Update Data in Disconnected Scenario in Entity Framework Core

EF Core API builds and execute UPDATE statement in the database for the entities whose EntityState is Modified. In the connected scenario, the DbContext keeps track of all entities so it knows which are modified and hence automatically sets EntityState to Modified.

In the disconnected scenario such as in a web application, the DbContext is not aware of the entities because entities were modified out of the scope of the current DbContext instance. So, first we need to attach the disconnected entities to a DbContext instance with Modified EntityState.

The following table lists the DbContext and DbSet methods to update entities:

DbContext Methods DbSet Methods Description
DbContext.Update DbSet.Update Attach an entity to DbContext with Modified state.
DbContext.UpdateRange DbSet.UpdateRange Attach collection of entities to DbContext with Modified state.

The following example demonstrates updating a disconnected entity.

// Disconnected Student entity
var stud = new Student(){ StudentId = 1, Name = "Bill" };

stud.Name = "Steve"; 

using (var context = new SchoolContext())
{
    context.Update<Student>(stud);

    // or the followings are also valid
    // context.Students.Update(stud);
    // context.Attach<Student>(stud).State = EntityState.Modified;
    // context.Entry<Student>(stud).State = EntityState.Modified; 

    context.SaveChanges(); 
}

In the above example, consider the stud is an existing Student entity object because it has a valid Key property value (StudentId = 1). Entity Framework Core introduced the DbContext.Update() method which attaches the specified entity to a context and sets its EntityState to Modified. Alternatively, you can also use the DbSet.Update() method (context.Students.Update(stud)) to do the same thing.

The above example executes the following UPDATE statement in the database.

exec sp_executesql N'SET NOCOUNT ON;
UPDATE [Students] SET [Name] = @p0
WHERE [StudentId] = @p1;
SELECT @@ROWCOUNT;
',N'@p1 int,@p0 nvarchar(4000)',@p1=1,@p0=N'Steve'
go

Update Multiple Entities:

Use the DbContext.UpdateRange or DbSet.UpdateRange method to attach a collection or array of entities to the DbContext and set their EntityState to Modified in one go.

var modifiedStudent1 = new Student()
{
    StudentId = 1,
    Name = "Bill"
};

var modifiedStudent2 = new Student()
{
    StudentId = 3,
    Name = "Steve"
};

var modifiedStudent3 = new Student()
{
    StudentId = 3,
    Name = "James"
};

IList<Student> modifiedStudents = new List<Student>()
{
    modifiedStudent1,
    modifiedStudent2,
    modifiedStudent3
};

using (var context = new SchoolContext())
{
    context.UpdateRange(modifiedStudents);
    
    // or the followings are also valid
    //context.UpdateRange(modifiedStudent1, modifiedStudent2, modifiedStudent3);
    //context.Students.UpdateRange(modifiedStudents);
    //context.Students.UpdateRange(modifiedStudent1, modifiedStudent2, modifiedStudent3);
                
    context.SaveChanges();
}

As you can see, the UpdateRange method has two overloads. One overload takes a collection of entities and the second overload takes object[] as a parameter. The DbSet.UpdateRange method works in the same way as the DbContext.UpdateRange method.

EF Core improves the performance by building an UPDATE statement for all the entities in the above example and executes it in a single database round trip.

exec sp_executesql N'SET NOCOUNT ON;
UPDATE [Students] SET [Name] = @p0
WHERE [StudentId] = @p1;
SELECT @@ROWCOUNT;

UPDATE [Students] SET [Name] = @p2
WHERE [StudentId] = @p3;
SELECT @@ROWCOUNT;

UPDATE [Students] SET [Name] = @p4
WHERE [StudentId] = @p5;
SELECT @@ROWCOUNT;

',N'@p1 int,@p0 nvarchar(4000),@p3 int,@p2 nvarchar(4000),@p5 int,@p4 nvarchar(4000)',
@p1=1,@p0=N'Bill',@p3=2,@p2=N'Steve',@p5=3,@p4=N'James'
go

Change in EntityState:

The Update method sets the EntityState based on the value of the key property. If the root or child entity's key property is empty, null or default value of the specified data type then the Update() method considers it a new entity and sets its EntityState to Added in Entity Framework Core 2.x.

public static void Main()
{
    var newStudent = new Student()
    {
        Name = "Bill"
    };

    var modifiedStudent = new Student()
    {
        StudentId = 1,
        Name = "Steve"
    };

    using (var context = new SchoolContext())
    {
        context.Update<Student>(newStudent);
        context.Update<Student>(modifiedStudent);

        DisplayStates(context.ChangeTracker.Entries());
    }
}
private static void DisplayStates(IEnumerable<EntityEntry> entries)
{
    foreach (var entry in entries)
    {
        Console.WriteLine($"Entity: {entry.Entity.GetType().Name},
                 State: {entry.State.ToString()} ");
    }
}
Output:
Entity: Student, State: Added
Entity: Student, State: Modified

In the above example, newStudent does not have a Key property value (StudentId). So, the Update() method will mark it as Added, whereas modifiedStudent has a value, so it will be marked as Modified.

Exception:

The Update and UpdateRange methods throw an InvalidOperationException if an instance of DbContext is already tracking an entity with the same key property value. Consider the following example:

var student = new Student()
{
    StudentId = 1,
    Name = "Steve"
};

using (var context = new SchoolContext())
{
    // loads entity in a conext whose StudentId is 1
    context.Students.First<Student>(s => s.StudentId == 1); 

    // throws an exception as it already tracking entity with StudentId=1
    context.Update<Student>(student); 

    context.SaveChanges();
}

In the above example, a context object loads the Student entity whose StudentId is 1 and starts tracking it. So, attaching an entity with the same key value will throw the following exception:

The instance of entity type 'Student' cannot be tracked because another instance with the same key value for {'StudentId'} is already being tracked. When attaching existing entities, ensure that only one entity instance with a given key value is attached. Consider using 'DbContextOptionsBuilder.EnableSensitiveDataLogging' to see the conflicting key values.

Learn to delete records in the disconnected scenario in the next chapter.