The type of system you are considering is called a "roaming" wireless network and it yields the best performance for several reasons:
1) Wireless access points (your AirPort Express devices) can be located exactly where the wireless signal is needed, and not have to rely on a wireless only "extended" type of setup.
2) This type of network, used in virtually all professional and commercial installations, provides the best bandwidth (speed) performance compared to other designs.
More details later, but the main configuration difference here is that you will setup each AirPort Express as a 'bridge" to "create a wireless network" using exactly the same wireless network name, security and password as your main router. Each AirPort Express is connected back to the AirPort Extreme using an ethernet cable.
For a bit more info on this and other types of networks, take a look at Apple's Support Document (link below) and concentrate on the "roaming" network example specifically.
When you are ready, if you need specific step by step instructions, we can provide that information as well. Please post back to let us know.
Thanks so much for this information, Bob. I currently have my settings in Airport Utility configured exactly as is described in the Roaming network section of the Apple Support link you provided. My current configuration is without the Ethernet AX connections, however. (The TCP/IP tab for each AX is set to Use DHCP and the AEBS is connected using PPoE.) It appears, given my current settings, that I'll simply have to pull the Ethernet cable to each Express and I'll be "good to go." On the Wireless tab of each Express, however, do I change the setting that now says "Extend a Wireless Network?" Since each Express will still be extending my network, it would seem logical to me that they'd remain set that way. I'm just not sure if I have to designate the AX Ethernet connectivity anywhere. I have someone coming at the end of this week to pull the cables up from the under the house to each of my Express units. I've been having to re-set my AEBS every time I run my microwave, as the microwave signal severs the connection to the AX. It will truly be a relief to finally have a strong, stable wifi network! I really appreciate your information and help and I will post an update once everything's changed over.
Each of your three Airport Express devices will be configured literally the same way, except that it would make sense to assign a different name to each AX device so you can keep things straight. Do them one at a time when you are ready.
For each AirPort Express (AX) ...
Configure them close to the AirPort Extreme by using a short ethernet cable from one of the LAN <-> ports on the AirPort Extreme to the Airport Express. Once you have each Express configured, you can move them to the desired location. Each Express will be connected to one of the LAN <-> ports on the AirPort Extreme for the final installation.
Open AirPort Utility - click Manual Setup
Click the Base Station tab/label just below the row of icons to check the name of each device, device password and Time Zone settings
Click the Wireless Tab
Wireless Mode = Create a wireless network (as I mentioned in my initial post)
Wireless Network Name = Exact same name as your AirPort Extreme network
No check mark needed next to Allow this network to be extended (this is for wireless extension only, not ethernet)
Radio Mode = 802.11n (802.11b/g compatible) a very good choice
Channel = Automatic
Wireless Security = Exact same setting as your AirPort Extreme network
Wireless Password = Same password as your AirPort Exterme network
Click the Internet icon
Connect Using = Ethernet
Connection Sharing = Off (Bridge Mode)
Update to save settings and let the AX restart. You should see a green light in 25-30 seoonds.
When you have all devices configured, and installed at the final locations, be sure to power cycle the complete network by powering all devices on the network down, order is not important
Wait a moment, then start the modem first and let it run a moment by itself
Then start the AirPort Extreme the same way
Then start each AirPort Express the same way
Start other devices the same way until everything is back up
You should be good to go
I have been running my extended Airport Extreme network with the 3 Expresses each already configured as you've described: each has an individual name, set to Automatic Radio Mode, etc. From what you're saying, it sounds as though I'll be able to leave everything set up in Airport Utility as it already is and that the Ethernet connections will simply be a change in the physical connectivity. I don't see anyplace in the Utility to designate HOW the Express units are connected, only how they relate on the network to the Extreme, and that is all already configured as it should be. Is my assessment correct? Thanks to your information, I forsee simply plugging in the Expresses via Ethernet and restarting the equipment as you've described. Unless I'm missing something, it appears as though my Airport Utility settings will stay as they are. The only other question I have is the following: I'm currently already using one of the Ethernet ports on the back of the Extreme-- for my husband's iMac. I really don't think he gains much in performance over how the iMac would run through wifi, so I could disconnect the iMac. If you think the iMac would do better to stay on the Ethernet connection, should I use a switch/splitter to add an extra connection? Once again, many thanks.
I don't see anyplace in the Utility to designate HOW the Express units are connected, only how they relate on the network to the Extreme,
As I mentioned in the previous post, when you click the Internet icon in AirPort Utility:
Connect Using = Ethernet (This tells each Express to connect to the Extreme using the ethernet connection)
Connection Sharing = Off (Bridge Mode) (This setting allows your AirPort Extreme to function as the "main" router on the network, as it must for the setup to work correctly.
You do not need to configure anything differently on the AirPort Extreme (as long as it is working correctly now) to connect the AirPort Express devices.
The only other question I have is the following: I'm currently already using one of the Ethernet ports on the back of the Extreme-- for my husband's iMac. I really don't think he gains much in performance over how the iMac would run through wifi, so I could disconnect the iMac. If you think the iMac would do better to stay on the Ethernet connection, should I use a switch/splitter to add an extra connection?
Since each AirPort Express must connect using ethernet, you will need to use the 3 LAN <-> ports on the AirPort Extreme for the AirPort Express devices.
I would suggest that you try connecting the iMac using wireless to see if that will work. If the wireless connection is not satisfactory, then you can add a 5 port ethernet switch to one of the LAN ports on the Extreme and then plug all the devices connecting using ethernet....the iMac and the 3 AirPort Express devices...into the remaining 4 ports on the switch. That will leave you with 2 open ports on the AirPort Extreme for any future devices that may need to connect.
When you test out the system, here is a trick to find out which device your computer is actually connecting to at any given time as it "roams" around the house.
When you have AirPort Utility open to configure each AirPort Express, jot down the AirPort ID for each Express. You can do the same for the AirPort Extreme.
As you move around with your laptop, hold down the option key on your Mac keyboard while you click on the fan shaped AirPort icon at the top of the screen. Look for the BSSID. That is the AirPort ID of the device that the laptop is connected to at that time. it should also be the ID of the closest AirPort Express (or AirPort Extreme if the laptop is close to the Extreme at the time).
Let us know how things are working when everything is up and running.
Oops. I missed the "Connect Using Ethernet" instruction; I was focusing on the Connection Sharing option and glossed over Connect. Sorry about that. Once again, you've been great! There are so many things to take into account with the variety of network configurations. You've explained everything so clearly, it all falls into place for me now. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the time you've taken. I will definitely let you know when everything is "seamlessly" up and running!
The tech will be here either tomorrow or Friday to reconnect our Ethernet wires from under the house. I've been reading through your great step-by-step instructions for switching our Airport Expresses over from extending the network wirelessly to creating an Ethernet network in bridge mode. I have one question, however. In wireless extending mode, I have only 3 AX units, each in a different room location--front, center & mid-house. This allows me to get wifi throughout my house, in every room and even in the backyard. In describing the advantages of the Ethernet roaming network, you mention the advantage of having an Express in the very room where the signal is needed. Does this mean that, once connected by ethernet, I will ONLY
have a wifi signal where I have an express? Will the signal be strong enough so that adjacent rooms will still get a strong signal, even though there's no Express in that location? I didn't think that was the case, but now you have me wondering.... My objective is still to have strong, stable wifi throughout my home, including the backyard; but I don't want to have to add an Express to every room in order to accomplish this.
you mention the advantage of having an Express in the very room where the signal is needed. Does this mean that, once connected by ethernet, I will ONLY have a wifi signal where I have an express? Will the signal be strong enough so that adjacent rooms will still get a strong signal, even though there's no Express in that location?
I believe that I mentioned that the advantage of a roaming network was that you could locate each AirPort Express where wireless coverage is needed. This does not mean a specific room, I'm talking about areas. Now, for each area where you need wireless coverage, you'll need to think about the best location for the AirPort Express. Let's say you need coverage in the upper left area of your home and this area has 3-4 rooms. You want to locate the Express where the wireless signal will cover this entire area as uniformly as possible...a central location within the general area.
At the same time, remember that a typical wall in a home will on average, absorb 10-15% of the wireless signal. So, you'll have to do some thinking about that as well to allow the rooms in the area covered by an individual AirPort Express to get a good signal.
Depending on how much coverage you want outside, you may need to skew the location of a given AirPort Express a bit more toward an outside wall of the home...because an outside wall is thicker than an interior wall in a home.
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly; I didn't expect to hear from you until tomorrow. Whew! Glad to hear you were speaking of areas, not specific rooms. I'd thought that was the case, but then started to question.... I've already spent all that painstaking time determining the best locations, in attempting to get my wireless "extended" network to function at peak performance. I've actually been very pleased with the end result: I get a full signal in just about every single spot in my home. It's taken a lot of testing and tweaking, but I finally got there. If it weren't for the fact that running my microwave breaks the connection between the front-room Express and the Extreme base station, requiring me to have to reset either unit to bring the connection back, I would be completely satisfied with things as they are. I therefore anticipate that the same locations should work equally well (or even better) once connected via Ethernet. Let's hope I'm right! Once the Ethernet direct connection is made, microwave or no, the signal between the Express and the Extreme should stay solid. Correct?
I therefore anticipate that the same locations should work equally well (or even better) once connected via Ethernet.
Everything should be fine in this regard, and you should have a stronger wireless signal in each area than you had before.
Once the Ethernet direct connection is made, microwave or no, the signal between the Express and the Extreme should stay solid. Correct?
Interference from a microwave oven, cordless phone or other source can affect any wireless connection, whether it is a "roaming" network or "extended network" design. You will be improving your chances with your new network, but unfortunately with any wireless network, it is just not possible for anyone to predict results in advance.
I have a similar network to yours wired the same way and it works extremely well. Relatives want to visit just so they can use the wireless network.
But...there are some things that you cannot control. If my neighbor is outside in his back yard talking on his cordless phone, and I'm on the patio in our back yard on my laptop, my signal strength drops noticeably and sometimes, I loose the Internet connection. Fortunately, he's aware of this, so we don't have a lot of problems, but the fact remains that his cordless phone can drop my connection to a crawl, and there is not a thing that I can do about it.
Good morning, Bob,
I completely understand that interference is interference is interference. The unusual thing about my situation with the wireless network, however, is that the connection between the Express and the Extreme is completely severed and doesn't come back without a reset of either unit. I realize you can't predict with any kind of definitiveness, but I'm hoping the increased strength and stability of Ethernet will allow the signal to re-connect on its own once the interference is gone. Would you agree that's more likely? Given the fact that my wireless network is great up until that point of interference, going Ethernet again is a lot of hassle to go through if I'm still likely to lose the connection completely every time I run my microwave. If I'm going to still have to reset each time, i might as well just stay wireless. I'd be interested in your opinion.