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what is the difference between join a network and extend a network

41991 Views 20 Replies Latest reply: Jul 29, 2013 1:26 PM by Bob Timmons RSS
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Sam Katz1 Level 2 Level 2 (190 points)
Currently Being Moderated
May 14, 2012 6:57 AM



What is the difference between join a network and extend a network?




also, WDS, roaming, and extension?



  • Tesserax Level 8 Level 8 (47,585 points)

    What is the difference between join a network and extend a network?

    When "joining" the AirPort performs as a wireles client, just like any other wireless client (computer, printer, etc.) that connects to the wireless network for sharing resources. When extending a network, the AirPort performs as a wireless access point (and wireless Ethernet bridge for the Extreme or Time Capsule).


    also, WDS, roaming, and extension?

    All are options to extend the wireless range of an AirPort network. The WDS & Extended options use a wireless connection between routers and the Roaming option requires a wired one.

  • Bob Timmons Level 9 Level 9 (75,670 points)

    When a device "joins" a wireless network, it simply becomes a member of the network and provides no additional wireless coverage. A computer "joins" a network, for example.


    When a device "extends", it provides additional wireless coverage in the area where it is located.


    Suggest that you check out this Apple support document for all the details:


  • Bob Timmons Level 9 Level 9 (75,670 points)

    is there a difference between WDS and extended? I'm guessing not...

    Huge difference. WDS is an older technology that operates only at "g" level wireless, so speeds are automatically reduced from "n" wireless speeds. On top of that, each "relay" or "remote" that is added to the setup will cut the bandwidth of the entire network in half.


    So, with a "main" router and a single "remote" in a WDS setup, you will have a "g" wireless network running at half speed.....even if the routers are newer "n" devices.


    You would always want to use the "extend a wireless network" setup if possible since it will allow "n" speed wireless on the network and also will not impose anywhere near the bandwidth penalty of WDS.


    WDS....for most also a very difficult configuration.  Easy to make a mistake and practically impossible to recover without starting all over again.


    The "best" way to extend any wireless network is connect each remote router back to the main router using a wired Ethernet connection. Commercial networks and better home networks are designed this way.


    Btw, the documentation on the forum is quite extensive and says that in order to extend airport a must be half way away from airport b for best results.


    That is good general advice...but depending on obstrucitions like walls, ceilings, etc in the signal path, the location of the extending device may need to move closer...or further...away from the main router.


    If you are connecting routers using a wired Ethernet connection,  you can locate an "extending" device exactly where more wireless coverage is needed....and avoid the compromises of a "half way" location.

  • Bob Timmons Level 9 Level 9 (75,670 points)

    Use "Extend" if all of your routers are "n" capable devices.


    If any of the routers are limited to "g" performance, then the WDS setup must be used....even if all the other routers are "n" capable.


    "Roaming" is the premier setup in terms of performance for both home or commercial installations.

  • enricof86 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Bob Timmons wrote:


    Use "Extend" if all of your routers are "n" capable devices.


    If any of the routers are limited to "g" performance, then the WDS setup must be used....even if all the other routers are "n" capable.


    "Roaming" is the premier setup in terms of performance for both home or commercial installations.


    What about "extended wireless network" performance? And the extended wireless is fully compatible with g/n devices connected to it?

    I can't use the "roaming" setup but I don't want a slow wifi either.

  • Bob Timmons Level 9 Level 9 (75,670 points)

    What about "extended wireless network" performance?

    There will always be significant compromises when you try to "extend" using wireless only. If you "extend a compatible signal for "g" and "b" wireless devices they will be able to connect to the network. Apple's default mode will allow this.


    Remember that the wireless signal will lose strength and speed the further that it moves away from the main wireless router. So, the "extending" device will always receive a slower signal. It can only "extend" what it receives, so it "extends" a slower signal.


    That is why the extending device should be located no further than about half the distance from the main router and the general area that needs more coverage. It's a compromise.

    The extending device cannot make the signal go faster, so try to keep a line-of-sight relationship between the main router and any extending device as much as possible to minimize the slow down on the network.


    A wireless only approach might work OK for you. It is one of those things that cannot be predicted. You won't know until you try.

  • Jordi Joaquim Recort Level 1 Level 1 (95 points)

    Hello Bob,


    Thank a lot for your explanations, are very useful...


    Anyway I have a question..  is not possible to extend a wifi network having both wifi devices connected via ethernet istead of having to hook the primary wifi device?


    I have a crappy Vodafone Modem-Router with WiFi.

    This WiFi spot is covering the studio, mainly used for visitors and guests.


    The same wired network is on the home part.

    The Vodafone Wifi spot is not fully covering the home side of the building and doesn't have enough clients (limited to 8) so at home there are more devices.. (iphones, ipads, tablets, laptops, media centres, etc...)


    so I have and Airport Express plug to the wired ethernet expecting to have the Airport Express feed from a good wired connection and then deliver strong wifi at the home part..


    but when I try to extend the network, is failing giving a message as the wireless network is not properly configured. It's possible this is happening because the Vodafone Router is not "n"?


    So then my only solution is to have 2 separate networks? or do I have any solution to have a single roaming WiFi Network?


    Thanks in advance!

    and Happy Winter Solstice!



  • enricof86 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hello Jordi, I can help you. I tried to setup a wifi network searching to reach the best performance.

    Using the "extend" option on the airports results in a slow network. High ping and sometimes packet lossing. That's because airports are busy "talking" each other on the same wifi channel, and the result is a mess transmission.


    So, if you have a wired network linking the two APs, you can reach the goal. The only things to do are:

    • link the APs wiredly (otherwise, if a wired network is not available it can be created by some trick like "power line" tools beetwen the two APs)
    • configure only one DHCP on the entire network, usually this is on the router (so disable the DHCP on the other devices and put them in bridge mode - you can find it in utility airport configuration)
    • assign the same SSID to the wifi network and set the same protection to them (ex: same password WPA)
    • and, optionally but really good, manual assign the channel wifi to two different values, better if far from each other (like 3-12, or 5-9, etc.)


    In this configuration your guest devices can connect to the "better" signal available, because scanning the same SSID make the devices suppose it's the same network.

  • Jordi Joaquim Recort Level 1 Level 1 (95 points)

    Hello Enrico!


    Great! Simple smart solution! I love these... it's actually having two separate networks, but since are the same name, this cheats the computer... love it!  practical solutions!


    Happy Winter Solstice!

  • poissonish Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    What I would like to know is, does this maintain the same connection with seemless handoff? I'm transferring a file lets say, and move throughout the house with my device, will it maintain the transfer or does the connection drop and then reconnect?

  • Bob Timmons Level 9 Level 9 (75,670 points)

    There will be a momentary drop and reconnect as you move from one AirPort area to another. Normally, you will not notice this, and usually, this does not cause a problem...but it can. Nothing is perfect.


    If you have a large important file to download, it would be smart to leave your laptop in one place until the file transfer is complete. Then, move your laptop.

  • StevesamRob Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Greetings All;


    I appreciate the info available in this forum, so I'm posing another question. 


    I was recently "encouraged" to upgrade my Xfinity cable modem to one that includes a wireless router.  Was using an old Airport Extreme (the 802.11 b/g variety) directly connected via ethernet cable to my old modem. Now, the new Arris 3 makes that redundant. 


    So, my question is this: 


    Can I extend my Arris3 wireless network using the Airport to serves as either a WDS relay, or remote node, with the Arris 3 as the base station ?


    Thanks in advance for your responses.

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