9 Replies Latest reply: Feb 6, 2011 10:48 AM by Bob Timmons
Matt Hoffman Level 1 Level 1 (90 points)
I find, both in practice and on reading this forum, that Airport Express does not extend a network by boosting its signal. Instead, I gather, it "extends" the bandwidth. What good does that do if the signal is too weak to make a solid connection in the first place? And what does extending the bandwidth mean?

iMac G5, Mac OS X (10.4.11), also a MacBook running Snow Leopard
  • Bob Timmons Level 10 Level 10 (87,705 points)
    Matt,

    Think of the bandwidth as the overall speed of the network. Any wireless signal begins to lose bandwidth the further it moves away from the main router that is broadcasting the signal or it encounters any obstructions such as walls or ceilings.

    So, you may have 100% bandwidth available near the main router, 70% 20-25 feet away and say, 40% at 40-50 feet. If you place the Airport Express at 50 feet, and set it up to "extend", it extends the 40% signal that it receives further. If the speed has already dropped off at the location of the Express, it can't make the signal go faster.

    So, "extending" can work well in some situations. Most of the problems that we see on the forum are from users who are expecting way too much from the "extend" setup and wireless in general. They think they should get ethernet performance without wires. Can't happen. The Express is usually much too far away, or there are multiple obstructions in the signal path and they complain of slow performance and drop outs.

    The wireless networks that perform well over a large area all have their wireless access points wired back to a main router using ethernet cable. Ethernet preserves the bandwidth on the network. With each access point broadcasting (not extending), you have far greater signal strength and performance.
  • Matt Hoffman Level 1 Level 1 (90 points)
    Thanks, Bob. I think that's clear to me now.

    I do believe, however, that for the layman customer (the majority, I expect), Apple's use of the phrase "extend the range of your network" is misleading. They should say, explicitly, that using an Airport Extpress to "extend" the network will not increase the signal strength where it is fading, although it will help preserve the speed carried by that signal.

    Best wishes, and thanks again for your help.
  • Bob Timmons Level 10 Level 10 (87,705 points)
    You might want to let Apple know.

    AirPort Express Feedback
  • SignHere Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Hi Bob, I recently replaced my Linksys router with an Airport Extreme and went from 9Kbs to 23Kbs (Measured at my iMac), so I'm quite happy. I've had 3 Airport Expresses hooked up to the den and two seperate bedroom stereo systems prior to the replacement with good results for streaming iTunes. I wiped the Expresses when I created the new Extreme network and while setting up the last Express I saw a checkbox with the line "Checking this box to extend your network may degrade performance of the entire network" (Or something to that effect. Regardless I checked it anyway. I don't think I saw this option on the previous two setup procedures. So my question is this, are all of my Expresses 'extending' my network signal into those three rooms or just the one that asked me that question? Do I need to answer the questions differently or go into manual set-up mode? Thanks!
  • Bob Timmons Level 10 Level 10 (87,705 points)
    This sounds like you may have checked the Interference Robustness box, which you should leave alone if at all possible because it does limit performance on the network by some degree.

    Open AirPort Utility and click the Manual Setup Option
    Then click the Wireless tab below the row of icons
    Check that your Wireless Mode is set to Extend a wireless network
    Click the Wireless Network Options button
    Uncheck the box next to Interference Robustness if it is checked
    Update to save settings

    If all 3 of your AirPort Express devices are set to "Extend a wireless network",then they are all providing additional wireless coverage
  • SignHere Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Great! Thanks for your help!
  • Bob Timmons Level 10 Level 10 (87,705 points)
    You are welcome. Go Longhorns!
  • SignHere Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Hook'em!

    I don't see all of the references you make-

    Open AirPort Utility and click the Manual Setup Option (Yes)
    Then click the Wireless tab below the row of icons (Yes)
    Check that your Wireless Mode is set to Extend a wireless network (This was set to Join on two Expresses but I changed to Extend)
    Click the Wireless Network Options button (I don't see this option on the Expresses, but do see it on the Extreme)
    Uncheck the box next to Interference Robustness if it is checked (I don't see this option anywhere on any device {ver. 7.5.2}, but I do see "Use Wide Channels", the ability to set up a 5GHz network and a "Create Closed Network" box. The only one checked was the 'wide channel'. Should I uncheck this box?)
    Update to save settings

    Does checking the 5GHz box here mean it will not run in 2.4GHz mode if selected?

    Thanks in advance!
  • Bob Timmons Level 10 Level 10 (87,705 points)
    Click the Wireless Network Options button (I don't see this option on the Expresses, but do see it on the Extreme)


    Sorry, I run my remote wireless access points with ethernet tied back into the main hub or router and forgot that you had them set to "join" or "extend"

    You'll need to temporarily change the Wireless Mode to "Create a wireless network" and then the Wireless Options button will appear. Make your changes and then change the Wireless Mode back to "Extend" or "Join" according to your needs.

    When the AX "joins" it does not provide any additional wireless coverage in the area where it is located.

    Uncheck the box next to Interference Robustness if it is checked (I don't see this option anywhere on any device {ver. 7.5.2}


    Newer devices sold in the last 6-7 months do not have this setting.

    but I do see "Use Wide Channels"


    You should definitely have a check mark next to this option

    Does checking the 5GHz box here mean it will not run in 2.4GHz mode if selected?


    This can get somewhat complicated. You have a simultaneous dual band AirPort Extreme. That means that it is broadcasting both a 2.4 GHz band or network and also a 5 GHz network....but both bands use the same wireless network name. That's the best setting for most users because the computer or device will automatically choose the band with the best available signal.

    If you have a newer computer and you have a good signal, it will probably connect to the 5 GHz band. An older computer will not be able to connect to this band, so it will connect to the 2.4 GHz band.

    5 GHz signals are not as strong as 2.4 GHz, so if you are outside on the patio, your newer computer will likely connect to the 2.4 GHz band because the signal is stronger at that location.

    It's an open question whether your Airport Express ( which is only a single band device) is extending the 5 GHz band or the 2.4 GHz band. It cannot do both at the same time since it is a single band device.

    Move your laptop near one of the AirPort Express devices and hold down the option key on your Mac while you click on the fan shaped AirPort icon at the top of the screen and you will be able to see which band your computer is connected to at that location.