Extending network with 2nd ethernet-connected AirPort Extreme

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by hipnetic, Apr 18, 2019.

  1. hipnetic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    I tried replacing my AirPort Extreme (latest-gen, 802.11ac, tower design) with a Google WiFi mesh setup (3 devices), but ran into issues getting WiFi Calling (AT&T) to work consistently, so I've (temporarily) given up on that, and switched back to my AirPort Extreme. I wanted to improve WiFi reception in some far corners of my house, though, so I bought a 2nd (used) AirPort Extreme (latest-gen) today. I hooked it up to ethernet, powered it up, and used my iPhone's Settings/WiFi screen to find it and configure it. It does some sort of auto-configuration of it for you that way, and within a few minutes, it was up and operational. So far so good.

    FYI, my 1st AirPort Extreme is named "AirPort Extreme" and my 2nd one is named "AirPort Extreme - Office".
    Also, my 5GHz network is named the same as my regular network, but with "(5GHz)" appended to the end of the name (so, if my 2.4GHz network is named "My Network", then my 5GHz network is named "My Network (5GHz)".

    But something is wrong...

    1) In both the AirPort Utility app for iOS and the app for OSX, it shows both of them, with the 1st one connected to the Internet, and the 2nd one connected to the 1st one. If I tap/click on the 1st one, it doesn't show any wireless clients connected to it. If I tap/click on the 2nd one, it shows 16 clients, several of which are located much closer to the 1st AirPort Extreme. Is this just a bug in the app, or do I have something configured wrong?

    2) This might be completely unrelated, and is probably more of a question for Amazon Echo Spot owners, but my Echo Spot in my office (just a couple of feet away from the 2nd AirPort Extreme I now have) connects to the 2.4GHz version of the network, but fails to connect to the 5GHz version of the network. What's more, the Echo Spot is showing 4/4 bars for the 2.4GHz network, while fluctuating between 3-4 bars for the 5GHz network, which makes me wonder if it's trying to connect to my 1st AirPort Extreme which is farther away. Even odder, I tried "Forgetting" the 2.4GHz network altogether on the Echo Spot, rebooted it, and then when I went to connect to the 5GHz network, it came back with the message "WiFi Connection Failure" under the 5GHz network option, but connected to the 2.4GHz network (even though I told it to forget that network). I even went into my Amazon account and had it forget my WiFi passwords there (this is a convenience feature that Amazon has where they securely store your network passwords so that if you buy another Echo device, it can connect to them without you having to type in the password on the Echo Spot).
  2. techwarrior macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2009
    Unfortunately, Apple devices and Airport Access Points are not very smart about which AP to connect to. They seem to use a strategy of connect to the strongest, then hang on to it as long as it is feasible. So they don't necessarily connect to the closest or strongest.

    You could name each WiFi different, so Network, Network-5G in the main router, and Office, Office-5G in the office. You can use the same password, but naming them different offers you the option of connecting to whatever AP is the best signal for stationary devices and never connecting them to the others, or "forgetting" the others.

    For mobile devices, let them choose.

    Also, distribute Chanels to minimize overlap.
  3. hipnetic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    Thanks for the tips. I did determine that setting up the new AirPort Extreme screwed something up, though. I asked my wife (whose office is on the opposite end of the house) what her signal strength was, and she told me "1 bar". That told me that her phone was just barely connecting to the new AirPort in my office, rather than to our original AirPort (located in a central part of the house and connected directly to our cable modem). I then unplugged the AirPort in my office, and all devices lost their connections, and were unable to connect to the original AirPort's wireless networks (it could see them, but it wouldn't connect to them).

    I then unplugged our original AirPort and plugged it back in, to reboot it. Once back up, our devices could successfully connect to it. I've left the new AirPort unplugged for now.

    I'm not certain what my next steps should be, but I'm thinking I'll hard-reset both AirPorts, re-configure the original one, then try re-connecting/re-auto-configuring the new one.

    One other data point I failed to mention in my original post is that my original AirPort Extreme is directly connected to my cable modem, and that AirPort is then connected to a switch. That switch then runs to my home office into another switch. That switch then connected to my new/2nd AirPort Extreme. I believe that I should be able to have switches between the two AirPorts, but maybe there's a limit of 1 switch, or maybe I should have powered them both off before connecting things? It doesn't seem like if that was the issue that it would have been causing the type of issue I encountered, but maybe I'm wrong.
  4. dotme macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2011
    You can definitely put switches between your access points. I have a Time Capsule in the basement, and an Airport Express upstairs wired exactly like yours. Time Capsule connected to ISP modem, Airport Express can "see" the Time Capsule via 1Gbps ethernet with two switches between the two devices.

    Aside from the recommendation of making sure your two channels have good separation (I use 1 and 11 on the 2.4GHz, and Auto on the 5GHz) most everything else shouldn't need much tweaking from the defaults.

    Under the "Wireless" tab in AirPort Utility, I have both devices set to "Create a Wireless Network" (Not Extend or Join) and both have the same Wireless Network Name, Wireless Security, and Password.

    Not all devices will move to the strongest signal, but some will - and you should see them connect up in time. Hope this helps.
  5. hipnetic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    dotme, thanks for the confirmation about being able to have 2 switches between the AirPort Extremes. Last night, with the 2nd AirPort still unplugged, I took screenshots of all of the AirPort Utility settings pages for my original AirPort Extreme, and I hard-reset both AirPorts and then set up my original one brand new (by discovering it through my iPhone's Settings / Wi-Fi screen, and going through the wizard). Two changes I've since noticed (from comparing screenshots):

    - Internet / Internet Options...
    - Configure IPv6: Automatically
    * Previously this was set to: "Link-local only" - I haven't done any Googling on this one, but I'm leaving it with the new setting for now.

    - Wireless / Wireless Security: WPA2 Personal
    * Previously this was set to: WPA/WPA2 Personal - this wouldn't have anything to do with my problems, but I Googled about this and it seems like WPA is an older standard with some security concerns, and most devices should support "WPA2 Personal", so I'm sticking with this new setting.

    I didn't take any screenshots of the 2nd AirPort Extreme's setting pages prior to hard-resetting it.

    Once the 1st AirPort Extreme was up and I confirmed that my laptop and phone were making use of it and getting internet connectivity, I hooked up the 2nd AirPort Extreme. Because I wasn't sure if the switches were a problem, my intent was to connect it directly, but it turned out that I had 2 switches between them, and only bypassed one of them, so I still had one switch between them. Once again, I used the iPhone's Settings / Wi-Fi screen to discover it and go through the setup wizard. This app appeared to get hung on the last screen while it was waiting for the 2nd AirPort Extreme to come back from a reboot or something, but the 2nd AirPort was showing a green light and the AirPort Utility app was showing it as being up. Nevertheless, I unplugged it, bypassed the 1st switch so that it was now directly connected to the primary AirPort Extreme, and plugged it back in. Again, I confirmed that everything was working, but it seemed like all of my devices were connecting to the primary AirPort. While in my office, I disabled Wi-Fi on my iPhone, re-enabled it, covered up my iPhone SE with my hand to degrade the Wi-Fi signal from the farther primary router, and confirmed that my iPhone was connecting to the 2nd AirPort (confirmed via the AirPort Utility app). So now, most of my devices were connected to my primary AirPort, but at least one was connecting to the 2nd AirPort. Good enough for me to confirm that things seemed to be working.

    I then saw your reply, and unplugged my 2nd AirPort again, and this time connected it to one of my switches, so I now had one switch between the primary and 2nd AirPort Extreme. Plugged it back in and confirmed that things were still working fine.

    This morning I woke up and checked the AirPort Utility app on my iPhone and saw that there were 11 devices connected to my primary AirPort Extreme, and 8 devices connected to my 2nd AirPort Extreme. So things are looking good now.

    After looking at the AirPort Utility screens and comparing to my screenshots, I realized that I was missing a space in my 5GHz network name, so I wanted to fix that and reboot. I also then saw that I forgot to enable the Guest network. I'll take care of that this evening, so as not to disrupt my wife's workday.

    At this point, I still want to take it a step further and get a 3rd AirPort Extreme, even though it's all probably overkill for my house. But my wife's office probably has the worst coverage at this point, and she's on calls all day, so she needs a solid iPhone Wi-Fi signal for Wi-Fi Calling (our AT&T and Verizon signals are 1-2 bars). I plan to take things a step further and also try to plug in as many things as possible to ethernet (I already have a lot of them hard-wired...I'm frankly surprised that I have about 19 devices connecting wirelessly in my house...something else I want to look into further).
  6. dotme macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2011
    Happy to hear you've got things moving in the right direction! Airport Extremes are hard to find these days - wish I had one or two.

    I have Airport Express units on each floor of the house - initially deployed for AirPlay audio - and I am using one as an additional WiFi access point, for better coverage. There's a key difference between the Extreme and Express though. On the Extreme, you can turn off the 2.4GHz radio completely on a per-unit basis. On the Express, you can't. So if I want even more access points for more speed, I have to nail up another 2.4GHz channel too, and that's both unnecessary and potentially troublesome.

    2.4GHz is a notoriously crowded spectrum and the more WiFi channels you fire up on it, the noisier it becomes. For example, Philips Hue's Zigbee protocol and Bluetooth LE smart devices both also use the 2.4GHz spectrum and if it's congested, my limited experience is that those other protocols can occasionally struggle to communicate dependably. The result is that things like Homekit automation reliability could potentially take a little bit of a hit if there are too many WiFi 2.4GHz channels in use.

    If you run smart devices too, maybe that extra Extreme you're thinking of picking up could be physically deployed in your wife's office (assuming you have ethernet in there) and run 5GHz-only. If you do that, and keep good channel separation on the other 2.4GHz access points, it should be smooth sailing everywhere.

    I'm not sure about separate names for the two frequencies. I've never tried that - I always maintain the same SSID everywhere. My assumption was that iOS devices would pick 5GHz if available, and the 2.4GHz if not, as long as I have the same SSID on both. I could be wrong about that though.
  7. hipnetic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    Thanks for the tips. In a multi-AirPort Extreme environment like ours, should all AirPort Extremes be using the same channels, or should I be setting them to use different channels than each other?
  8. dotme macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2011
    If you don't have a lot of other protocols using the 2.4GHz spectrum, I'd suggest letting the Airports simply manage those channels for you ("Auto" setting). Each will independently detect and negotiate the clearest channel that doesn't conflict with the others. They should all pick different channels by default when set to Auto, and that's best for performance.
  9. hipnetic, Apr 20, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019

    hipnetic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    dotme (or anyone), I'm curious to get your opinion on the Time Capsule version of these latest-gen AirPort Extremes. In addition to the $75 AirPort Extreme I bought locally via a Facebook Marketplace ad, there was another one I was attempting to buy through a Craigslist ad (also $75). For some reason, that seller stopped responding to my last couple of emails (even though I was offering to pay asking price in cash). That led me to double-check the latest ads, including eBay, and I found that there are some great deals on the Time Capsule ($100 or less). Seems like a no-brainer for me to get one of those to have our household's 3 MacBooks backed up locally.

    I'm Googling now and seeing some concerns about their hard drives not being replaceable if/when they die, but I haven't tracked down for certain if that applies to the latest-gen models. If so, should I just avoid them altogether and use a hard drive connected to an AirPort Extreme for backup purposes?
    --- Post Merged, Apr 20, 2019 ---
    So, I did a little more Googling and there are some YouTube videos which walk through replacing the hard drive on the latest-gen Time Capsule. Should the hard drive die, and I can still get a used Time Capsule for $100 in the future, I'm not sure if would be worthwhile to bother replacing the hard drive, versus just buying a new Time Capsule, but it's good to know that it's possible. At $100 today, it seems like it's worth taking a chance on it. Worst case, if the hard drive dies shortly afterwards, I'd still have a usable AirPort Extreme.

    Edit: Looks like I was off a bit on the current prices for these Time Capsules. I thought I had found a great deal at a "Buy it now" price, but it was actually open for bidding. Still, there seem to be some deals on these close to $120.
  10. hipnetic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    Bumping this. I purchased a 2TB Time Capsule on ebay, and have a couple of questions...

    1) I already have two (2) Airport Extremes in place now. Is there any reason why I ought to reconfigure things so that the Time Capsule is my primary router, or is it fine to have it set up as an extender? Basically, I'm wondering if the backup capabilities of it are such that it's important for it to be configured as the primary router.

    2) Way off topic, but I bought this on ebay and ebay originally indicated that I should get it yesterday (not sure how they figured that). I didn't get it and sent a message to the buyer, who replied shortly afterwards that they were very sorry and had an illness in the family, and that they would try to get it shipped out the next day (today) and send me tracking info. They have about 250 reviews, all positive. One oddity is that their ebay username has "2019" at the end of it but they've supposedly been an ebay member for several years (edit: I see now that usernames can be changed). Is there any reason why I should be particularly worried about a scam here? The deal was good ($96 for the 2TB Time Capsule), but not "too good to be true" compared to other deals I'm seeing on ebay. And, like I said, I paid by credit card, so I'm thinking I should have some added protection there, should I run into any issues with ebay resolving things. On another side-note, I see a separate charge on my card which looks like sales tax, and just confirmed that ebay now charges sales tax for my state. Yea.

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9 April 18, 2019