7 Replies Latest reply: Sep 26, 2010 12:06 PM by ralphp21
ralphp21 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
Hi. My Airport wireless network consists of four Airport Express units and three Airport Extreme units. (House has lots of steel and reception is a problem.) My base unit is an Extreme connected to a cable modem in an upstairs bedroom. I understand that Express units can "extend a network" and Extremes can only "join an existing network." What is the effective performance difference in these two settings in terms of creating a larger network with better reception all over the house? In other words, if I use a downstairs Extreme unit to join an existing network, does that effectively extend the network reception in the same way or as well as "extending the network" with an Airport Express downstairs? Would I be better off creating two networks with an Extreme upstairs and an Extreme downstairs and extending each network with Airport Expresses? Thanks so much for any help you guys can provide.
Best regards,
Ralph

iMac 2.15 gHz intel core duo, Mac OS X (10.6.4), 2 gb ram
  • Bob Timmons Level 10 Level 10 (88,695 points)
    +I understand that Express units can "extend a network" and Extremes can only "join an existing network."+

    No, that's not correct. If you have the AirPort Express 802.11n version, it can be configured to either extend or join a wireless network.

    The "extend" setting provides more wireless coverage in the area where the device is located. The "join" setting will only allow the device to "receive" a wireless signal. It will not extend the signal.

    Depending on the versions of your AirPort Extreme(s) and AirPort Express devices, that will determine whether you can use the "extend" setup at all. In order to use the "extend" configuration, everyone of your devices must be of the newer 802.11"n" type. If you have any older "b/g" devices, then you will need to look at an alterative configuration method such as WDS.

    If you setup two networks, one upstairs and another downstairs, any computer that moves from one area to the other will have to "switch" networks. You'll need to manually log the computer on the network in the area.

    You might consider using the same wireless network name, security and password for all of your devices. If you did this, then computers could move from one area to the other and not have to "switch" networks.

    Even better would be a design that has the two AirPort Extremes connected using ethernet. That will help preserve the bandwidth on the network.
  • ralphp21 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Hi Bob. Thanks for your reply. Two of my Extremes are 802.11n and two are Simultaneous Dual-Band II units. The main base unit, connected to the cable modem, is an 802.11n. When I go to the Airport Utility and try to set up one of the Dual-Band units to extend the network, I get a note saying "This network can't be extended." I'm assuming this means the Dual-Band units are 802.11n. This surprises me since I only bought them a few weeks ago. What would happen if I made one of the Dual-Band units the prime base unit? Would the 802.11n units then be able to extend the network? My airport express units have no trouble extending the network as is. Or do I just need to sell the Dual-Band units and get a couple more 802.11n Airport Expresses? Thanks again. Ralph
  • ralphp21 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Bob,
    Also, I just checked my main base station and it's set up to participate in a WDS network instead of creating a wireless network. I can't remember setting it up that way, but there you have it. Is this creating the "Can't extend this network" problem?
    Best regards,
    Ralph
  • Bob Timmons Level 10 Level 10 (88,695 points)
    +Is this creating the "Can't extend this network" problem?+

    Haven't tried to confirm, but this could be the issue.

    Open AirPort Utility - click Manual Setup
    Click the Wireless tab below the icons
    Your "main" router should be set as follows:
    Wireless Mode = Create a wireless network

    Then, make sure you have a check mark next to "Allow this network to be extended"

    Any other "n" router that will be extending this network should be setup as follows:

    AirPort Utility - Manual Setup
    Wireless tab
    Wireless Mode = Extend a wireless network
    Enter the necessary information about your network and click Update
  • ralphp21 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Bob,
    One last question. Which is better, i.e. provides better coverage/reception:
    a. Setting up the network using "create a wireless network" and having the remotes "extend the network," or,
    b. Setting up the network using "participate in a WDS network" and then having the remotes and relays "participate in a WDS network?"
    I'm just curious as to the difference and which might give better and more consistent performance.
    Thanks once again for all your help and info.
    Best regards,
    Ralph
  • Bob Timmons Level 10 Level 10 (88,695 points)
    WDS is an older technology that limits the maximum speeds on the network to wireless "g" levels. In addition, each "remote" device in a WDS cuts the available bandwidth by 50%, so with a "main" and "remote" in a WDS setup, you have in effect, a "g" wireless network operating at half of its capability.

    The "extend a wireless network" setup allows faster "n" speeds with a minimum of bandwidth loss on the network, so it is by far the best choice if your devices will support this type of setup.
  • ralphp21 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Thanks, Bob.