Airport Express apparently not working, but no errors

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Ubele, Dec 30, 2014.

  1. Ubele macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2008
    #1
    I have a Frontier Communications router with their 15 Mbps download/5 Mbps upload plan. I have a 5th-generation Airport Extreme connected to it via Ethernet cable, configured as a bridge router. At the other end of the house, I have a 2nd-generation Airport Express configured to wirelessly extend the network. This setup had been working fine for several years. However, three times during the past year, I've had to do a full reset of the Airport Express after it went into solid-amber-light mode. The first time, I had to do a firmware upgrade. The other two times, I unplugged the AE, held down the reset button, plugged the AE back in, waited 30 seconds, and reconfigured the AE using Airport Utility. Each time, though, I had to do the reset several times, because the routine failed due to an "unexpected error."

    This last time, though, the Airport Express isn't doing its job. Airport Utility sees it as extending the network, and the green light is on solid. If I unplug it and then plug it back in, the amber light come on solid an then flashes, and then the green light comes back on solid, as it should. If I use my iPad speed-test app near the Airport Extreme, it shows 15/5, as it should. If I use it near my Airport Express, the download/upload speed is about 3/5. If I unplug the Airport Express, the download/upload speed also is 3/5. In other words, the Airport Express doesn't appear to be amplifying the signal at all, but there are no errors associated with it. I can't say for sure that I used to get 15/5 near the Airport Express, but, subjectively, my Internet speed was just as fast there as it was at the other end of the house where the Airport Extreme is.

    I did a Web search and couldn't find anyone with this particular problem. I have two Macs, both with the latest version of Yosemite. I have an iPad and an iPhone, both with the latest version of iOS 8. Is there anything else I should try, or is my Airport Express likely defective?
     
  2. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #2
    Try downgrading the Express to 7.6.1.
     
  3. waw74 macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    May 27, 2008
    #3
    the express is only able to repeat the signal that it gets. If your main wi-fi is weak at location, and can only manage 3/5 then that's all the express will be able to repeat.

    To fix this, try moving the express closer to the main base. you want it somewhere you still have good signal from the main.

    You will loose speed using the express as a wireless repeater. You only have half of the bandwidth available, as it's having to talk to both your computer and the main base at the same time.

    to fix that, you need to hard wire the express.
    best way to do this is a run of ethernet cable, if you can't do that, powerline networking is a good alternative.
     
  4. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 20, 2008
    #4
    Thanks for the responses. Waw74, my current setup worked fine for two years. My Airport Extreme is in the living room, and I had low signal strength in a bedroom at the other end of the house. Adding the Aiport Express boosted the signal. I'm using the wirelessly extended network configuration from this Apple support page:

    http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202056

    According to that, the Airport Express should provide a boosted signal, although not as much as if it were connected to the Airport Extreme via Erhernet. I can't swear that I was getting 15/5 in the bedroom before, but I did a speed test once just to see, and the download speed was much faster than it is now -- I'm sure at least 10 Mbps. I'll try moving the Express around, though, just in case something changed in the signal path that I'm not aware of. If that doesn't work, I'll try your suggestion, Altemose.
     
  5. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #5
    The critical point of wireless replication is not to put the Express where it is gasping for signal like a client. You should have it within range of the Extreme before the signal gets too degraded. In summary, if you say you have issues with wireless in the bedroom then do not put the Express there as it will have the same issues.
     
  6. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    Perhaps I wasn't clear, but the same equipment, in the same locations (Extreme in living room, Express in bedroom), had been working fine for two years. If the problem were simply a matter of the Express being too far from the Extreme, then why was it not a problem until now? Something in the equation changed. I'll keep troubleshooting and will report back if I figure it out.
     
  7. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #7
    There could be more interference in your environment. Other Wi-Fi networks, cordless phones, microwaves, etc. can all degrade and interfere with the signal.
     
  8. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 20, 2008
    #8
    I just ran several back-to-back speed tests in the bedroom, and they were all over the place: 2/2, 8/5, 13/3, and 14/5. I tried the tests with and without the Express plugged in, and the results were similar. Near the Extreme though, I consistently get 15/5. So interference seems to be the likely culprit. However, I contacted Frontier, because I also was having problems with their router completely dropping the Internet connection. The technician ran some remote tests and said he got several error codes somewhere in the chain (we have FiOS), so they're sending someone on Friday to check things out. I'll let you know what happens.
     
  9. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #9
    The interference is something you must deal with and not Frontier. They need to fix the Internet connection stability. Do you have a Mac running Mavericks or Yosemite?
     
  10. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 20, 2008
    #10
    I have a 2012 Mac mini in my bedroom home office running the latest version of Mavericks. I also have a 2008 15" MacBook Pro running the latest version of Mavaericks, and an iPad 4 and an iPhone 5 running the latest versions of iOS 8 to test signal strength throughout the house. I suspect I have more than one problem, though:

    1. There is a problem with the Frontier connection. I had my MBP connected via Erhernet to the Frontier router, and the connection was periodically dropping out. It was either 15/5, or no connection at all. The technician ran some remote tests and said he saw some alarms in the chain (probably in the cable or connectors outside).

    2. The Airport Express goes through periods in which the amber light will start flashing, and I have to either unplug and replug it or do a full reset. It's doing that again. Even when I place it directly next to the Extreme right now, where the signal strength is 15/5, the green light on the Express isn't coming on. This is the point where I usually do a full reset. Could either the Express or the Extreme be having some sort of problem?

    3. If the problem is interference from a neighbor's device, is there anything I can do, short of running Ethernet cable to the bedroom? Is there a setting I can change?
     
  11. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    Mar 26, 2013
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    Elkton, Maryland
    #11
    1. That issue is on the WAN side so Frontier needs to fix that issue.

    2. The Express flashing amber can be due to losing an Internet connection.

    3. Yes. OS X Mavericks includes a channel analyzer built in or you can use a tool like iStumbler or Wi-Fi Explorer. If you option click the Wi-Fi icon in your menu bar you should see an option for Wireless Diagnostics. Open that and select "Scan" in Yosemite or Utilities in Mavericks. Select your network and it will show you what channels are best to set your network on.
     
  12. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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  13. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #13
    Report back with the results and how they work out.
     
  14. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 20, 2008
    #14
    The Frontier technician came, and he, too was getting varying speeds from both the Frontier router and the Airport Extreme on their wireless networks. He swapped out the router, and nothing changed. He then replaced the connector box on the outside of the house with a new one, which also is a newer model. (It's on FiOS and is capable of Gigabit Ethernet speeds, but Frontier doesn't offer any packages that fast -- not that I need it.) That consistently provided 15/5 on both the Frontier and Airport Extreme wireless networks. However, it didn't solve the problem with the Airport Express. I walked through the house and did speed tests, and the speed drops off dramatically as I approach my bedroom office. I ran Network Diagnostics, which reported that everything is working fine, and thus offered no suggestions for changing anything.

    My next step will be to buy a new Airport Express and see if that solves the problem. If not, I'll return it, and conclude that some other device is causing interference -- possibly from the house next door. In that case, I'll have to run an Ethernet cable to the bedroom, because the Internet is so slow as to be unusable much of the time.
     
  15. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    Elkton, Maryland
    #15
    Glad the Frontier issue is sorted out. Did you try changing the channels on the network first using the best channels as stated in Wireless Diagnostics? Is it possible to run Ethernet to the Express?
     
  16. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 20, 2008
    #16
    Since my last post, I ran Wireless Scan, and it told me the best channels to use for the 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz networks. I went to the Airport Extreme and Airport Express settings in Airport Utility and found that the 5.0 GHz check box wasn't selected, and that the channels were set on Automatic. I enabled and named the 5.0 GHz network for both devices and specified a recommended channel for each frequency. When I updated the devices and ran Scan, the 5 GHz network was using the channel I'd specified (36), but the 2.4 GHz network was using a different channel from what I'd specified. I checked the settings in Airport Utility, and they were still at the channels I'd set. I don't know if it makes any difference, but I then connected all of our WiFi devices (my wife's and my Macs, iPads, and iPhones) to the 5 GHz network.

    After each step, I ran wireless speed tests. Near the Extreme, I always got 15/5. Near the Express in the bedroom, i'd get everything from 0.8/0.8 to 15/5. I then ran two connected 50' Ethernet cables from the Extreme to my bedroom Mac and turned off wireless. I got 15/5 on every speed test.

    I then connected the Ethernet cable to my Express, trying both the WAN and LAN ports, and enabled wireless on my bedroom Mac. In both cases, the Express was no longer recognized on the wireless network. Airport Utility continued to search for it, and I had no Internet connectivity. As soon as I unplugged the Ethernet cable, the Express reappeared. Is there a setting I need to configure when connecting the Express to the Extreme via Ethernet?

    Finally, I switched back to the 5 GHz wireless network. Wireless Scan verified that my bedroom Mac was using the bedroom Express at 5 GHz. I ran five back-to-back speed tests. The first four were 15/5. The fifth was 2/4. At this point, the only causes I can think of are interference from a device in the house next door, nearest the bedroom, or an intermittently malfunctioning Airport Express.

    For a permanent Ethernet solution, I'd have to run Ethernet cable in the crawlspace under the house. It would be a hassle but doable. However, I'd first need to figure out how to get the Express to work when connected to the Extreme via Ethernet.
     
  17. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    Elkton, Maryland
    #17
    The Express dropped off as it was a rogue AP then on the network. Reset it and reconfigure and it will say "Extend 'SmithWireless' Over Ethernet". Continue on and it will work over Ethernet.
     
  18. waw74 macrumors 68030

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    May 27, 2008
    #18
    check out power line networking.
     
  19. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    Mar 26, 2013
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    #19
    Why would you use power line networking instead of Cat5e or Cat 6 if it is doable? That is taking the easy way out and should only be used as a final ditch scenario.
     
  20. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 20, 2008
    #20
    Just an update: since I specified which channels to use (rather than the default Automatic setting) and switched from 2.4 to 5.0 GHz, WiFi Internet download speed in my bedroom office has been in the 3 - 7 Mbps range. This is slower than it once was, but it's usable for everything except large streaming video files, which pause and buffer. At some point, I might install Ethernet cabling in the crawl space.

    Question: upload speed usually stays close to the 5 Mbps I'm paying for. Why is download speed usually less, if it's on the same channel and frequency? On speed tests, I'll often get 3/5 or 4/5. It seems that, if the upload speed is 5, then the download speed should be at least 5.
     
  21. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    Mar 26, 2013
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    Elkton, Maryland
    #21
    Wireless extension is often extremely funky and works best if you connect via Ethernet through the crawl space.
     
  22. Ubele thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 20, 2008
    #22
    I think I'll have to do that. Thanks for all your help, Altemose.
     
  23. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    Mar 26, 2013
    Location:
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    #23

    No problem. Just remember to use a good crimper and quality cable. If you need suggestions then PM me as I don't think we can post links.
     
  24. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #24
    Agree with Altemose.

    IF you have non-moving Macs (such as an iMac or Mini)
    and
    IF you have the capability to easily run some Cat. 6 cable...

    THEN
    ... run the cabling, and be done with it!
     

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