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Posted 4 Sep 2009


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DBKeeperNet - Keeps Your DB Schema Up-to-date

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4.88/5 (14 votes)
26 Aug 2014BSD4 min read
An article describing a simple .NET library which simply keeps your database schema up-to-date.


Each project using database access solves how to distribute database schema and how to keep it up-to-date after upgrades. I was solving this problem multiple times, so I decided to write a common, easy to use, and freely available library. The result of this is the DbKeeperNet library.

This article will briefly show how to use DbKeeperNet library to fulfill this task. The library is designed as extensible and with planned support to any database engine.

Supported Features

  • Very simple usage.
  • Database commands are kept in a simple, structured XML file.
  • Each upgrade step is executed in a separate transaction (if supported by the database service). In the case of failure, all further steps are prohibited.
  • Rich set of built-in preconditions used for evaluation whether update should or shouldn't be executed.
  • Support for unlimited and customizable list of database engines.
  • In single update, a script may be an alternative to SQL commands, for all database engine types if needed.
  • Support for custom preconditions.
  • Support for custom in-code upgrade steps (allows complex data transformations to be done in code instead of SQL).
  • DbKeeperNet provides deep logging of what is currently happening. Diagnostic output may be redirected through the standard .NET System.Diagnostics.Trace class or the System.Diagnostics.TraceSource class, or to a custom plug-in, allowing integration to an already existing application diagnostics framework.
  • XML update script structure is strictly defined by the XSD schema which can be used in any XML editor with auto-completion (intellisense).
  • Support for the Log4Net logging framework.
  • Support for MySQL Connect .NET.
  • Support for PostrgreSQL.
  • Support for SQLite.
  • Support for Oracle XE
  • Support for Firebird 
  • Localizable log messages.
  • Support for customizable script sources (built-in are a disk file, embedded assembly).


There are two basic principles on how to get your application's database schema up-to-date:

  • Before each change, check directly in the database whether a change was already made or not (such as ask the database whether a table already exists or not).
  • Have a kind of database schema versioning table and record the current schema version.

DbKeeperNet supports both these principles; however, I suggest to use the second one.

DbKeeperNet's design for this second principle is in a unique identifier for each update step. The database service implementation simply keeps track of these already executed steps (concrete implementation is strongly dependent on the used database service). This allows you to very simply search the database and check which steps were already executed.

Using DbKeeperNet

The code snippets below are taken from the DbKeeperNet.SimpleDemo project. If you want to directly execute the demo project, you need the SQL Server 2005 Express Edition installed, or you must change the connection string in App.Config.

For more complex scenarios, you can check the DbKeeperNet.ComplexDemo project (there is an example of a custom step implementation, split XML scripts, etc.).

My favorite way to implement an upgrade script is by using an XML file stored as an embedded resource in an assembly. So, let's prepare a simple upgrade script with an alternative statement for two different database engines (you can find it in the DbKeeperNet.Demo project as the file DatabaseSetup.xml):

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<upd:Updates xmlns:upd=""
        " Updates-1.0.xsd"
  <!-- Default way how to check whether to execute update step or not -->
    <!-- We will use step information saving strategy -->
    <Precondition FriendlyName="Update step executed" 
  <Update Version="1.00">
    <UpdateStep xsi:type="upd:UpdateDbStepType" 
    FriendlyName="Create table DbKeeperNet_SimpleDemo" Id="1">
      <!-- DbType attribute may be omitted - it will result in default value all
           which means all database types -->
      <AlternativeStatement DbType="MsSql">
          CREATE TABLE DbKeeperNet_SimpleDemo
          id int identity(1, 1) not null,
          name nvarchar(32),
          constraint PK_DbKeeperNet_SimpleDemo primary key clustered (id)
    <UpdateStep xsi:type="upd:UpdateDbStepType" 
    FriendlyName="Fill table DbKeeperNet_SimpleDemo" Id="2">
      <AlternativeStatement DbType="MsSql">
          insert into DbKeeperNet_SimpleDemo(name) values('First value');
          insert into DbKeeperNet_SimpleDemo(name) values('Second value');

Now, we will implement the necessary steps for the code execution:

// Perform all configured database updates
using (UpdateContext context = new UpdateContext())
    Updater updater = new Updater(context);
// the above line is last required line for installation
// And now just print all inserted rows on console
// (just for demonstration purpose)
ConnectionStringSettings connectString = 
using (SqlConnection connection = new SqlConnection(connectString.ConnectionString))
    SqlCommand cmd = connection.CreateCommand();
    cmd.CommandText = "select * from DbKeeperNet_SimpleDemo";
    SqlDataReader reader = cmd.ExecuteReader();
    while (reader.Read())
        Console.WriteLine("{0}: {1}", reader[0], reader[1]);

And finally, the setup configuration in the App.config or Web.Config file:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
    <section name="" 
  < loggingService="fx">
      <add provider="asm" location="DbKeeperNet.SimpleDemo.DatabaseSetup.xml,DbKeeperNet.SimpleDemo" />
      <add provider="disk" location="c:\diskpath\DatabaseSetup.xml" />
      <add connectString="default" databaseService="MsSql" />
    <add name="default" 
            connectionString="Data Source=.\SQLEXPRESS;
        Integrated Security=True;Connect Timeout=30;User Instance=True" 
    <!-- uncomment this for TraceSource class logger (fxts)-->
      <source name="DbKeeperNet" switchName="DbKeeperNet">
          <add name="file" />
      <add name="DbKeeperNet" value="Verbose"/>
      <add name="file" initializeData="dbkeepernetts.log" 
        type="System.Diagnostics.TextWriterTraceListener" />
    <trace autoflush="true">
      <!-- uncomment this for .NET Trace class logging (fx logger)-->
        <add name="file" initializeData="dbkeepernet.log" 
        type="System.Diagnostics.TextWriterTraceListener" />

And that is all - all database changes are executed automatically, only in the case that they were not already executed.

Writing Database Update Scripts

  • If you are using the App.Config for the specification of executed XML scripts, all configured scripts are executed in the same order as they were defined in the configuration file. Also, the content of the XML file is processed exactly in the same order as it is written.
  • The Assembly attribute of the Updates element is in fact a namespace in which each Version and Step must be unique. If you would logically divide a single script into multiple files, you can use the same value in all the scripts.
  • The Version attribute of the Update element is intended to be used as a marker of database schema version. I suggest using a unique value for each distributed build changing the database schema (this value can be the same as the assembly version).
  • The Step attribute of the UpdateStep element should be unique inside each update version.
  • Never change the AssemblyName, Version, and Step steps after you deploy the application, unless you are absolutely sure what you are doing. 

Project location 

If you have any questions, support requests, patches, your own extensions, you are looking for a binary package, documentation or if you are looking for the latest source files, the project is hosted at

Alternatively you can reference DbKeeperNet as Nuget packages.


This article shows only the basics from a set of supported functions. More information and examples of upgrade scripts can be find in the DbKeeperNet source files or in the unit tests.


  • 26th August, 2014: Update GitHub project reference
  • 17th July, 2014: Project moved to GitHub
  • 23rd September, 2012: Feature List updated, fixed App.Config example, update source package 
  • 4 June 2010: Feature list updated, new source package, updated examples according to new version.
  • 15 November, 2009: Feature list updated, new source package.
  • 4 September, 2009: Original article submitted. 


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The BSD License


About the Author

Team Leader NCR
Czech Republic Czech Republic
I'm software developer since 1996. I started with assembler on Intel 8051 CPUs, during years I was interested in C, C++, Sybase PowerBuilder, PHP, Sybase Anywhere Database, MSSQL server and multiplatform development.

Currently I'm developing in C++ and C# (this is my favorit and I spent some time with MCPD achievement). I'm also interested in design patterns.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionNice code. Pin
timeback21-Aug-17 21:46
Membertimeback21-Aug-17 21:46 
QuestionVS 2013 Build Errors Pin
regattamaster14-Jan-16 13:34
Memberregattamaster14-Jan-16 13:34 
AnswerRe: VS 2013 Build Errors Pin
voloda228-Jan-16 6:04
Membervoloda228-Jan-16 6:04 
AnswerRe: VS 2013 Build Errors Pin
voloda21-Feb-16 22:32
Membervoloda21-Feb-16 22:32 
SuggestionI like this idea - have a suggestion Pin
VC Sekhar Parepalli28-Sep-12 10:23
MemberVC Sekhar Parepalli28-Sep-12 10:23 
AnswerRe: I like this idea - have a suggestion Pin
voloda21-Oct-12 23:15
Membervoloda21-Oct-12 23:15 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Kanasz Robert26-Sep-12 7:36
professionalKanasz Robert26-Sep-12 7:36 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 Pin
voloda21-Oct-12 23:16
Membervoloda21-Oct-12 23:16 
QuestionSimultaneous updating Pin
quicoli24-Sep-12 1:19
Memberquicoli24-Sep-12 1:19 
AnswerRe: Simultaneous updating Pin
voloda224-Sep-12 8:58
Membervoloda224-Sep-12 8:58 
QuestionI like this Pin
NeverJustHere6-Jun-10 18:08
MemberNeverJustHere6-Jun-10 18:08 
AnswerRe: I like this Pin
voloda28-Jun-10 1:54
Membervoloda28-Jun-10 1:54 
Generalgood way to upgrade Pin
Donsw29-Oct-09 15:42
MemberDonsw29-Oct-09 15:42 
A unique way of doing this. How does it work for large projects.

My Recent Article : CDC - Change Data Capture

GeneralRe: good way to upgrade [modified] Pin
voloda230-Oct-09 2:26
Membervoloda230-Oct-09 2:26 

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