "Server=.\;Database=AdventureWorksLT2012;Trusted_Connection=True;" Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer -OutputDir Model -Context "AdventureContext"


Once you have your model, the recommendation is that you use Migrations to keep the database synchronised with any changes to the model. In previous versions of Entity Framework, it was possible, once the model has been created, to add a migration that did not affect the schema of the existing database using the -ignorechanges option. This option does not exist in Entity Framework Core, so the workaround is to create a first migration and then to delete or comment out the contents of the Up method prior to applying the migration to the database. This will result in a model and a database schema that match.

Last updated: 14/03/2017 17:18:41
Proficiency Level: Beginner