Best option for extending a home network?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by tangomike, Sep 19, 2017.

  1. tangomike macrumors member

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    #1
    I'm moderately proficient at trying to do things with computers that I'm not completely qualified to do, so please take that into account.

    Situation: two-story, 2000 sq ft home; Airport Extreme in upstairs office connected to TWC modem for internet, cable, and phone; no complaints with wireless performance in study; living room downstairs has Gen 4 Apple TV that works great for Netflix; no complaints with Amazon Prime Video with Airplay from iPad; problem is in kitchen when using iPad to read newspaper, for example, where loading the new paper often takes a very long time and even fails completely; it's even worse on the deck just off the breakfast nook near the kitchen.

    Objective: Improve performance of network in the kitchen and on the deck.

    Method tried so far, primarily using online research: added two Airport Express devices as extenders, one in living room and one in utility room adjacent to the breakfast nook, both added wirelessly to the Extreme.

    Statistical results: Initially, Airport Utility showed both Express units connected to the Extreme; speedtest.net indicated performance in living room matched that in study; kitchen had download speed 15% of that in living room, upload 50%; deck had further decrease to 5% of download and 70% of upload speeds.

    Practical results: Performance in the kitchen much better. On the deck is okay.

    But as usual, I'm confused, because Airport Utility initially showed both Express devices were connected to the Extreme. This morning, however, when Utility opened, it immediately switched to showing the kitchen Express connected to the living room Express with all three devices in line. I have no idea why.

    And the next question is . . .

    I currently have a Powerline Adaptor in the living room that is wired to the Extreme in the study. It's connected to an OPPO BDP for streaming, but I'm no longer using it for that purpose. If I transfer this cable to the Express in the living room, will that improve the performance from there to the kitchen? Do I need to make any changes in Airport Utility to use that method?

    If you read this far, thank you, and any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    tangomike
     
  2. belvdr macrumors 603

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    #2
    If you extend via recent powerline adapters, you're guaranteed to have better performance. Wirelessly extending will cause performance issues and the extenders will roam to find the best signal, even if that means extending in a line like you saw.

    I ended up with the TP-Link AV2000 Powerline adapters and they work great. I've never used an Airport Express but generally speaking, you disable the wireless extension, then wire in the extender to the network. I did this with Airport Extremes previously without issue.

    I would suggest adding only one Express and testing to see if that helps. Having APs everywhere can cause issues too, so it's important to strike a balance.
     
  3. tangomike, Sep 19, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017

    tangomike thread starter macrumors member

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    #3
    Excellent advice, thank you. My powerline adapters aren't all that recent, but I'll try one wired Express in the living room before adding the second one in the kitchen area.

    Based on my relatively limited knowledge, my plan would be to:
    1. Disconnect power to both Express devices.
    2. Connect the living room Express to the adaptor I currently have, a Plaster Networks PLN3.
    3. Connect power to the Express
    4. Open Airport Utility and look for how to set it up as a wired extension to the Extreme by disabling wireless.
    5. Before I try that, are the selections in the Utility self-explanatory? I ask that because when I installed the Extreme last year, I kept doing something that caused loss of my internet connection to the router, and it took a lot more error than trial to get it back.
    6. If that doesn't work well enough, I'll probably upgrade the adapters to the one you suggest.
    Really appreciate the help.
     
  4. belvdr macrumors 603

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    #4
    I would go into Airport Utility and disable wireless extension first, then connect the cable. As long as the SSIDs and passwords are identical, clients should roam seamlessly.

    As for the AV2000 adapters, I originally got around 250Mb between them and they were going across breakers. I moved them onto the same circuit, and even with crossing a GFCI outlet, I get a 550Mb link. I couldn't recommend them enough, as they are simple to deploy and manage (granted I have only had them a month or two).
     
  5. tangomike thread starter macrumors member

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    #5
    An update on this developing saga:

    First, thanks for the heads up about how going across breakers reduces throughput. Never would have considered that.

    Second, I've found no way to disable the wireless extension on either the Extreme or the Express. Thinking that the Ethernet connection might take precedence once it's available, I extended the wireless network from the Extreme to the Express in the living room, then disconnected power to the Express, connected the Ethernet cable from the Powerline adapter to the WAN port on the Express, then reconnected power.

    Once the Express status light showed green, I tested speeds. Throughput to the living room has not improved over that obtained without the Powerline adapter in play, and I've been unable to verify which of the two connections is being used.

    Third, I can't figure out why Airport Utility once again shows both Express devices connected to the Extreme immediately following a configuration change, but when Utility is opened a day or so later, it changes to an inline extended network from the Extreme to the living room Express and from there to the utility room Express.

    I'm tempted to update the Powerline adapter, but at this point I'm not confident that my current one is the problem until I can establish that the Express in the living room is in fact connected to the Extreme via the Ethernet from the Powerline.

    The investigation continues . . .
     
  6. techwarrior macrumors 65816

    techwarrior

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    #6
    You need to understand Apple's terminology, which at times seems to confuse matters.

    "Extending" a Wireless Network in Airport terminology means you are telling the access point to connect wirelessly to the router, then broadcast a signal for devices to connect to. This causes a drop of at least 50% in Wireless capacity as the radio is doing both upload and device connection tasks.

    What you want it to "Create" a wireless network and make sure the Network is in Bridge mode. This will force the Express to use the Ethernet port for upload and allow the radio to provide 100% for client connections.

    If you need the. second express, connect it via ethernet as well, same reason. But, make sure you put the Expresses in areas that are as far from other access points as possible, too many access points oversaturate the home and cause unnecessary data collisions as WiFi access is a contentious beast.
     
  7. ImBuz macrumors 6502

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  8. techwarrior macrumors 65816

    techwarrior

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    #8
    Except that OP already has the gear he needs.

    I suspect Mesh solutions will become obsolete when 802.11ax arrives in the next year or two, longer range, less contention and faster speeds.

    I say, use what you have and do what you can to improve performance.
     
  9. tangomike thread starter macrumors member

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    #9
    Thanks for the continuing suggestions and assistance.

    For now, I'll stick with the equipment I already have. That said, it's obvious i don't know enough to make it work or how to troubleshoot it.

    I tried the suggestion to create a new network with the living room Express, but it resulted in losing the Extreme from the Utility network diagram, and I ended up without an internet connection to the living room Express.

    Assuming that my older Powerline adapters aren't the problem, maybe the connection between the Extreme and the Express is?

    TWC modem > Extreme WAN > Extreme LAN > Powerline (study) > Powerline (living room) > Express WAN.

    I'm not adverse to updating the Powerline, but I'd like to know if my current connections and settings are correct to narrow down the possibility that the my older Powerline has failed.
     
  10. techwarrior macrumors 65816

    techwarrior

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    #10
    Run an ethernet cable to the express temporarily and see if that solves it. If so, power line may be the issue.

    Did you set the Network to Bridge mode (on the Express)?
     
  11. tangomike thread starter macrumors member

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    #11
    Thanks for the follow up.

    The Bridge mode was selected, but it didn't make any difference. Just before you posted this, I ran an ethernet cable to the powerline and discovered that it wasn't connected to the Internet. Well, duh. No wonder . . .

    When I began researching how to do that, the age of the product became apparent with the necessity to access an online "local administrative console" to set it up. But when I tried to do that, no such page existed, so it's finally obvious even to me that the time has come to modernize.

    In retrospect, I probably should have purchased another Extreme rather than the two Express units, the 2nd bought after the 1st to try for better performance in the kitchen). Express offers 802.11n rather than ac, and two of them working together might have been a better choice.

    The new adapters arrive tomorrow, which, of course raises another couple questions.

    If the kitchen is the area with the least throughput and the living room does much better, should I try the powerline in the area of the kitchen first to determine if that's the better configuration?

    And can I specify in Airport Utility that I want the Express that's not connected to the powerline to get its wireless signal from the wired Express and not the Extreme? To the technically challenged, that seems to offer the best solution if I can do that.
     
  12. techwarrior macrumors 65816

    techwarrior

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    #12
    802.11n is dual band on current Express models, and it should be able to do 300Mbps on the 5Ghz band, and about 150 on 2.4. These are optimal, speeds may vary in reality, but likely faster than your ISP service.

    The Express will tend to connect to the access point with the strongest signal. Thus if the 2 Expresses are close to each other, it may connect to the other Express.

    If it is at all possible to connect both Express via Ethernet, do it. Most power line solutions allow you to add more adapters, so with 3 adapters you could connect one to the router, the other two to Expresses.

    Express has a radio with x capacity for client connections. Normally, it would up\download all traffic via Ethernet, but if connected wirelessly, it will split the capacity between clients and router. It therefore reduces WiFi throughput on both the router, and the Express. If it connects to the other Express, it reduces throughput on both Expresses.

    Express has a WAN and LAN port. So, if Ethernet from the router is not feasible, you could potentially do Ethernet from Express 1 to Express 2. This is less than ideal as Express has 100Mbps interfaces where the router has 1Gbps, but WiFi speeds would be decent in all likelihood as the radios would not be splitting uplink traffic with client connections.

    I would try just the one Express in the kitchen and see if that meets your needs before adding the second. You originally stated the living room is decent as is with just the router, so don't push your luck. The kitchen Express should cover the patio as well.

    I have a 2 story home with about 2000 sq ft on each level. My Time Capsule AC is in the basement office (SW side), and I have an Express in the basement great room (NE side). I have an older Extreme upstairs about in the middle of the floor which covers upstairs pretty well, as well as the back patio. I consistently get 70+ Mbps speeds (my ISP is about 70Mbps) everywhere in the home. My guess is 2 WiFi access points should cover your home pretty well, and the more you add, the greater the risk of deteriorating it all. I actually have another Express which I use to Airplay to a speaker on the patio when entertaining, it is setup in Client Mode so it reduces interference but will connect to any access point on my network that is in range. I unplug it when not using it to reduce interference.

    WiFi is prone to collisions forcing re-sending packets as the radios only handle one packet at a time. Even if it is not handling a packet of data, it gets hit with signals from other Access points (including neighbors), and other electronic signals (wireless phones, microwaves, radar, wireless keyboards, bluetooth) which all must be processed, even if they are dropped as irrelevant. So adding a third Access Point just adds more interference to deal with. In the WiFi world, less is more unless you get into complex commercial gear which is designed to deal with the conflicts such as in stadiums and airports.

    Future home routers (1-2 years out) will support 802.11ax which is designed for greater range, faster speeds (theoretically as high as 10Gbps, but likely in the 2-4Gbps range) and less prone to interference though prioritization flags in the packets. Until then, we kind of have to deal with the limitations of the current tech.
     
  13. tangomike thread starter macrumors member

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    #13
    Thank you for the best explanation I've seen yet.

    Ethernet from the Extreme is feasible through the powerline, and using your suggestion to try one Express in the kitchen with the other powerline to see how that works seems like the place to begin. I expect the adapters tomorrow, and hopefully I can get them installed and working without too many false starts.

    Updates to follow.
     
  14. belvdr macrumors 603

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    #14
    Which adapters did you go with? When I initially got mine, I had to pair them and create a secure network. Doing so required no app or network connectivity, so I did my setup in a room with multiple outlets. Once paired and secured, I moved them to their final destinations.
     
  15. Ryanhdd macrumors regular

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    #15
    I am going to follow along with this thread as I have a few Airport Expresses that I use to run music through my house wirelessly. However I have been thinking of adding ethernet to one and getting it to my carport so my IP cams and my Ring door bell work better. As of now. they hardly work bc the signal is so low. I have been reluctant to do this bc I didn't want to half my network speed. But from what I read above this would not happen. Right now I am not sure what this power line thing is, but maybe thats something specific to the OPs system. Anyway, good info here I will try this soon.
     
  16. tangomike thread starter macrumors member

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    #16
    I took your suggestion about the TP-Link AV2000. Your comment, "Simple to deploy and manage" got me interested, and reviews convinced me to try them.
     
  17. Ryanhdd macrumors regular

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    #17
    I like this!! question though, I have verizon Fios with only internet. I currently have an asus router that gets direct cat 6 from the ONT. I do not want Verizons router at all and currently do not have it. Do I need it for this Google mesh system? Can I just plug in the Cat6 cable from the ONT and have it just work?
     
  18. belvdr, Sep 21, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017

    belvdr macrumors 603

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    #18
    Good deal. Let me know if you have issues. I think it took me all of 15 seconds to get a working, secured network by setting them up in one room first.

    They also support up to 2Gb link speed, so it can expand into the near future. The application will tell you what speed the units are linked at.

    Per the specs, you use one Google unit for the router. When I was looking into mesh, I leaned more toward the Netgear Orbi based on reviews. However, like @techwarrior said, 802.11ax will be (hopefully) released in the near future, so I opted to use my existing APs versus go mesh.
     
  19. tangomike thread starter macrumors member

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    #19
    I'm the last person to be providing information to members of this forum, but I can try this. One powerline adapter connected to the Extreme in my study and plugged into an electrical outlet extends ethernet connectivity to every outlet in my house. The companion paired adapter will initially be plugged into an outlet in the utility room just off the kitchen and connected to one of my two Express. I'll test speed in the kitchen and then in the living room, and if throughput is sufficient, stop. If not, I'll add the second Express wirelessly to the network in the living room and see how that works. If I've learned anything by starting this thread, it's that each situation is different and even for the experts, it's a matter of trial and error to get the best results. For them, of course, the trial outweighs the error. I can't say the same, but a forum like this is invaluable for those of us who like a DYI approach.
     
  20. DogHouseDub macrumors 6502

    DogHouseDub

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    #20
    FWIW, with the AirPort Extreme being labeled as "outdated technology" you can grab used ones on eBay for $60-80. I have 4 of them stretching across 4000 sqft and they are magnificent.
     
  21. tangomike thread starter macrumors member

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    #21
    Thanks for this. If I'd known last week, plus been aware that Express is only capable of 802.11n performance, extending with an Extreme would have been a real player . . .
     
  22. belvdr macrumors 603

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    #22
    If you find you have acceptable Powerline bandwidth but limited WiFi bandwidth, you can always replace the Express later. I find it better to take small steps with WiFi changes in situations like yours. If one only has a WiFi router, it's a simple swap and compare (and swap back if it fails).
     
  23. Ryanhdd macrumors regular

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    #23

    yeah I will wait also. maybe try to extend with my express and ethernet cable. it should work.
     
  24. tangomike thread starter macrumors member

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    #24
    Mid-process update:

    Paired two TP-Link AV2000 Powerline Adapters and installed one in the study connected to a LAN port on the Extreme, and the other in the living room (rather than in the kitchen, but just to initially check out the powerline connection). Connected an old MacBook Pro to the living room adapter with WiFi still on, used speedtest.net to check the result, then turned WiFi off on the computer and connected via Ethernet. Both results were lousy, not yet sure why.

    One reason might be that in both locations the current power outlet configuration didn't allow the adapters to plug directly into the outlet. The TP-Link instructions don't say not to do that, but I've read elsewhere that it's not a good idea. I'm going to solve that problem before I continue just in case it's preventing better performance.

    As for prior testing of speeds, I've been using a mid-2015 MacBook Pro, a 3-4 year old iPad, and an iPhone 6S. The results with each device are quite a bit different, but I've read that this is to be expected depending on the device, and I assume that means relative testing of different network connections has to be done on the same device to avoid biasing the results.

    In the meantime, I found an article from an Apple Support Forum that appears to address how to accomplish my objective. Although it's an older article that references OS 10.7.4 and Airport Utility 5.6, I've copied and pasted it here for convenience if anyone would like to comment on the workflow described. If I've violated any forum protocol by doing that, please let me know and I'll delete the text. The article follows:

    Setting up Airport Extreme w/Powerline Networking & Airport Express

    The question: In my residence, I have my cable modem connected to the latest generation Airport Extreme. An ethernet cord then goes from the Airport Extreme into a 'ZyXEL HomePlug 500Mbp Powerline adapter', which plugs into the wall.

    Now here comes the fun part - I'd like to plug in an Airport Express in the 3rd floor of my residence. My hope is that the Airport Express will receive connectivity from the powerline adapter, and will be leased an IP from the Airport Extreme. My question is - what must I configure with the Airport Express so that it acts like an access point on the existing wireless network? I would prefer the configuration to be setup in a way so that clients 'see' a single wireless network. Whichever 'access point' (whether it's the airport extreme or airport express) remains transparent to the user - the airport utility in OS X 10.7.4 simply connects to the AP with the greater signal strength. Again, I'm hoping this is all transparent to the user. Is this possible? If so, what settings should I be inputting into the Airport Express?

    The answer:

    Suggest that you use a proven utility here that will provide the settings options that you need and not make (wrong) decisions for you about what it thinks you want to do. That would be AirPort Utility 5.6 for Mac OS X Lion Download and install this on your Mac. You can keep both AirPort Utility 6.0 and 5.6 on your Mac.

    Perform a Factory Default Reset on the Express as follows:

    Power off the Express and leave it off for a few minutes

    Hold in the reset button, and keep holding it for an additional 9-10 seconds while you simultaneously plug the Express back in to power

    Release the reset button after the hold period and allow 40-45 second for the Express to display a slow, blinking amber light

    Before you plug the Express into the remote powerline adapter, test using your laptop to make sure that the powerline is providing a good signal. Turn off the wireless temporarily on the laptop and connect it to the adapter. See if you can get a good, stable Internet connection this way.

    If you can, this will enhance the chances that the Express will work well. Connecting a router is a different matter than a computer, and I have seen installations where a computer will work connected to the powerline adapter, but not a router, like the Express. I've also seen adapters from one manufacturer work when another will not.

    So, no guarantees here. You won't know until you try.

    Connect the Express to the powerline adapter and start it up. After 40-45 seconds, it will be blinking amber.

    Open Macintosh HD > Applications > Utilities > AirPort Utility 5.6

    Select the Express and click Manual Setup

    Click the Base Station tab below the row of icons to name the Express, setup a device password and adjust Time Zone settings. No other adjustments are needed here.

    Click the Wireless tab and adjust settings as follows:

    Wireless Mode = Create a wireless network

    Wireless Network Name = Exact same name as the AirPort Extreme

    Check mark to Allow network extension

    Radio Mode = Automatic or 802.11n (802.11b/g compatible) is a good choice

    Radio Channel = Automatic

    Wireless Security = Exact same setting as the AirPort Extreme network

    Wireless Password = Same password as the AirPort Extreme network

    Confirm Password

    Click the Internet icon, then click the Internet Connection tab

    Connect Using = Ethernet

    Connection Sharing = Off (Bridge Mode)

    Update to save settings and allow 40-45 second for a green light

    Then power off the entire network and let it rest a few minutes

    Start the modem first and let it run by itself for a few minutes

    Start the AirPort Extreme and let it run a minute

    Start the first powerline adapter the same way, then the second

    Start the Express the same way

    Continue starting devices one at a time until the entire network is back up
     
  25. belvdr, Sep 21, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017

    belvdr macrumors 603

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    #25
    The TP Link docs for mine said not to plug the adapter into a power strip. Instead, plug the adapter into the outlet and the strip into the adapter.

    The app should show you the link speed:
    AV2000.PNG
     

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