Using NLog to Log to a Database with Entity Framework Code First

NLog is a logging framework that is used to add logging capabilities to a .NET application. Today I am going to show how to use NLog to generate logs on a database created by Entity Framework Code First.

The version of NLog used here is NLog 3.2.0.


Say you have an existing solution that:

  • Already has a database context.
  • Already has NLog installed.
  • Already has the NLog config file added.

Enabling NLog logging to the database consists of the following steps:

  1. Create the entity that represents the log entry and update the database appropriately.
  2. Configure NLog to log to the database table that holds the log entries.

Create the entity that represents the log entry and update the database appropriately

This is no different than adding a normal business entity. In this tutorial I will use a LogEntry class that looks like this:

public class LogEntry
    public string CallSite { get; set; }
    public string Date { get; set; }
    public string Exception { get; set; }
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public string Level { get; set; }
    public string Logger { get; set; }
    public string MachineName { get; set; }
    public string Message { get; set; }
    public string StackTrace { get; set; }
    public string Thread { get; set; }
    public string Username { get; set; }

This will create a LogEntries table with an Id primary key identity column. The rest of the fields would have types of nullable nvarchar(max). Of course, this can be modified through configuration.

Configure NLog to log to the database table that holds the log entries

Now it's time to tell NLog to log to the database we created. We can use the connection string name to achieve this. Let's say we have a connection string like this:

  <add name="MyContext" connectionString="Server=.\SQLEXPRESS;Database=myDatabase;Trusted_Connection=True;Connection Timeout=30;" providerName="System.Data.SqlClient" />

The NLog.config file can look like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<nlog xmlns="" xmlns:xsi="">
  <targets async="true">
    <target xsi:type="Database"
            commandText="INSERT INTO [dbo].[LogEntries] ([CallSite], [Date], [Exception], [Level], [Logger], [MachineName], [Message], [StackTrace], [Thread], [Username]) VALUES (@CallSite, @Date, @Exception, @Level, @Logger, @MachineName, @Message, @StackTrace, @Thread, @Username);">
      <parameter name="@CallSite" layout="${callsite:filename=true}" />
      <parameter name="@Date" layout="${longdate}" />
      <parameter name="@Exception" layout="${exception}" />
      <parameter name="@Level" layout="${level}" />
      <parameter name="@Logger" layout="${logger}" />
      <parameter name="@MachineName" layout="${machinename}" />
      <parameter name="@Message" layout="${message}" />
      <parameter name="@StackTrace" layout="${stacktrace}" />
      <parameter name="@Thread" layout="${threadid}" />
      <parameter name="@Username" layout="${windows-identity:domain=true}" />
    <logger name="*" minlevel="Info" writeTo="database" />

Notice how:

  • The async="true" attribute was used in the targets element. This enables async logging.
  • The connectionStringName is used instead of the actual connection string. This means that if we have different connection strings for debug or release modes, NLog will use the appropriate connection string.
  • A hard-coded INSERT statement is used. It's not likely that the LogEntry entity will change, but if it does, the statement here should be updated as well.

Using this setup, log entries will get persisted to the database.

Update: If pluralizations are turned off, the name of the database table will be LogEntry instead of LogEntries. Make sure that the correct name is reflected in the config file.


In this post I showed how to use NLog to log to a database that was created using Entity Framework Code First. I was actually surprised that the setup process was simple and straightforward. I hope this will help you in your projects.

About OJ

OJ Raqueño is a senior software developer specializing in business web applications. He has a passion for helping businesses grow through the use of software built with the best engineering practices.