Why is my Entity Framework Code First proxy collection null, and I can't seem to get it to work?

collections entity-framework poco proxies

Question

I am using DBContext and have two classes whose properties are all virtual. I can see in the debugger that I am getting a proxy object when I query the context. However, a collection property is still null when I try to add to it. I thought that the proxy would ensure that collection is initialized.

Because my Poco object can be used outside of its data context, I added a check for the collection being null in the constructor and create it if necessary:

public class DanceStyle
{
    public DanceStyle()
    {
        if (DanceEvents == null)
        {
            DanceEvents = new Collection<DanceEvent>();
        }
    }
    ...
    public virtual ICollection<DanceEvent> DanceEvents { get; set; }
}

That works outside the data context but if I retrieve an object using a query, although the test is true, when I try to set it, I get following exception: 'The property 'DanceEvents' on type 'DanceStyle_B6089AE40D178593955F1328A70EAA3D8F0F01DDE9F9FBD615F60A34F9178B94' cannot be set because the collection is already set to an EntityCollection.'

I can see it is null and I cannot add to it, but neither can I set it to a collection because the proxy says it is already set. Therefore I cannot use it. I'm confused.

Here is the DanceEvent class:

public class DanceEvent
{
    public DanceEvent()
    {
        if (DanceStyles == null)
        {
            DanceStyles = new Collection<DanceStyle>();
        }
    }
    ...
    public virtual ICollection<DanceStyle> DanceStyles { get; set; }
}

I have omitted the other value-type properties from the code above. I have no other mappings for those classes in the context class.

1
41
11/1/2010 7:19:35 PM

Accepted Answer

I found the solution to this problem here: Code First adding to collections? How to use Code First with repositories?

I removed 'virtual' from all properties except collections and lazy loaded objects, that is, all native types.

But I still don't understand how you can end up with the situation where you have a null collection that you cannot use and have no way to set it to a valid collection.

I also found this answer from Rowan Miller on an MSDN forum

Hi,

If you make all your properties virtual then EF will generate proxy classes at runtime that derives from your POCO classed, these proxies allow EF to find out about changes in real time rather than having to capture the original values of your object and then scan for changes when you save (this is obviously has performance and memory usage benefits but the difference will be negligible unless you have a large number of entities loaded into memory). These are known as 'change tracking proxies', if you make your navigation properties virtual then a proxy is still generated but it is much simpler and just includes some logic to perform lazy loading when you access a navigation property.

Because your original code was generating change tracking proxies, EF was replacing your collection property with a special collection type to help it find out about changes. Because you try and set the collection back to a simple list in the constructor you are getting the exception.

Unless you are seeing performance issues I would follow Terrence's suggestion and just remove 'virtual' from your non-navigation properties.

~Rowan

So it appears that I only have the problem with a full 'change tracking proxy' if all my properties are virtual. But given that, why can I still not use the virtual property on the change tracking proxy? This code blows up on line three because ds2.DanceEvents is null and cannot be set in the constructor:

DanceStyle ds2 = ctx.DanceStyles.Where(ds => ds.DanceStyleId == 1).Single();
DanceEvent evt = CreateDanceEvent();
ds2.DanceEvents.Add(evt);

I'm still confused, even though my code is now working because of the fix above.

13
5/23/2017 10:31:11 AM

Popular Answer

As you correctly observed in the answer to your own question, removing the "virtual" keyword from the collection properties works around the problem, by preventing the Entity Framework from creating a change tracking proxy. However, this is not a solution for many people, because change tracking proxies can be really convenient and can help prevent issues when you forget to detect changes at the right places in your code.

A better approach would be to modify your POCO classes, so that they instantiate the collection properties in their get accessor, rather than in the constructor. Here's your POCO class, modified to allow change tracking proxy creation:

public class DanceEvent
{
    private ICollection<DanceStyle> _danceStyles;
    public virtual ICollection<DanceStyle> DanceStyles
    {
        get { return _danceStyles ?? (_danceStyles = new Collection<DanceStyle>()); }
        protected set { _danceStyles = value; }
    }
}

In the above code the collection property is no longer automatic, but rather has a backing field. It's better if you leave the setter protected, preventing any code (other than the proxy) from subsequently modifying these properties. You will notice that the constructor was no longer necessary and was removed.



Related Questions





Related

Licensed under: CC-BY-SA with attribution
Not affiliated with Stack Overflow
Licensed under: CC-BY-SA with attribution
Not affiliated with Stack Overflow