Aug 15

I recently got myself the latest Airport Extreme 802.11n Wi-Fi base station, dubbed the 5th Generation to replace it’s cousin, a 7-year old Airport Express 802.11g base station. Everything went smooth with the new Airport Extreme, setup was foolishly simple and I was up and going in less than an hour of having the base station delivered to my home.

I retired the Airport Express into my desk drawer, and told my wife that we should keep the Airport Express instead of putting it for auction on eBay. Simple reason: the Airport Express is ultra portable, we brought it together with us during our stay in an Australian share house and that made us fully connected to the internet whenever we needed to.

Everything was fine, until this noon. I was sitting comfortably downstairs in my living room, trying to use my iPhone 4. Wireless signal doesn’t seem to be that strong. It could be the way my house was built, but I decided to put the blame on the iPhone 4 simply because it’s running on a beta version of iOS. Please don’t ask which version. That’s when the thought of extending the wireless signal came into play.

After searching high and low for some official documentation from Apple regarding extending the wireless signal of the new Airport Extreme, I found nothing but pieces of information regarding setting up a WDS for my scenario. After about an hour or so putting those pieces of information together, I finally managed to get the WDS up and running.

Here’s how.

First of all, it is advisable that you reset all your Airport devices to its factory default settings. I swear I would have sat there trying to figure everything in place, but a simple factory defaults reset, and then setting up the device from scratch really helped. In my case, I actually reset my Airport Express back to factory defaults.

Launch Airport Utility and select the base station that will become the main unit. In my case, the main unit is the new Airport Extreme, which is connected to my router and will be sharing it’s internet connection with the other Airport Express unit. Click on Manual Setup. Under the Airport tab, look for the Wireless tab. Click the Wireless Mode drop down box while holding the Option key on your Mac’s keyboard. I don’t use Windows, but I believe the right key for Windows should be the Ctrl key. You will see four options: Create a wireless network, Participate in a WDS network, Join a wireless network and Extend a wireless network. If you see two options only, then try again and make sure you hold the Option (Ctrl for Windows) key while clicking. Select Participate in a WDS network.

A new tab shall appear with the title WDS. Click on it. For WDS mode, choose WDS main. Make sure “Allow wireless clients” is ticked if you want to connect to this base station. I have mine ticked because this main base station is located inside my room and I prefer connecting to this base station whenever my Mac’s in the room. Under WDS Remotes, I entered my Airport Express’ MAC address.

That’s all I did for my Airport Extreme unit. I clicked on Update and the base station restarted itself.

Next, we’ll move on to the Airport Express unit. Under the Wireless tab, click on the Wireless Mode drop down box and choose Participate in a WDS network. I didn’t hold down the Option (Ctrl for Windows) key while clicking, but you may want to do that if you don’t see the right option. A new tab called WDS shall appear. Under WDS Mode, I chose WDS relay. There’s another option for WDS remote, but that is only necessary if I’m setting up a third, fourth or fifth unit to extend the signal from this base station. Make sure “Allow wireless clients” is ticked. In the text field labeled WDS Main, I entered the MAC address of my Airport Extreme base station. Finally, as mentioned earlier, if you have more units to setup, enter their MAC address under WDS Remotes. Update and restart the Airport Express to continue.

With that, I have successfully setup WDS using my Airport Extreme 802.11n paired to my Airport Express 802.11g. Your mileage may vary, as there’s no official documentation to support this. You will need to make sure that all your units are configured to match each others settings. Things to look out for include the SSID (Wireless Network Name), Radio Mode, Radio Channel, Wireless Security as well as the Multicast Rate.

Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section if you need assistance. I’ll try my best to assist. Happy WDS-ing!

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3 Responses to “Marrying Airport Extreme with Airport Express thru WDS”

  1. 1. Jan Says:

    See http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4262 for official docs.

  2. 2. JMidlle Says:

    ..great, best explanation i found on the web so far. Apple should honour you!!!

  3. 3. Adrian Says:

    Hi there!
    This is the exact same scenario I’m faced with, so your article is extremely helpful.
    I have a brand new Airport Extreme, but a really old Airport Express, which I’d like to use to extend the Extreme’s wireless signal.

    My question is… doesn’t a mixture of wireless-n and wireless-g result in the entire wireless network running at “g” speeds? I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere. I don’t want my old Express causing my new Extreme to operate on “g” speeds.

    Would really appreciate your response.

    Many thanks!
    Adrian.

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