Design-time DbContext Creation

Some of the EF Core Tools commands (for example, the Migrations commands) require a derived DbContext instance to be created at design time in order to gather details about the application's entity types and how they map to a database schema. In most cases, it is desirable that the DbContext thereby created is configured in a similar way to how it would be configured at run time.

There are various ways the tools try to create the DbContext:

From application services

If your startup project is an ASP.NET Core app, the tools try to obtain the DbContext object from the application's service provider.

The tool first try to obtain the service provider by invoking Program.BuildWebHost() and accessing the IWebHost.Services property.


When you create a new ASP.NET Core 2.0 application, this hook is included by default. In previous versions of EF Core and ASP.NET Core, the tools try to invoke Startup.ConfigureServices directly in order to obtain the application's service provider, but this pattern no longer works correctly in ASP.NET Core 2.0 applications. If you are upgrading an ASP.NET Core 1.x application to 2.0, you can modify your Program class to follow the new pattern.

The DbContext itself and any dependencies in its constructor need to be registered as services in the application's service provider. This can be easily achieved by having a constructor on the DbContext that takes an instance of DbContextOptions<TContext> as a argument and using the AddDbContext<TContext> method.

Using a constructor with no parameters

If the DbContext can't be obtained from the application service provider, the tools look for the derived DbContext type inside the project. Then they try to create an instance using a constructor with no parameters. This can be the default constructor if the DbContext is configured using the OnConfiguring method.

From a design-time factory

You can also tell the tools how to create your DbContext by implementing the IDesignTimeDbContextFactory<TContext> interface: If a class implementing this interface is found in either the same project as the derived DbContext or in the application's startup project, the tools bypass the other ways of creating the DbContext and use the design-time factory instead.

using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore;
using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Infrastructure;

namespace MyProject
    public class BloggingContextFactory : IDesignTimeDbContextFactory<BloggingContext>
        public BloggingContext CreateDbContext(string[] args)
            var optionsBuilder = new DbContextOptionsBuilder<BloggingContext>();
            optionsBuilder.UseSqlite("Data Source=blog.db");

            return new BloggingContext(optionsBuilder.Options);


The args parameter is currently unused. There is an issue tracking the ability to specify design-time arguments from the tools.

A design-time factory can be especially useful if you need to configure the DbContext differently for design time than at run time, if the DbContext constructor takes additional parameters are not registered in DI, if you are not using DI at all, or if for some reason you prefer not to have a BuildWebHost method in your ASP.NET Core application's
Main class.