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📓 Configuration for Entity Framework Core

In this lesson, we'll explain how to configure a project to use Entity Framework Core with a MySQL database. The instructions in this lesson can be used for any app you build to use EF Core with a MySQL database.

For this walkthrough, we'll use our To Do List app as an example, and we'll start where we left off with our To Do List app: using MySqlConnector to communicate with a MySQL database. That means this walkthrough will include instructions on how to remove MySqlConnector and how to update the custom methods we created over the weekend homework to communicate with our MySQL database. As always, you are welcome to code a long with these lessons, or just read through them. We'll provide links to an example repo as needed and at the very end of the walkthrough.

Project Setup

Adding and Removing Dependencies

Out with the old and in with the new! We'll start by adding the additional dependencies that we will need for this EF Core project. Go to the root directory of the production project (ToDoList) via the terminal and add the following dependencies.

$ dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore -v 6.0.0
$ dotnet add package Pomelo.EntityFrameworkCore.MySql -v 6.0.0

Notice one of these does not start with Microsoft. That's because Pomelo.EntityFrameworkCore.MySql is actually a third-party package that can be downloaded from the same source as official Microsoft packages. Check out Entity Framework Core Official GitHub Repo to learn more.

Let's also remove the MySqlConnector package that we added over the weekend.

$ dotnet remove package MySqlConnector

Notice how MySqlConnector is now gone from our .csproj file. The dotnet remove package [PACKAGE NAME] command allows us to conveniently and cleanly remove packages that we do not need from our project.

Database Connection String

Next, we need to add a database connection string to our app.

When we used the MySqlConnector package to communicate with the database, we put our database connection string in appsettings.json and loaded it during the creation of our web app host in Program.cs. We used appsettings.json to protect the sensitive data within our database connection string by adding it to our .gitignore so that it is never tracked in our Git history. We also included instructions on how to recreate an appsettings.json in our project READMEs.

Well, we'll use appsettings.json in just the same way to load and protect our database connection string with EF Core. So if you are following along and updating your To Do List app, there are no major changes that we need to make with our processes around using appsettings.json.

All other projects you create will need the following:

  • appsettings.json listed in the .gitignore and committed to Git history.
  • Setup instructions in the project's that explain how to recreate the appsettings.json, including the location of file (within the project's production directory) and the contents of the file.

  • And an appsetting.json with the following contents, replacing the following values with your own:

    • [YOUR-USER-HERE] with your username
    • [YOUR-PASSWORD-HERE] with your password
    • [YOUR-DB-NAME] with the name of your database
"ConnectionStrings": {
"DefaultConnection": "Server=localhost;Port=3306;database=[YOUR-DB-NAME];uid=[YOUR-USER-HERE];pwd=[YOUR-PASSWORD-HERE];"

Update the Database Name and Create a New Database

We recommend creating a new database for this walkthrough of using EF Core to communicate with a MySQL database. Doing so will preserve the database we set up with version of the To Do List that uses MySqlConnector. To Do this, follow these steps:

  1. Update the database key in the database connection string in appsettings.json to to_do_list_with_ef_core.
  2. Copying the to_do_list_with_mysqlconnector database by exporting it, and then importing it with the new name of to_do_list_with_ef_core. For exact instructions on importing and exporting databases, visit this lesson from the weekend homework.

Remove DatabaseConfig.cs

We'll configure our project to use EF Core in Program.cs. In the process, we'll set up our MySQL database to run as a service in Program.cs. Because of this, we no longer need the ToDoList/Models/DatabaseConfig.cs file that contains the DBConfiguration class. Start by removing this file from your To Do List project.

Remove the following:

namespace ToDoList.Models
public static class DBConfiguration
public static string ConnectionString { get; set; }

Creating the Database Context and Entities

Next, we need to create a model of our database and tables within our project for Entity Framework Core to use to map our C# classes and objects to MySQL database tables and entries, and vice versa. EF Core uses specific terminology for these models:

  • An entity represents a single database table (with columns and types) as a C# model in our app. The entities in our To Do List app are described in Item.cs and Category.cs.
  • The database context represents the entire database (with all the tables) as a model in our app. The model is always called ProjectNameContext and it extends the functionality of EF Core's DbContext class. The DbContext class represents a session with our MySQL database that can be used to query and save instances of our entities (Items and Categorys). Every time we want to reference a database in an app, we will do so using an instance of the DbContext class.

We don't have to change anything with Item.cs or Category.cs to turn those models into EF Core entities. We list the entities in our application by defining them in the database context. So, let's create that next.

Within ToDoList/Models create a new file called ToDoListContext.cs and add the following code to it:

using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore;

namespace ToDoList.Models
public class ToDoListContext : DbContext
public DbSet<Item> Items { get; set; }

public ToDoListContext(DbContextOptions options) : base(options) { }

Let's walk through what's happening here:

  • Our ToDoListContext class inherits (or "extends") from EF Core's DbContext class. This ensures it includes all default built-in DbContext functionality.

  • The ToDoListContext class contains a property of type DbSet<Item> named Items that represents the items table in our database. With this Items property, we've declared an entity called Items in our To Do List database context.

    • Note that in order for DbSet<T> to create an entity for a specific C# object in our app, we always need to be sure to include the class name (Item) within the angle brackets (<>) after DbSet.
  • We also include a constructor that inherits the behavior of its parent class constructor. As ToDoListContext is an extension of the DbContext class, we're invoking the constructor behavior from that class; base represents the parent DbContext class.

  • In the ToDoListContext constructor, we list a parameter of the type DbContextOptions called options. The argument for this parameter will be passed through dependency injection from Program.cs when our app is built and run. Note that we haven't yet set up anything in Program.cs — neither our database as a service or our database context options. We'll do that next!

Configuring Program.cs to Run our Database as a Service

Next, we'll update Program.cs to do two things:

  1. Configure our WebApplicationBuilder to set up a service for our database.
  2. Configure our MySQL database to use the database connection string in appsettings.json.

Let's look at the new code in Program.cs. We'll show the entire file.

using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Builder;
using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore;
using Microsoft.Extensions.DependencyInjection;
using ToDoList.Models;

namespace ToDoList
class Program
static void Main(string[] args)
WebApplicationBuilder builder = WebApplication.CreateBuilder(args);


dbContextOptions => dbContextOptions
builder.Configuration["ConnectionStrings:DefaultConnection"], ServerVersion.AutoDetect(builder.Configuration["ConnectionStrings:DefaultConnection"]

WebApplication app = builder.Build();

// app.UseDeveloperExceptionPage();


name: "default",
pattern: "{controller=Home}/{action=Index}/{id?}");


Let's explain the updates:

  • First note that we have a new using directive: using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore; This using directive imports the UseMySql() method from the Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore namespace. We also maintain the using ToDoList.Models, because we use the model ToDoListContext within Program.cs.

  • With builder.Services.AddDbContext<ToDoListContext>(...) we add EF Core as a service to our To Do List app. We specify ToDoListContext as the type of EF Core database context that we want to set up. Remember that ToDoListContext is a representation of our MySQL database.

  • As the argument to the AddDbContext<T>() method, we configure our To Do List database context options:

    • We state that we want to use a MySQL database with the UseMySql() method.
    • We pass in two arguments to the UseMySql() method:
      • The database connection string in appsettings.json, which we get from accessing builder.Configuration. Remember that appsettings.json is implicitly loaded when we begin the process of building our web app host by running WebApplication.CreateBuilder(args);.
      • The version of the MySQL server, which we set to autodetect.
    • Note that the syntax => in dbContextOptions => dbContextOptions creates a lambda expression. In short, a lambda expression is just a way to write an anonymous function in a condensed fashion. Lambda expressions are used in a variety of languages and are similar to arrow functions in JavaScript. For more information about lambdas, check out the Microsoft documentation.

With EF Core now configured to run as a service, EF Core will automatically handle opening and closing a database connection each time we query our database. Pretty neat!

Note that while we name our EF Core database context ToDoListContext, the name of the actual database is still set in appsettings.json.

And finally, if you'd like to read more about how to configure EF Core as a service, visit the documentation Configuring DbContext with Dependency Injection and scroll down to the "Using DbContext with dependency injection" section.

Updating to EF Core Naming Conventions

For EF Core to map our C# models to a MySQL database, we need to follow specific naming conventions, two to be precise:

  1. By default EF Core maps entity properties (the properties of our C# models) to database columns that have the same name. This mapping is case sensitive. Because of this, the column names in our database tables must match the property names and case of the properties of our models.

  2. It's also important to note that Entity Framework Core recognizes an entity's primary key through naming convention as well: for a property to be recognized as a primary key, we need to name the property Id or [ClassName]Id. We're going to go with the second way, naming our primary keys as [ClassName]Id.

To meet these naming convention, we need to go into our to_do_list_with_ef_core database and update the column names in the following way:

  • Using MySQL Workbench, find the items table in the Navigator, right click and select Alter Table....
    • Change the name of the id column to ItemId.
    • Change the name of the description column to Description.
    • Click Apply.

Next, go open Item.cs in the ToDoList project, and update your Item model's Id property to be ItemId. The Item model should now look like this:

namespace ToDoList.Models
public class Item
public int ItemId { get; set; }
public string Description { get; set; }

... // Item constructor and methods omitted

Note that we will follow these naming conventions when setting up databases and entities from now on.

Repository Reference

Follow the link below to view how a sample version of the To Do List app should look like at this point. Note that this is a link to a specific branch in the repository.

Example GitHub Repo for To Do List with EF Core: 1_ef_core_setup