Why does my Airport Wi-Fi Network hierarchy change sometimes ?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by Anto38x, Feb 1, 2017.

  1. Anto38x macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #1
    Hi all....

    I have multiple Airport Extremes and Airport Expresses located around my home to try and get the best wi-fi/broadband coverage that I can to my family member and various Airplay and Wi-Fi enables devices.

    But sometimes when either I add a new Airport Express or I restart the network the layout and configuration can change when I view my network using the Airport Utility.

    My main source router remains always under the Internet icon... but sometimes the other can be all in a straight line or as now some or under others... the hierarchy changes from time to time.

    Is this a good or bad thing. Sometimes some have Excellent signal, other times Good...

    Is there a way to fix the layout of the access points to get the very best results...?

    Any comments most welcome.



    Regards
    Anthony
     

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  2. belvdr macrumors 603

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    #2
    If everything is hardwired, then it shouldn't be changing, so I believe you are wirelessly extending.

    Keep in mind that adding more APs can cause more problems. In the case of the Expresses, it might be better to use an Extreme (larger antenna) instead and remove some of the Expresses.
     
  3. Anto38x, Feb 2, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2017

    Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #3
    Hi there Belvdr...

    Thank you Belvdr for all your help and advice. Much appreciated.

    I figured out the issue as I added a new Airport Express and had located it too close to others so it moved the hierarchy around... I now have my main Airport Extreme at the very top.. and my four other Express's underneath all in a straight line which I was told is the correct alignment... each unit showing Excellent connection... so that's all good right...?

    You are 100% right... my whole network is Wireless... but my main router from my broadband provider that I hang my main Airport Extreme off is in the very furtherest corner of my home in my work office (2,400 sq. ft groundfloor + 600 sq. ft upstairs), so that's why I extended to get the signal as best I could all over my home.

    I have one Airport Express dedicated to my Samsung SUHD TV and another to my hi-fi plus another to my daughters Den where she also has a 4K TV and upstairs that can be a bit of a blank spot.

    Do you suggest I could possibly be better off taking them all away and just using the latest and greatest version of the Airport Xtreme that I have in my office only.... ? I have spent €500 to date extended my network... on top of the €200 for the latest Airport Extreme... I thought the more extenders I used the better I would be..... sounds like I could have been very very wrong...?

    Please advise..... :)
     

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  4. belvdr macrumors 603

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    #4
    I can't say for certain what the optimal solution is. Wireless signals don't behave the same way in different environments. I can definitely say more is not necessarily better. My gut feeling is you have way more than you need.

    If it were me, I'd try just the main Extreme and see what you get. Then I would try an extender somewhere in the middle to reach out to the farthest corners.

    I have a 2200 sq ft house with 1100 sq ft basement. I use one main router in the corner of the basement and an extender on the top floor without issues.
     
  5. DJLC macrumors 6502a

    DJLC

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    #5
    More indeed is not necessarily better. But it all depends on what's going on with the wireless spectrum around you. I often use Wifi Explorer (on Mac App Store) to judge; it'll show you signal levels, channels, and strengths for all the wireless networks around you. You want to avoid channel overlaps and overlaps with other networks as much as possible — that causes interference.

    Also would suggest hardwiring as much as possible to get increased speed / bandwidth across the network.
     
  6. Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #6
    Cheers again guys for your helpful advice.

    I have all my various network extenders all connected at their optimum now... Excellent connections displaying on all extenders and their respective Wireless Clients also... so that's as good as I'm going to get it now I reckon. My broadband speeds are great during the day... I live and work in rural Ireland... so daytime speeds are great (60MB to 80MB) as most people head to the City to work during the daytime... but my speeds are very impacted at night time/peak time (2MB - 5MB) with many people and children on devices etc.... but at least my network should be delivering the best that it can now and if night time speeds to improve I will hopefully see the benefits also.

    I also use PLEX for all my main local media files... I have a MacPro 12 Core (Mid 2010) 64GB RAM + 520GB SSD acting as my PLEX server.... I then usually download full 1080p files... averaging about 8-9GB per movie to stream and view on my Samsung SUHD 4K TV.

    Can a network like mine really handle those large type files..? or should I be using smaller files..? or a different delivery method than PLEX streaming for this type of media...? Any suggestions....?

    So far it's fine... but some large files do struggle from time to time... I just thought with QTY 2 x Airport Extremes + QTY 3 x Airport Express it would not be an issue... but maybe all networks have a limit..?

    Can crap broadband speeds at night influence how my movies are streamed using PLEX ? Sometimes it almost feels like it does... everything just works better when the speeds are high.

    Thank you again for all your help and advice.


    Regards,
    Anthony
     
  7. belvdr macrumors 603

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    #7
    Keep in mind that when you extend a network in the traditional manner, like you are, every time the signal is repeated, the bandwidth is effectively halved. Also since wireless is half duplex, only one device can communicate at any given time. So, I'd try removing some extenders first and see if the issue goes away.

    You should be able to disconnect the Internet entirely and stream locally. File size should not impact it either. I think you've extended your wireless network too far.
     
  8. Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #8
    Would you even suggest I go back to basics and only have my main Airport Extreme and see how that goes..?
    --- Post Merged, Feb 3, 2017 ---
    And would the same go for streaming on PLEX... that this so called over extending of my network would effect the performance of streaming movies over my wi-fi network also...?
     
  9. elf69 macrumors 68020

    elf69

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    #9
    just to throw an idea at you...

    have you tried homeplug/powerline.

    I use them at home and we do at work for remote areas.
     
  10. Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #10
    Hi Elf69... I did try a Netgear once before... and didn't notice any real improvement so I reverted back to my all Apple Airport setup. Thanks for your suggestion though. Much appreciated.
     
  11. elf69 macrumors 68020

    elf69

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  12. Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #12
    Hi DJLC.... you reckon that WiFi Explorer app is worth the twenty quid price tag..? How would it help me... remember, I'm not IT savvy... I'm more of a plug 'n' play guy... :) But if it could help me establish how my network is performing... it might be worth the plunge... does it give an overall percentage network score... example. Your Network is delivering 65% of the capacity... or something like that.. ?
    --- Post Merged, Feb 3, 2017 ---
    I took the plunge and bought the app you recommended.... but it's all double dutch to me... can you read what it says... or what I should be looking out for as a red flag to the problems on my network...?
    --- Post Merged, Feb 3, 2017 ---
    I have two wifi networks in my home... the Imagine Connect is the router supplied by my broadband provider... I felt my Apple Extreme would be better... so I have my Apple Extreme in my office connected to this source router and then the wi-fi network we all join really in the Creative Design Network. I hope that helps explain things a little better.

    What rating would you give my network based on these results..?

    Anthony
     

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  13. belvdr macrumors 603

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    #13
    Per my post above (#4), yes I would try that and work slowly toward the goal. You may find you only need one extender near the center of the building, possibly on the second floor. I'd try the extender on the second floor first, and then try it on the first floor.

    Plex would also be affected. In fact, this would affect all network traffic. WiFi can be funky at times, thus the trial-and-error approach.
     
  14. Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #14
    Cheers belvdr for your comments once more. I just bought some analytics app suggested by a helpful contributor to my thread above... cam you see it... does it show my problem more visually now there's results..?
     
  15. techwarrior macrumors 6502a

    techwarrior

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    #15
    Ethernet over power line has come a long way. Early gear was very spotty performance. I am using TPLink TL-PA8010P KIT which has GB ethernet ports and claims to provide 1200Mbps throughput over the power lines. I have not tested actual performance, but can report that the AP Express connected to the TPLink yields identical speedtest results to the AP Time Capsule directly connected to my ISP Modem.

    Belvdr is correct. Extending using the existing WiFi, especially with multiple AP can do more harm than good. Best if you can extend using Ethernet, be it directly connected, over power line, or over coax (MOCA). This is referred to as roaming networks, and preserves 100% of the WiFi signal for client connections, bridging the data to the Ethernet for uplink\downlink to the main network. With a roaming network, the Ethernet connection to the main router would be static, and would always appear as directly connected. Plus, roaming networks are less concerned with overlap, the placement of the AP is less critical as you are not concerned with balancing the placement to force the uplink to the main router.

    All that aside, the original post sounded a bit OCD at first. But, remote AP will connect to whatever node has the strongest signal meaning it could serially make the connections as opposed to connecting directly to the main router. Keeping it balanced can be tricky as well given signal interference could throw things off - 2.4GHz Wifi shares the airwaves with cordless phones, microwaves, wireless keyboards, etc.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 3, 2017 ---
    Hmm, why not turn off WiFi on the ISP provided router? Does anything connect to it? All it does is create interference\contention with the Airport network.
     
  16. Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #16
    Here are a bunch of other visual results about my network... does this make any sense to anyone.... ?

    Screenshot 2017-02-03 15.37.42.png Screenshot 2017-02-03 15.37.42.png Screenshot 2017-02-03 15.37.46.png
    --- Post Merged, Feb 3, 2017 ---
    I cannot turn the wi-fi off on the main ISP router as they can only do that... I could ask them I suppose... they turned it on as part of my troubleshooting with them... as they thought if I used their network only it might be better.... and now I have two.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 3, 2017 ---
    Nothing is connected to the Imagine Connect Wi-Fi.... so I can get it turned off by tech support at Imagine no problem. Is this something you think I should do anyways... as part of the solution. I'm not IT tech savvy so they just suggested this as a solution and I went along with it.
     

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  17. DJLC macrumors 6502a

    DJLC

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    #17
    First of all, sorry — I keep forgetting that Wifi Explorer isn't free! I probably could've recommended a free app to show the same thing. :(

    Second — switch to the Channels tab at the bottom of the window you posted. That's going to show you ALL of the networks around you. I'm attaching a screenshot taken at work showing my wifi setup here. Basically, you just want to make sure that networks that have similar signal strengths aren't on the same channel or on overlapping channels. So for example, I have my 2.4GHz channels spread out on 1, 6, or 11 to avoid overlaps — both among my access points and the neighbors.
     

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  18. Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #18
    No probs DJLC.... I have more money than sense... especially after buying all these Airport Express extenders thinking I was making a better network, but after ready so much advice on this now... I think I just made matters worse. I'm have turned off all my Airport Express Network Extenders now and I'm just working with the one, most powerful Airport Extreme that I have... and I will see if things are the same.. even better maybe with a bit of Irish Luck!! :)

    Sorry... I looked at your screen shot.... it didn't make a lot of sense to me only that I saw consistently high signal rates... I'm just not IT enough to figure any of this out for myself... it's gobbledy gook to me I'm afraid... but I really do appreciate you taking the time out to try and help.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 3, 2017 ---
    I have now turned off all my Apple Express Extenders and I can see no deterioration in performance at all... I will monitor this now over the coming days.. as it could even improve matters.

    Thanks again to everyone for all their help. The core problem I had is that I presumed that by adding more Apple Express Extenders to my system I would improve my wi-fi throughout my home without trying first to even see if the one standalone wi-fi unit alone would do the job. What a waste of money!! Thank you all for your help and assistance.


    Anthony
     
  19. belvdr macrumors 603

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    #19
    I would definitely ask your ISP to shut the WiFi off on their router for a couple of reasons:

    1. Potential interference
    2. Just another point of entry into your network
    I ended up turning off 2.4Ghz altogether, as all my devices supported 5Ghz and I had no need for it. I definitely needed an extender after doing this though.

    Sounds like you're well on your way. Keep us posted!
     
  20. techwarrior macrumors 6502a

    techwarrior

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    #20
    Anthony, thanks to eBay, all is not lost. You can sell the extra Airports!

    Following the standard Apple mantra, simple is better holds true here.

    If you find that just the one Extreme doesn't reach certain areas, keep the next strongest, the AP Extreme (Heather's Den) and find a way to connect it to the ISP Router via Ethernet (either directly or over power line) and set the Network Router Mode to Off (Bridged Mode), and Wireless Network Mode to Create a Wireless Network using the same network name and password as the main Extreme. With 2 Access Points creating WiFi networks with the same credentials, mobile devices will roam and use the strongest signal but they won't interfere with each other as much as with Wireless extending.

    Consider naming the 5GHz network something a little different (but same password for simplicity) such as "Creative Design Network 5G". What this will do is allow clients that connect to the 5G frequency to ignore the more crowded 2.4GHz frequencies and probably give you superior performance on each. Then, test speeds connected to each WiFi to see which fits best for each location. Note that not all devices can use 5GHz 802.11n or 802.11ac, older devices may only be able to use 2.4GHz n or g mode.If a device works well on 5G, you can "Forget" the 2.4GHz network SSID so that it will only connect to 5G.

    BTW, the WiFi Explorer is showing you signal strengths at the Mac's current location, so the weaker signals simply mean the distance to the other AP device is greater and thus the signal weaker. If you have a portable Mac, run the utility at each location where you need WiFi access to see which will give you the best performance at that location. The Signal strength graph is likely all you really need to focus on, as well as which Access Point is which. Using a process of elimination, turn all but one off, note the MAC Address(es) and mentally label that as which Airport device that is.

    Note that if the Airport device supports both 2.4 and 5G, the MAC address will tend to be one off. So, the graph above shows ...D0:72 and ... D0:73 in the 2.4 and 5GHz ranges, these are likely the same AP Extreme, and you were likely closer to it than the other APs.

    Finally, the more WiFi networks in your range, the more interference. WiFi is a promiscuous beast. Every client and every Access Point broadcasts packets to all in-range WiFi devices to discover available networks, and process data packets. If a device determines the packet is not intended for it, it will simply drop the packet. This is not really ideal, but makes discovery and connecting\roaming work better. So, the ISP router is blasting interference to your Airport networks, even if you don't use it. Disabling the ISP WiFi will probably improve your airport performance by reducing interference.
     
  21. Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    Cork, Ireland
    #21
    ooohhh..oohhhh.... I thought the WiFe Explorer app gave me the absolute results... so these are only based on the location of my desktop Mac which is actually in the same room as my Airport Extreme and Imagine Connect Routers.... my MacBook Pro (2010) died a fewmonths back so I don't have a mobile Mac... is there a similar app... hopfully not another €20 that could allow me to monitor the signal strength at the other Airport Express locations... and what if I did... and they were all improved and excellent.... is that a good or bad thing...?

    Last night we tried our network with just that one Airport Extreme operating and we noticed no difference at all. I didn't see an improvent but we didn't have problems either. Is the one Airport Extreme still the best solution...?

    Also, I did have an Airport Express connected to my Hi-Fi enabling it for Airplay, that feature now is gone and I wil miss having that option... but most of the time I play my music direct to my Hi-Fi through a USB connection... so on balance maybe it won't affect my listening habits too much as I now use Spotify as my go to app instead of iTunes.

    Thank again for all your fanstastic and informative help TechWarrior and everyone else also.

    Anthny
     
  22. Anto38x, Feb 4, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017

    Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #22
    One extra signal strength measure that I do have is that I have three Apple TVs located in different parts of my home. I just checked my living room where is where we do most of our watching, PLEX, Netflix, YouTube and I have five bars of signals strength on that Apple TV unit (Latest Gen). I have another in my daughter's Den that was previously being served by an extended Apple Extreme... but with that removed, I'm getting four out of the five bars on that AppleTV (Gen 2) unit and all is playing fine. The last location is our Kitchen and that Apple TV (Gen 3) is also displaying four out of five bars... so all in all... the one Airport Extreme in my office is servicing all our main entertainment hubs and the signal strength seems good.

    I have walked around my with iPad Pro and my iPhone 6 Plus divining the wi-fi signal and both devices never dropped lower than 2 bars of Wi-Fi... again not bad for browsing the web, facebook and text messaging.

    What ya think.... or should I still place the other Airport Extreme in the extreme end of my home.... is there a mobile app that can easily read signal strength and reply it back to me in a user-friendly way... like the desktop WiFi Explorer app did..?

    Thanks again TechWarrior.


    Regards,
    Anthony
     
  23. Anto38x, Feb 4, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017

    Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #23
    My new and shiny network.... :) A far cry from where I started out for sure.

    Thanks to everyone for your contribution and suggestions... very much appreciated.
     

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  24. techwarrior macrumors 6502a

    techwarrior

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    #24
    Anthony

    I think the 2 bars coverage might warrant a second access point. But, I would suggest Ethernet connecting the second Extreme (Heather's Den in previous posts) since it will have the strongest radio and supports 5GHz band. If Ethernet is not possible in the areas where you get 2 bars, sell some of the extra Expresses, and get a powerline solution such as the TPLink I previously mentioned.

    An iPhone or iPad is a decent tool for testing signal strength as you already did roaming to different locations and noting the number of bars. Unfortunately, all WiFi analyzers rely on the radio on the host running the software to collect signal data, so it will always be location specific.

    Again, a good way to really understand the network is to make the 5GHz SSID something a little different from the 2.4GHz. Then, on an iPhone or iPad, "Forget" the 2.4GHz WiFi and connect to the 5G Wifi SSID. Now, roam the home with that device and note your signal strength in various locations. Don't be alarmed if 5GHz range is inadequate in some of the more distant parts of the home. Then, repeat for 2.4GHz. In the area where signal is weaker, add one of the Airport devices at that location, and if you can run Ethernet, even temporarily to that location, do so and use the Roaming network approach to setting up that access point at that location. Then repeat the roaming signal strength test with iPhone or iPad and see if you don't improve signal strength to 4-5 bars throughout the house.

    Again, 5GHz is your best choice for avoiding interference from other networks, cordless phones, microwave ovens, etc... so if you can get 4-5 bar 5GHz throughout, any devices that can connect to the 5G WiFi will experience better performance. If you keep the different SSID for the 5GHz signal, you can use that exclusively for devices that support it such as Apple TVs (gen 2 and above are capable of 5GHz connections). Since ATV only remembers the last WiFi you configure, they will remain on whichever SSID you choose. Use the 2.4 or 5G based on which is strongest at each location.

    I don't get the HiFi statement, why not use ATV for this? Is this HiFi attached to any of your TV that also have ATV connected? If so, you can airplay to that ATV and play audio through the HiFi. ATV 2-3 Gen have an optical port that can output either optical audio, or with a converter cable, simple analog Aux to a HiFi. ATV4 has HDMI only, so audio to HiFi would either need to be via HDMI or Digital\optical or even AUX out on the TV to the HiFi.

    Finally, AP express can be used in three modes, create, join, or extend. If you create, you are using the Ethernet port as a bridge to the existing LAN and then creating a WiFi hotspot for devices to connect wirelessly to the LAN. In extend mode, the radio splits the WiFi to connect to other hotspots and connect wireless devices. The join mode is used to create a WiFi client at the remote location, capable of offering Ethernet or Airplay to clients at that location. In join mode, no signal is re-broadcast, but a cable connected to your HiFi could continue to provide airplay. The interference would be minimal as this is just a client, not an access point.
     
  25. Anto38x, Feb 4, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017

    Anto38x thread starter macrumors regular

    Anto38x

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    #25
    Thanks again Tech Warrior... you have sooo much information... :) I did make that 5GHz network... but the signal bars seems less than the previous dual version... all my devices are pretty new also... should I join them to the 5GHz network even if it seems to have less wifi bars... the the 5GHz network a better network.. faster speeds... even if the signal is a little less..? please advise. :)
    --- Post Merged, Feb 4, 2017 ---
    My main devices a
    re:
    My main devices that I would like to join the 5GHz Network would be:
    – iPhone 6 Plus
    – iPhone 6s
    – iPhone 5s
    – Apple TV (Gen 4)
    – Samsung SUHD JS8500 4K TV
    – Apple TV (Gen 3)
    – Apple TV (Gen 2)
    – iPad Air 1
    – iPad Pro
    – iPad Mini 2

    Would they all work with the 5GHz network... or should I just leave things as it is..?

    Anthony
     

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