Scaffolding an existing SQL database with Entity Framework Core in 5 minutes

Sometimes it’s nice to get a break from ‘legacy’ software. In this case we would like to get started using Identity Server 4 with an existing database running on SQL. Wouldn’t it be nice to get up and running in a few minutes? Hold on.

We’re using the dotnet cli for speed, and cross platform usefulness (OS X, Windows(?) and Linux). We assume you’ve booted your favorite terminal and you are in your solution folder. Buckle up buddy!

dotnet new classlib

dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer
dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools
dotnet add package Microsoft.VisualStudio.Web.CodeGeneration.Design

After these packages have been installed we need to add the following two lines to the .csproj file in the current folder. These are required in order to use the Entity Framework tooling from the command line. Use your favorite text editor:

  <DotNetCliToolReference Include="Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools.DotNet" Version="2.0.0" />
  <DotNetCliToolReference Include="Microsoft.VisualStudio.Web.CodeGeneration.Tools" Version="2.0.0" />

Ps. make sure these 4 lines are somewhere within the <Project> tags, or grouped with other <DotNetCliToolReference> tags eventually already in your file.

In order to be able to run migrations from this project we will configure it to be able to act as being startup project. There should be a line which is:


Change it to:


Just copy paste it for your speed, and sanity. Now you’re ready to scaffold your data model from the database. In order to do so:

dotnet ef dbcontext scaffold "<CONNECTION STRING>" Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.SqlServer

In case you get an error about the framework versions you need to install, just determine the current version by running the dotnet --info command and grabbing the value from under the Microsoft .NET Core Shared Framework Host line. Next add the following tag just under the <TargetFramework> tag and you’re good to go.


See for more info about this issue.

Congratulations! You should now have your existing data model ready to use within your .NET Core application using Entity Framework Core :)