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Default working directory inconsistent between dotnet run and Visual Studio #3619

divega opened this issue Jun 5, 2018 · 10 comments


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@divega divega commented Jun 5, 2018

(first reported at aspnet/EntityFramework.Docs#735)

It seems that there was a decision in #2239 to change the current directory to be the output directory.

I am not sure about the rationale or what the behavior was before, but what I am seeing is that (using .NET Core SDK 2.1.300, .NET Core 2.1 and Visual Studio 2017 15.7.3), the default working directory is inconsistent between executing an application in Visual Studio (using F5 or Ctrl+F5), which results in the working directory set to the output directory, and other ways, which use the project folder, like dotnet run, dotnet ef migrations commands in the CLI and even the EF Core migration tools that run in the Package Manager Console inside Visual Studio.

I am aware that it is possible to explicitly set the working directory to an absolute path using Visual Studio and that this is recorded in launch settings, which other tools pick up. This issue is about the default behavior when the working directory is not explicitly configured.

To repro, it is enough to just create a simple application that prints Directory.GetCurrentDirectory().

Here are the repro steps that shows how this impacts the location of an application's SQLite database file (based on the walkthrough at

Create a new console app from the command line:

mkdir ConsoleApp.SQLite
cd ConsoleApp.SQLite/
dotnet new console

Add the following EF Core packages:

dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Sqlite
dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Design
dotnet add package Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools

(the latter is only necessary to repro the inconsistency with PMC)

Add the following sample model into Model.cs:

using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore;
using System.Collections.Generic;

namespace ConsoleApp.SQLite
    public class BloggingContext : DbContext
        public DbSet<Blog> Blogs { get; set; }
        public DbSet<Post> Posts { get; set; }

        protected override void OnConfiguring(DbContextOptionsBuilder optionsBuilder)
            optionsBuilder.UseSqlite("Data Source=blogging.db");

    public class Blog
        public int BlogId { get; set; }
        public string Url { get; set; }

        public List<Post> Posts { get; set; }

    public class Post
        public int PostId { get; set; }
        public string Title { get; set; }
        public string Content { get; set; }

        public int BlogId { get; set; }
        public Blog Blog { get; set; }

Add the following code into Program.cs:

using System;
using System.IO;

namespace ConsoleApp.SQLite
    public class Program
        public static void Main()
            using (var db = new BloggingContext())
                db.Blogs.Add(new Blog { Url = "" });
                var count = db.SaveChanges();
                Console.WriteLine("{0} records saved to database", count);
                Console.WriteLine("All blogs in database:");
                foreach (var blog in db.Blogs)
                    Console.WriteLine(" - {0}", blog.Url);

Execute the following commands to create the database:

dotnet ef migrations add InitialCreate
dotnet ef database update

Note that the database was created in the project directory.

Executing the application from the command line results in this output.

ConsoleApp.SQLite>dotnet run
1 records saved to database

All blogs in database:

Now try to execute the application from Visual Studio (F5 or Ctrl+F5). The output shows an exception indicating that the table doesn't exist. That is because opening a connection with a database file that doesn't exist creates an empty database file:


Unhandled Exception: Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.DbUpdateException: An error occurred while updating the entries. See the inner exception for details. ---> Microsoft.Data.Sqlite.SqliteException: SQLite Error 1: 'no such table: Blogs'.
   at Microsoft.Data.Sqlite.SqliteException.ThrowExceptionForRC(Int32 rc, sqlite3 db)
   at Microsoft.Data.Sqlite.SqliteCommand.PrepareAndEnumerateStatements(Stopwatch timer)+MoveNext()
   at Microsoft.Data.Sqlite.SqliteCommand.ExecuteReader(CommandBehavior behavior)
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Storage.Internal.RelationalCommand.Execute(IRelationalConnection connection, DbCommandMethod executeMethod, IReadOnlyDictionary`2 parameterValues)
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Storage.Internal.RelationalCommand.ExecuteReader(IRelationalConnection connection, IReadOnlyDictionary`2 parameterValues)
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Update.ReaderModificationCommandBatch.Execute(IRelationalConnection connection)
   --- End of inner exception stack trace ---
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Update.ReaderModificationCommandBatch.Execute(IRelationalConnection connection)
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Update.Internal.BatchExecutor.Execute(DbContext _, ValueTuple`2 parameters)
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Storage.Internal.NoopExecutionStrategy.Execute[TState,TResult](TState state, Func`3 operation, Func`3 verifySucceeded)
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Update.Internal.BatchExecutor.Execute(IEnumerable`1 commandBatches, IRelationalConnection connection)
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.ChangeTracking.Internal.StateManager.SaveChanges(IReadOnlyList`1 entriesToSave)
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.ChangeTracking.Internal.StateManager.SaveChanges(Boolean acceptAllChangesOnSuccess)
   at Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.DbContext.SaveChanges(Boolean acceptAllChangesOnSuccess)
   at ConsoleApp.SQLite.Program.Main() in C:\Users\myself\source\repos\ConsoleApp.SQLite\Program.cs:line 14

Now, let's try to update the database using the EF Core PMC commands. First, drop the database from the OS command-line to make sure we will observe the default behavior of the PMC commands:

C:\Users\myself\source\repos\ConsoleApp.SQLite>dotnet ef database drop --force

Switch to the Package Manager Console inside Visual Studio, type:

PM> update-database -verbose

You will see that one of the last lines indicates:

Closing connection to database 'main' on server 'C:\Users\myself\source\repos\ConsoleApp.SQLite\blogging.db'.

cc @bricelam


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@girishnuli girishnuli commented Jun 9, 2018

Any temporary work around for this issue? Can we use a fixed path for the database file?

I am facing this issue on mac


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@Starkie Starkie commented Jun 9, 2018

@girishnuli : As we found out in aspnet/EntityFramework.Docs#735, you could change the working directory of the project (Project Settings > Debug > Working Directory) to its root folder.

@davkean davkean added this to the 16.0 milestone Jun 21, 2018

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@davkean davkean commented Jun 21, 2018

@BillHiebert I was under the (incorrect) impression that with #2239 we were changing the current directory to be consistent inside and outside of Visual Studio, while at same time being consistent with .NET Framework projects. It looks like however, that while we changed it change it to be consistent with desktop inside of Visual Studio, it now inconsistent with itself outside of Visual Studio.

Sounds like we need to change this design slightly. At minimum we should consistent with ourselves in all cases, and stretch goal is to be consistent with desktop.

@dsplaisted Do you have an opinion on this?


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@davkean davkean commented Jun 21, 2018

I don't want to change this in an update - it will lead to confusion. I'd prefer to do this in a major update.


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@dsplaisted dsplaisted commented Jun 21, 2018

I think that when running dotnet from the command line, we don't normally set the current directory. So if you do dotnet run, then the current directory will be the project directory, but if you do dotnet run -project ..\MyOtherProject\MyOtherProject.csproj, then the current directory won't be the project directory. The launchSettings.json can specify a working directory, which I think dotnet run would use, but it's not set by default.

I don't have all the cases in my head, but I think we should probably undo the change made in #3073, at least for some subset of projects (SDK-style perhaps). That means it would be inconsistent with desktop projects, but mostly consistent within .NET Core projects between VS and the command line.

@jmarolf jmarolf added this to To do in jmarolf Aug 19, 2018

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@kayjtea kayjtea commented Oct 1, 2018

Direct support for making the working directory the same as the project root would be a decent compromise. If you want this behavior after the #3073 "fix", VS requires you to set an absolute path, which means the setting cannot be checked in to source code control. The current behavior of #3073 also means VS is the odd-ball on a mix-IDE team: dotnet-cli, VS Code, and JetBrains Rider all behave like "dotnet run" from the project root.


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@vitek-karas vitek-karas commented Nov 26, 2018

Any plans on this? This also makes it rather tricky to use dynamic loading (like Assembly.LoadFrom) with any consistency between VS and CLI.


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@davkean davkean commented Nov 27, 2018

@vitek-karas We do plan on addressing this, on your particular issue, you should not be relying on "Current Directory" to find dlls, or other things related to your project; anyone can launch your exe with a different working directory.

@jjmew jjmew modified the milestones: 16.0, 16.X Feb 13, 2019

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@akeeton akeeton commented May 2, 2019

I found a workaround from aspnet/websdk#238:

This can easily be fixed by setting RunWorkingDirectory in the project file:


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@thothothotho thothothotho commented Dec 5, 2019

The current working directory is absolutely essential on unix, maybe not that used on windows.
From the code point of view:

cd someDir
dotnet run --project .../Foo.csproj


cd someDir

should not expose different behavior (the CWD should be the same (.../someDir).

This is the universal convention respected by all good citizens in the unix world (python, ruby, go, ...).
It has some nice advantages on its own. For instance, you can call dotnet run from a script without the need to compile a project first. This turns C# into some kind of a scripting facilily, with zero deployment cost.

And if the C# parser would just ignore the first line of a file if it starts by a #! sequence, this would open a whole new world of possibilities.

But first, make dotnet run preserves the current directory.

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