Sqlite with Entity Framework Code First and Migration

Last month I’ve a chance to develop an app using Sqlite and Entity Framework Code First. Before I started with this project, I thought everything will be easy because Sqlite and Entity Framework are both popular framework. Maybe I just need to install some nuget packages and it will work like a charm. But… yes, there is always a ‘but’ later, it’s just not so easy. Especially when I usually work with NHibernate than Entity Framework. The installation doesn’t complete his job when configuring the .config file (or maybe it just happens for me or does the author do it with intentionally?) and the Migration for Sqlite Entity Framework Code First is not supported (please correct me if I’m wrong). There are, of course, commercial products for Sqlite Migration but I prefer an open source framework or something free :). So in this post I would like to write down the steps required when starting a project for Sqlite Entity Framework Code First and how I make my own simple Migration engine.

1. Prerequisites

– I will use same example at this previous post Entity Framework Code First Basic FAQ. I recommend you to read that post first before starting with this one if you don’t have any experience with Entity Framework Code First. That post is very informative for beginner.
– Starting with Visual Studio 2012, NuGet is included in every edition (except Team Foundation Server) by default. So if you’re using Visual Studio 2010 and still don’t have NuGet then read this post at section 1.2 for installing NuGet

2. Install and configure Sqlite with Entity Framework Code First

– Create a Console project in Visual Studio
– Right click on your project and choose Manage NuGet Packages…

Manage NuGet Packages...

– On new opened dialog be sure that you’re in Online –> nuget.org section

Online nuget.org

– In text box Search Online, enter sqlite and install the package you want. For example in my demo I used System.Data.SQLite (x86/x64)

System.Data.SQLite (x86/x64) NuGet package

– In App.config file, declare our connection string like this

    <add name="CourseraContext" connectionString="Data Source=|DataDirectory|Coursera.sqlite" providerName="System.Data.SQLite.EF6" />

– In section, edit your invariant by adding .EF6 after it

Sqlite invariant

– The default settings from NuGet packages won’t work. If you let the settings as default, you’ll get an error like this

An unhandled exception of type ‘System.InvalidOperationException’ occurred in EntityFramework.dll

Additional information: No Entity Framework provider found for the ADO.NET provider with invariant name ‘System.Data.SQLite’. Make sure the provider is registered in the ‘entityFramework’ section of the application config file. See http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=260882 for more information.

– Therefore you either remove all suffixes .EF6 from your settings or add this suffix .EF6 to invariant like I suggest above.

3. Create and access database Sqlite

– Unlike MS SQL Server, as default, the free Sqlite driver from https://system.data.sqlite.org doesn’t support Migration so we can’t create a new database from code, we have to manually create it. You can use any tool you have to create a Sqlite database, I suggest using SQLite Manager add-on for Firefox. It’s easy to install, easy to use and very stable.


– After installing the add-on, create a new database and add two tables as image below (what we’re doing is not “really Code First” because we have to create database ourselves but I would like to illustrate how Entity Framework for Sqlite works so just accept this solution)

SQLite Manager

– In your Visual Studio project, create 2 contract classes for two tables in your SQLite database

internal class Course
	public int Id { get; set; }

	public string Name { get; set; }

	public string Url { get; set; }

	public virtual List Students { get; set; }

class Student
	public int Id { get; set; }

	public string FirstName { get; set; }

	public string LastName { get; set; }

	public int CourseId { get; set; }

	public virtual Course Course { get; set; }

– Create a context derived from DbContext for querying data into our contract classes

internal class CourseraContext : DbContext
	public DbSet<Course> Courses { get; set; }
	public DbSet<Student> Students { get; set; }

– As I mentioned above we’ll build same example as previous post, so the code are exactly same as another. The only difference is in connectionString in App.config above, the code for getting/setting data is also same

private static void EnterCourse()
	string name = "";

	while (name != "0")
		Console.WriteLine("Enter name of course (0 to exit):");
		name = Console.ReadLine().Trim();
		if (name != "0")
			using (var db = new CourseraContext())
				Course course = new Course();
				course.Name = name;

– Start your console application and enter some data for course and students. Verify the existing of the data with SQLite Manager and we’re finished with the first part about installing and configuring Sqlite Entity Framework.

4. Migration

– In previous part, I showed you how to make Sqlite Entity Framework “Code First” working with an available database. It’s pretty simple and easy, except that we have to reconfigure the settings in App.config file. However, as we all know, the Sqlite driver for Entity Framework doesn’t support Migration. When we make changes to our value objects, we have to update the database ourselves outside of the application, be sure that everything correct before connecting our new version to the updated database.
– There are some commercial products out there for Sqlite Migration engine which is expected to work wonderfully like the default one for MS Sql Server. However I think that we can use the same concept for database management used in Android for creating our own simple Migration engine. In Android there is a class called SQLiteOpenHelper to manage database creation and version management. I will try to make a same thing like that class. However because of keeping thing simple as it is, I skip the database creating section. My class only checks the current version of database and executes the SQL queries for updating the database if necessary.
– Back to our demo, in the first part we have to create 2 tables for Course and Student in SQLite Manager and connect to them later with our code. With new Migration engine, we only have to create a template of database (which can be used later for any application). This template is just a blank Sqlite database with a predefined table SchemaInfoes like image below

Database struture with migrations

– This table SchemaInfoes is used for storing current version of database. In combination with Helper class in code, we will make the Migration on the fly when program runs. In this demo, I will create 2 tables Courses and Students on run-time. In Visual Studio project, let’s create a new DbContext called CourseraContextMigration

class CourseraContextMigration : DbContext
	public static int RequiredDatabaseVersion = 1;

	public DbSet<Course> Courses { get; set; }

	public DbSet<Student> Students { get; set; }

	public DbSet<SchemaInfo> SchemaInfoes { get; set; }

	public void Initialize()
		using (CourseraContextMigration courseraContext = new CourseraContextMigration())
			int currentVersion = 0;
			if (courseraContext.SchemaInfoes.Count() > 0)
				currentVersion = courseraContext.SchemaInfoes.Max(x => x.Version);
			CourseraContextHelper mmSqliteHelper = new CourseraContextHelper();
			while (currentVersion < RequiredDatabaseVersion)
				foreach (string migration in mmSqliteHelper.Migrations[currentVersion])
				courseraContext.SchemaInfoes.Add(new SchemaInfo() { Version = currentVersion });


The static variable RequiredDatabaseVersion indicates that the version of database must be (or at least must be) so that the current version of application can connect to. In our demo, we would like to say “Ok, now we are on version 1, let’s update the database to that version”. The DbSet<Course> and DbSet<Student> is same as before for storing data from database. What’s new in this DbContext are DbSet<SchemaInfo> and Initialize() function. The Initialize() function will check the current version of database, if it’s smaller than the required version, the CourseraContextHelper() will come into use by executing the predefined SQL queries to update the database structure.

class CourseraContextHelper
	public CourseraContextHelper()
		Migrations = new Dictionary<int, IList>();


	public Dictionary<int, IList> Migrations { get; set; }

	private void MigrationVersion1()
		IList steps = new List();

		steps.Add("CREATE TABLE \"Courses\" (\"Id\" INTEGER PRIMARY KEY  AUTOINCREMENT  NOT NULL , \"Name\" TEXT, \"Url\" TEXT)");
		steps.Add("CREATE TABLE \"Students\" (\"Id\" INTEGER, \"FirstName\" TEXT, \"LastName\" TEXT, \"CourseId\" INTEGER)");

		Migrations.Add(1, steps);

– In our demo, what we need is the two tables for Courses and Students for Version 1. Therefore in MigrationVersion1(), I add two queries for creating these tables and register these steps for version 1 in property Migrations. When your application is already at customer and you have changes in your database. Just make another functions for version 2, 3, 4… with your changes reflected in SQL queries and then register them in property Migrations.  Sqlite is usually for a mini-database application so, in principle, you won’t have two many migrations to manage here.

5. Conclusion

– Entity Framework is a powerful framework for working with database. There are a lot of drivers supporting many different database platforms, such as  MS Sql, Sqlite, MySQL, Oracle… The installation and configuration is pretty afloat. The Migration is not available for some drivers but we can use the concept like Android to make our simple Migration engine which can be applied for any database platform.
– The soure code of demo can be checked out or downloaded from following link https://bitbucket.org/hintdesk/dotnet-sqlite-with-entity-framework-code-first-and-migration


  1. Hi. Thanks for you detailed tutorial. I’m still a beginner in all these.
    I followed your steps to create and loaded some records in my SQLite database.
    But i get an empty list when i do a ToList() on a table. Seems the database file is not been called at all.
    I even changed the database file name in the App.config to see if it will raise an error. but nothing. Did i miss any step?

  2. @Yomi: If everything works fine till your ToList() function, it’s probably because of your table name and your class name can’t be mapped. Be sure that your settings correct and remember table name in plural may makes difference depending on your setting.

  3. Thanks for the reply.
    After some adjustments, I still get the “An unhandled exception of type ‘System.InvalidOperationException’ occurred in EntityFramework.dll” error you talked about in 2 in the post. here is my app.config

    <!– –>

  4. Hi,

    I’ve followed your technique.
    However, what are you doing to NOT have those runtime errors:

    SQLite error (1): no such table: __MigrationHistory
    SQLite error (1): no such table: EdmMetadata

  5. Ok I get it…

    My namespace was ending by “Database”, so without fully naming “System.Data.Entity.Database”
    I couldn’t reach SetInitializer …

    My bad ^^

  6. Hey, thank you so much for the post. I was two hours through plodding through a borked SQLite .NET usage (with migrations!) when I stumbled across this. You answered all my questions.

    I wanted to add that the SQLite Entity Framework Provider probably doesn’t support migrations because SQLite has limited support for “alter table”. Just a heads up for anyone out there (like me) who got to thinking about adding a migration provider.

  7. Hello.
    I made everything as writen, but on step 3 i have exception NotSupportedExseption. Can you help me?

  8. Is ‘DateTimeOffset’ type supported in EF. i have problem with mappings. got not supported exception.
    ystem.NotSupportedException: System.NotSupportedException: There is no store type corresponding to the EDM type ‘Edm.DateTimeOffset’ of primitive type ‘DateTimeOffset’..

  9. @vamsi: EF does support DateTimeOffset but Sqlite doesn’t. The error you get saying that EF can’t map DateTimeOffset to any supported type in SQlite.

  10. Good Post,
    I could apply this sample in my project without any problem.

    However in my case, i just need one small change on app.config
    (remove the second instance of DbProvider)

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