Migrate your database using Entity Framework Core Migration Bundles

June 12, 2023
Written by
Daniel Lawson
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Migrate your DB using EF Core Migration Bundles

In this article, you will look at what Entity Framework (EF) Migration Bundles are and their advantages. Then you will see, through a practical example, how to create and run migration bundles in your projects.


Before we dive into Migration Bundles, make sure you have the following installed on your system:

Database updates, historically

Prior to the introduction of migration bundles, developers had various methods to handle database updates, such as SQL scripts or the Command-Line Interface (CLI), to name a few. Both approaches have their drawbacks:

SQL Scripts

This approach consists of generating SQL scripts from the migrations. As the scripts are pure SQL, you can review them before deployment migrations,  With this approach, there is no way to check if you have applied all the previous changes. If not, the scripts can fail or lead to unexpected effects. Nevertheless, the idempotent script approach can help to apply only the necessary migrations by maintaining a migration history table.

Command-Line Interface

This approach deploys the updates using the command line tools. It includes some tool dependencies, as you will need to compile your model via your source code. As a matter of fact, you will also need the .NET SDK.

What is an EF Core migration bundle?

A migration bundle is a file produced by EF Core that can be used to apply migrations to a database. It was introduced in EF Core version 6 as a solution to address dependencies and provide a safer way to update databases with EF Core. Migration bundles offer several advantages, including:

  • Standalone executables: Migration bundles are standalone executables and can be executed independently of your source code.
  • Minimal dependencies: Migration bundles don’t necessitate the presence of an Entity Framework tool or the .NET SDK to execute a bundle. Only the .NET runtime is required, and you can even create self-contained bundles that include the .NET runtime, offering flexibility in application deployment. You can then decouple your database deployment pipeline from the rest of your application.

Now that you know what migration bundles are, let’s see how to create and manipulate them.

EF core migration bundle in action

1. Set up the sample project

As this article is about EF Core migration bundles, you will not spend time creating an ASP.NET Core MVC app from scratch. I’ve already set up an application for the purpose. It is a basic To-Do app written in .NET 7. I set the project up to use a SQLite database.

The source code is available on GitHub. All you need to do is to clone it. In the terminal, navigate to the folder in which your project will reside and run the following command:

git clone https://github.com/danylaws/efmigrationbundles-todoapp

If you'd like to use a different database, you can update the connection string within the TodoApp/appsettings.json file. Find the `ConnectionStrings:DbConnection" property and change its value to your connection string.

 "ConnectionStrings": {
    "DbConnection": "Data Source=todos.db"

You are all set. Next, let’s look at the sample project in more details.

2. Exploring the sample project

The sample application comprises the following projects:

  • TodoApp, which is the MVC project, with the controllers, views, etc.
  • TodoApp.Core, which contains the business services
  • TodoApp.Data, which includes the database context and the repositories responsible for interacting with the database.
  • TodoApp.Domain, in which resides the entities.

Let’s look more closely at the TodoApp.Data project. The TodoAppDbContext.cs file defines the DbContext as follows:

public class TodoAppDbContext : DbContext
    public DbSet<Todo> Todos { get; set; }
    public DbSet<Category> Categories { get; set; }

    public TodoAppDbContext(DbContextOptions<TodoAppDbContext> options)
      : base(options)

With this code, EF Core (in conjunction with a migration file) will create two tables to store to-do items and categories. At this point, when you run the TodoApp project, you should get an error,  because the database hasn't been created yet:

App crashes because database does not exist

3. Create a migration bundle

To begin, you need to generate a migration. Open your terminal and navigate to the solution folder. Run the command below:

dotnet ef migrations add InitialMigration -p TodoApp.Data -s TodoApp

The -p argument specifies the project to use for generating the migrations, and the -s argument specifies the startup project.

With this command, EF Core will create a Migrations folder within the TodoApp.Data project. Inside this folder, you will find an xxx_InitialMigration.cs file, which contains all your database schema updates. xxx is a unique number generated by EF Core for this particular migration file.

Next, you will create a migration bundle to include the previously generated migration file. In the terminal, enter the following command:

dotnet ef migrations bundle -p TodoApp --output efbundle.exe

These commands will first build your code and then generate an exe file named efbundle.exe in the specified output folder. This file contains your database migrations. The prompt should show the location of your bundle file:

Build started...
Build succeeded.
Building bundle...
Done. Migrations Bundle: .\efbundle.exe
Don't forget to copy appsettings.json alongside your bundle if you need it to apply migrations.

In .NET 7, you may encounter an error related to your runtime identifier (RID) when attempting to generate a bundle for the first time. The error might state: The runtime pack for Microsoft.NETCore.App.Runtime.[RID] was not downloaded. Try running a NuGet restore with the RuntimeIdentifier [RID]'. If you encounter this error, you must specify your RID explicitly in your initial command with the --runtime argument. For instance, if you are targeting a 64 bits Windows runtime, you will run the following command:

dotnet ef migrations bundle --runtime win-x64 -p TodoApp --output efbundle.exe

Now, execute the bundle with the following command:

./efbundle.exe --connection "Data Source=TodoApp/todos.db"

By default, it will look for the connection string in your appsettings.json file, but you can also specify the connection string using the --connection argument. In the command above, the connection string has been updated, so it points to the todos.db sqlite file in the TodoApp project folder.

This command will trigger all the migrations in your bundle, applying the necessary changes to your database schema. The prompt shows the SQL scripts which are executed during the migration.

After that, relaunch your application. You should not have any errors anymore. That means the bundle has successfully created your database. Your fully functional to-do app is now up and running, as shown below:

The app is working properly

Now, you will update your entities. In the TodoApp.Domain project, update the Todo class in Todo.cs, by adding a new property, as shown below:

namespace TodoApp.Domain.Entities
    public class Todo
        public string Id { get; set; }
        public string Title { get; set; }
        public string? Description { get; set; }
        public DateTime CreatedAt { get; set; }
        public DateTime ScheduledFor { get; set; }
        public Category Category { get; set; }
        public string CategoryId { get; set; }
        public bool IsDone { get; set; }

The highlighted code represents the addition of a new property to the Todo class. This will result in an update of the database, specifically the addition of a new tinyint column, named IsDone within the Todo table. To take this change into account, you need to create a migration. You’ll call it AddColumnIsDoneInTodo Run this command to create the AddColumnIsDoneInTodo migration:

dotnet ef migrations add AddColumnIsDoneInTodo -p TodoApp.Data -s TodoApp

You can see that EF Core creates another migration file inside the Migrations folder, with name similar to xxx_AddColumnIsDoneInTodo.cs.

Now, you need to generate a new migration bundle which will embark the new migration. Open the terminal and run these commands:

dotnet ef migrations bundle -p TodoApp --output efbundle.exe --force

Now, you can run your new bundle:

./efbundle.exe --connection "Data Source=TodoApp/todos.db"

The new bundle runs and creates the new column. In the terminal, you can observe that EF Core only executes the new update, recall adding the column IsDone in the Todo table. The rest of the operations are about the update of the migrations history.

info: Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Database.Command[20101]
      Executed DbCommand (8ms) [Parameters=[], CommandType='Text', CommandTimeout='30']
info: Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Database.Command[20101]
      Executed DbCommand (0ms) [Parameters=[], CommandType='Text', CommandTimeout='30']
info: Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Database.Command[20101]
      Executed DbCommand (1ms) [Parameters=[], CommandType='Text', CommandTimeout='30']
      SELECT `MigrationId`, `ProductVersion`
      FROM `__EFMigrationsHistory`
      ORDER BY `MigrationId`;
info: Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Migrations[20402]
      Applying migration '20230605155344_AddColumnIsDoneInTodo'.
Applying migration '20230605155344_AddColumnIsDoneInTodo'.
info: Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Database.Command[20101]
      Executed DbCommand (12ms) [Parameters=[], CommandType='Text', CommandTimeout='30']
info: Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Database.Command[20101]
      Executed DbCommand (2ms) [Parameters=[], CommandType='Text', CommandTimeout='30']
      INSERT INTO `__EFMigrationsHistory` (`MigrationId`, `ProductVersion`)
      VALUES ('20230605155344_AddColumnIsDoneInTodo', '7.0.5');

You will find that the new column is correctly added when you check your database. Congratulations!


In this article, we explored the concept of Entity Framework Core Migration Bundles, their advantages, and how to work with them in practical scenarios. Migration bundles offer a convenient and decoupled approach for applying database updates, providing flexibility in deployment and minimizing dependencies. By understanding the usage of migration bundles, you can streamline the database migration process in your .NET applications and ensure smooth transitions in database schema evolution.

A topic worth exploring might be how you can integrate your database deployment as part of your CI/CD pipeline, based on EF Core Migration Bundles. This can bring a lot of flexibility to your app delivery. Happy coding!

Daniel Lawson is an Independent Software Developer and Cloud Enthusiast. He is passionate about C# and AWS. He can be reached on Twitter or LinkedIn. He also has a personal blog.