What Type of Database Is Core Data?


Scott Campbell

When it comes to choosing a database for your iOS or macOS app, Core Data is often the go-to solution. But what type of database is Core Data exactly? Let’s dive into this topic and explore the features and benefits of Core Data as a database.

Introduction to Core Data

Core Data is a framework provided by Apple that allows developers to manage the model layer objects in an application. It provides an object-oriented interface for interacting with data, including support for persistent storage. In other words, Core Data is an abstraction layer that sits between your application code and the underlying database.

Persistent Storage

One of the key features of Core Data is its ability to persistently store data. It can handle various types of persistent storage, including SQLite, XML, and binary formats. By default, Core Data uses SQLite as its underlying database engine.


SQLite is a popular open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) that provides a lightweight and efficient way to store data. It uses a file-based approach where the entire database resides in a single file on disk. This makes it easy to manage and backup the data.

Data Model

In order to use Core Data effectively, you need to define a data model that describes the structure of your data. The data model is defined using an XML-based format called Core Data Model (.xcdatamodeld). This allows you to specify entities, attributes, relationships, and other metadata about your data.


An entity in Core Data represents a real-world object or concept that you want to store. For example, if you are building a library application, you might have entities such as ‘Book’, ‘Author’, and ‘Genre’.


Attributes define the properties of an entity. They represent the individual pieces of data that you want to store. For example, a ‘Book’ entity might have attributes like ‘title’, ‘author’, and ‘publicationDate’.


Relationships define the associations between entities. They allow you to establish connections between different entities in your data model. For example, a ‘Book’ entity might have a relationship with an ‘Author’ entity to represent the author of the book.

Data Fetching and Manipulation

Core Data provides powerful APIs for fetching and manipulating data. You can perform complex queries using a query language called NSPredicate. This allows you to filter, sort, and limit the data based on specific criteria.

In addition to fetching data, Core Data also supports various operations for adding, updating, and deleting objects. This makes it easy to perform CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations on your data.

Data Validation and Undo/Redo Support

Core Data includes built-in support for data validation, ensuring that your data meets certain criteria before it is saved to the database. This helps maintain data integrity and prevents invalid or inconsistent data from being stored.

In addition, Core Data also provides undo/redo support out-of-the-box. This means that you can easily revert changes or redo them if needed. This can be especially useful when dealing with user-driven interactions or batch processing operations.


In summary, Core Data is a powerful framework for managing the model layer objects in iOS and macOS apps. It provides persistent storage capabilities using SQLite as its default database engine. With its data modeling capabilities, data fetching and manipulation APIs, and built-in support for data validation and undo/redo operations, Core Data offers a comprehensive solution for working with databases in Apple’s development ecosystem.

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