Entity Framework 6 & SQL Server Compact (3)–Getting started with the SQL Server Compact 3.5 provider (and Merge Replication)

As you may know, SQL Server Compact version 4.0 does not have support for Merge Replication and Remote Data Access (you can still use RDA, however). This was a showstopper if you wanted to use the latest version of Entity Framework, as up until now, only SQL Server Compact version 4.0 was supported with Entity Framework 5 and 6. But now a SQL Server Compact 3.5 provider for Entity Framework 6 is available, currently as pre-release on NuGet.

The new 3.5 provider is based on the exact same codebase as the 4.0 provider, and thus has all the new features (SqlCeFunctions, Migrations etc.), bug fixes and performance improvements included in the 4.0 provider. In addition, this new provider supports IDENTITY Keys, just like the 4.0 provider. (A showstopper for many with the present 3.5 provider). As it is based on the same codebase as the 4.0 provider, any future improvements and bug fixes will also be included with this provider.

This blog post will describe how you can get started with the new 3.5 provider with Entity Framework 6, and will also include some pointers on getting started with Merge Replication. I will assume that you have Visual Studio 2012 or 2013 Professional or higher installed, and also have my SQL Server Compact Toolbox add-in installed. If you are using Visual Studio 2012 and Database First, you must also have the Entity Framework 6.0.2 Tools installed, download from here. And of course you must have the SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP2 Desktop runtime installed.

So let us create a new console app, that uses Entity Framework 6 and SQL Server Compact 3.5, and which could potentially be a Merge Replication subscriber.

Create a new Console project:


For this walkthrough, we will use Database First, but you can of course also use Code First.

Add the EntityFramework.SqlServerCompact.Legacy NuGet package to the project (remember to allow pre-releases), by right clicking the project and selecting Manage NuGet Packages…


This will install Entity Framework 6.1-alpha1 and the 3.5 provider and add the required registration in app.config.

Build the project.

Connect/create the database that you want to use in the SQL Server Compact Toolbox, right click it, and select “Add Entity Data Model to current Project”


Just click OK:


This will add Chinook.edmx and invoke code generation that builds a DbContext derived class and POCO classes for each table in your database.

You can now add Merge Replication to your solution, you can start by installing my Merge Replication client helper library via NuGet, http://www.nuget.org/packages/ErikEJ.SqlCeMergeLib/, read more about it here: https://sqlcemergelib.codeplex.com/

In order to configure Merge Replication on your SQL Server database and web server, I have a brief blog post here, but otherwise I can highly recommend the book by Rob Tiffany.

Notice that if you want to add Merge Replication to a SQL Server 2012 database, you need SP1 and CU4 or later, and you will need a recent build (8088 or newer) of the SQL Server Comapct 3.5 runtime installed, as listed in my blog post here.

Hopefully you will now be able to get started with this combination of the latest Microsoft data access technology and  “legacy” technologies like Merge Replication and Sync Framework. If you have any questions, please ask in the MSDN forum or Stack Overflow.

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