In-memory DbContext with Entity Framework Core

Frequently, when we need to test a EF context from our unit test class, we need to implement a stub of the context manually, in order to have, for example, an in memory representation of the context.

In entity framework core this is useless because one of the options available to initialize a context is to use an in memory database.

With this option we can populate an in memory database that could be used, for test purposes.

Let’s go to take a look about the configurations that we need to do.


The first thing is define a DbContext.

With Entity Framework Core, the things are quite different because the DbContext class has a new constructor that accept a parameter of type DbContextOptions; this parameter will be used to define for example the connection string of the context.

public class BlogContext : DbContext
public DbSet<Category> Categories { get; set; }
public DbSet<Tag> Tags { get; set; }
public DbSet<Post> Posts { get; set; }
public DbSet<Reply> Replies { get; set; }
public DbSet<PostCategory> PostCategories { get; set; }
public DbSet<PostTag> PostTags { get; set; }
public BlogContext(DbContextOptions<BlogContext> options) : base(options) { }

Context factory

Basically, what I want is a context factory that help me to get a new instance of a context with specific options.

public class BlogContextFactory
private readonly DbContextOptions<BlogContext> _options;

public BlogContextFactory(DbContextOptions<BlogContext> options)
_options = options;

public BlogContext GetNewDbContext()
return new BlogContext(_options);

The factory accept a DbContextOptions parameter in the constructor and returns a new instance of the BlogContext with these options.


Another important thing is the registration of the factory in a IoC container, that in my case is Autofac.

This is a mandatory stuff if I want to inject the factories in the services that depends on it:

var options = new DbContextOptionsBuilder<BlogContext>().UseSqlServer(_configuration.GetConnectionString("BlogContext")).Options;
builder.Register(b => new BlogContextFactory(options)).SingleInstance();

I’m using Autofac, so I register BlogContextFactory as single instance with specific options.

The first row is the most important; with the method UseSqlServer I’m saying that the db context will be configured with a sql server database, and obviously I’m giving the connections string as a parameter of the method.

In memory option

As well as I use this options to configure a db context with a sql database, I can do the same thing to configure an in memory database.

public abstract class DatabaseFixture : IDisposable
protected readonly BlogContextFactory ContextFactory;
readonly DbContextOptions<BlogContext> _options;

public DatabaseFixture(string databaseName)
_options = new DbContextOptionsBuilder<BlogContext>().UseInMemoryDatabase(databaseName).Options;
ContextFactory = new BlogContextFactory(_options);

var categories = new List<Category>()
new Category() { Id = new Guid("{5D134CF2-EF37-4663-B3D2-64F2E3DBF3BE}"), Name = "Category1" },
new Category() { Id = new Guid("{BE7EB1E1-FB67-4FE1-A96E-4721D37AFE29}"), Name = "Category2" },
new Category() { Id = new Guid("{BBB5D5DD-A746-4A87-9204-90EE87B5F560}"), Name = "Category3" }

var tags = new List<Tag>()
new Tag() { Id = new Guid("{859A4C65-F688-4F9F-8575-F389841665F8}"), Name = "Tag1" },
new Tag() { Id = new Guid("{A57D65BE-8A33-48E8-A3E4-3EF5D110A961}"), Name = "Tag2" },
new Tag() { Id = new Guid("{2D1AC63C-3D48-45A3-8F22-C9670A9D4F84}"), Name = "Tag3" }

var posts = new List<Post>()
new Post() { Id = new Guid("{7660E171-0776-451C-AD2C-1CA6F46EDB30}"), Title = "Post1", Content = "Content1", Published = true },
new Post() { Id = new Guid("{7221B957-E3F2-461F-A4F8-3D13699880A1}"), Title = "Post2", Content = "Content2", Published = false },
new Post() { Id = new Guid("{D2E934DB-7B64-42A7-953F-213EA771F596}"), Title = "Post3", Content = "Content3", Published = false }

var replies = new List<Reply>()
new Reply() { Id = new Guid("{9344DCAF-154E-4167-8EEF-0372896F5469}"), CreateUser = "user1", Content = "Content1", Published = true, Post = posts[0] },
new Reply() { Id = new Guid("{1DB75F77-A50E-4F90-83F8-711D3025EBA4}"), CreateUser = "user2", Content = "Content2", Published = true, Post = posts[0] },
new Reply() { Id = new Guid("{6772F1D7-E6D6-47DB-8724-E46353BFDFDD}"), CreateUser = "user3", Content = "Content3", Published = false, Post = posts[0] }

var postCategories = new List<PostCategory>()
new PostCategory() {
Id = new Guid("{267A0AE0-2E91-4FA5-B45C-361B8AAE635D}"),
Post = posts[0],
Category = categories[0] }

var postTags = new List<PostTag>()
new PostTag() {
Id = new Guid("{DA6CEA55-610F-4956-913F-D8F409014AC9}"),
Post = posts[0],
Tag = tags[0] }

using (var blogContext = ContextFactory.GetNewDbContext())

public void Dispose()
using (var blogContext = ContextFactory.GetNewDbContext())

With the UseInMemoryDatabase method I can configure an instance of the db context with an in memory database.

The only things that I need to do is specify the name of the database (a string) and then populate the context with the entities collections.

After that, my in memory db context will be available for the using.

The source code of this topic is here.

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