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by Jiří {x2} Činčura

Deleting entity in Entity Framework only by key without fetching it

3 Jul 2014 4 mins Entity Framework

I was showing today on my Entity Framework course some tips and one of them was how to delete entity when you only have a key without fetching it first. Kind of small optimization. And then my brain started to think whether I can do it completely dynamically – just having the type of entity and values of key properties.

I “knew” I can do it. It was just a question of how deep I’ll have to dig. Surprisingly it’s not that bad.

But first thing first. When you want to delete entity, you have to have the instance of it and then you can the Remove method on DbSet. If you don’t have the instance, fetching it seems to be waste of resource given you want to delete it immediately, right? Truth is Entity Framework needs only the key(s) to delete the entity, nothing more (and possibly fields used for concurrency check – I’ll ignore these in following lines).

So what you can, in fact, do is trick Entity Framework thinking it has the instance but providing only the stub. Here’s the example.

public static void RemoveUsingStub1<TEntity>(this IDbSet<TEntity> dbSet, TEntity stub) where TEntity : class

If you rather like to trick “change tracker”, you can.

public static void RemoveUsingStub2<TEntity>(this DbContext dbContext, TEntity stub) where TEntity : class
	dbContext.Entry(stub).State = EntityState.Deleted;

The result is the same. But these methods are forcing you to create the entity and set the key(s). The caller needs to know how this works. Can I do better? Can I just ask for keys and type and that’s it? Here’s the final version. It’s defined for DbContext because I need it to get the keys. It’s possible to define if for DbSet but then you need to use reflection to get the DbContext and this might change in the future, so I rather took the safer path.

public static void RemoveUsingStub3<TEntity>(this DbContext dbContext, params object[] entityKeys) where TEntity : class, new()
	var oc = (dbContext as IObjectContextAdapter).ObjectContext;
	var stub = new TEntity();
	var keys = oc.CreateObjectSet<TEntity>().EntitySet.ElementType.KeyMembers.Select(x => x.Name);
	var keyProperties = keys.Select(k => typeof(TEntity).GetProperty(k));
	foreach (var item in keyProperties.Zip(entityKeys, (pi, value) => new { Property = pi, Value = value }))
		item.Property.SetValue(stub, item.Value);

The code firsts gets the key names for given entity and then sets the values on that properties to a values received in 2nd parameter. Finally it uses the same approach as the first method to Attach and Remove the stub. Of course using the approach from second method is possible as well.

At the end I have a mixed feelings. I’m glad it was fairly easy to dig out what was needed. But on the other hand I’d like the method to be on DbSet or rather IDbSet, but then the method, as I wrote above, needs to use reflection to get some internal fields and that’s not nice, I think. I would use it only as a last chance. Anyway I was a nice brain training. If you think you’d use it, be my guest.

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Profile Picture Jiří Činčura is .NET, C# and Firebird expert. He focuses on data and business layers, language constructs, parallelism, databases and performance. For almost two decades he contributes to open-source, i.e. FirebirdClient. He works as a senior software engineer for Microsoft. Frequent speaker and blogger at