The Time Machine

The Time Machine


In C#, dealing with time-dependent logic can be challenging, especially when it comes to unit testing.

Hardcoding DateTime.Now in your business logic makes it difficult to test various scenarios.

This is where the concept of a TimeProvider comes into play. A TimeProvider abstracts the access to the current time, making your code more testable and flexible.

Implementing a TimeProvider

The idea is to create a TimeProvider class or interface that can be injected into components that require time-based logic.

Create the TimeProvider Interface and Implementation:

public interface ITimeProvider 
    DateTime Nowget; } 

public class TimeProvider : ITimeProvider 

    public DateTime Now => DateTime.Now; 

Inject the TimeProvider into Your Classes:

Instead of using DateTime.Now directly, use the ITimeProvider.

public class OrderProcessor 
    private readonly ITimeProvider _timeProvider; 
    public OrderProcessor(ITimeProvider timeProvider) 
        _timeProvider = timeProvider; 
    public void ProcessOrder(Order order) 
        if (order.OrderDate.Date == _timeProvider.Now.Date) 
            // Process order 

Writing Unit Tests with a Mock TimeProvider

With the TimeProvider in place, you can now easily write unit tests for time-dependent logic by mocking the ITimeProvider.

Install a Mocking Framework: Use a mocking framework like Moq to create mock implementations of ITimeProvider.

Write Unit Tests:Here’s an example of how you can write a unit test for the OrderProcessor class.

public class OrderProcessorTests 
    public void ProcessOrder_IfOrderDateIsToday_ShouldProcessOrder() 

        // Arrange 
        var mockTimeProvidernew Mock<ITimeProvider>(); 
        mockTimeProvider.Setup(tp => tp.Now).Returns(newDateTime(202111)); 
        var orderProcessornewOrderProcessor(mockTimeProvider.Object); 
        var ordernew Order 
        // Act 
        // Assert 
        // Assertions here depend on how ProcessOrder changes the order 
        // For example: 

In this test, mockTimeProvider is set up to return a specific date when Now is called, allowing you to test how OrderProcessor behaves on that date.

Advantages of Using TimeProvider

  1. Testability: It allows you to write unit tests for scenarios that depend on the current time.
  2. Flexibility: You can easily change the implementation of the current time, which is useful in scenarios like simulating different time zones.
  3. Maintainability: Reduces direct dependencies on system time, making the codebase more maintainable.


Using a TimeProvider in C# applications is a best practice that greatly enhances the testability and maintainability of time-dependent code.

It abstracts away the system time, allowing for easy mocking and testing of various time-related scenarios.

This approach leads to more reliable, robust, and testable code, especially in complex business logic and time-critical applications.


Hi, my name is Stephen Finchett. I have been a software engineer for over 30 years and worked on complex, business critical, multi-user systems for all of my career. For the last 15 years, I have been concentrating on web based solutions using the Microsoft Stack including ASP.Net, C#, TypeScript, SQL Server and running everything at scale within Kubernetes.