If you check the settings for the Express devices using AirPort Utility, you will see that both A1084 Express devices are configured to "join" the wireless network. The Express will not provide any additional wireless signal coverage using that setting, but they could be used for AirPlay or to connect a remote printer to the USB port.
Unfortunately, WDS is the only way that you will be able to configure the older A1084 Express devices to extend the wireless network wirelessly.
As you have noted, WDS is of little to no benefit since it drops your AirPort Extreme down to the level of an older "g" wireless router. Worse than that though, is the fact that each extending WDS device cuts the wireless bandwidth in half for the entire network. So, while you gain more wireless coverage with WDS, you drop the overall performance of the network in a huge way.
So, you start with "g" wireless speeds of 54 Mbps, the first Express cuts that to 27 Mbps and the second drops everything down to 14 Mbps. That is equivalent to ancient "b" wireless performance.
Yes, it does work....sort of....but very slowly, especially if you are trying to copy or transfer files over the wireless network. For that reason...and the fact that users generally have great difficulty with WDS settings, I never recommend WDS.
Apple hides the WDS settings in AirPort Utility 5.6....probably for a reason.
Some possible solutions are..... Hard wire the two A1084 Express devices back to the AirPort Extreme and set up each Express to "Create a wireless network". That would allow the Extreme to operate at full performance and each A1084 Express would deliver a full 54 Mbps "g" signal.
If you need to extend wirelessly, the AirPort Express would extend both the 2.4 GHz and 5 Ghz bands, so your network will improve dramatically. It would be even better if the new Express devices could connect using Ethernet as well.
WDS doesn't seem to appear anywhere in either utility any more. Am I missing something?
As I said, Apple hides the WDS settings, likely to discourage users from using them.
Open up AirPort Utility 5.6, click on the AirPort Extreme, click Manual Setup, click the Wireless tab
Hold down the option key on your Mac while you click on the setting for Wireless Mode. Viola!
Will hard wiring the old A1084's work?
Absolutely. Tons better than WDS if you can run the Ethernet cable. Post back if you need step by step for this.
I assume you mean buy new Expresses to get both 2.5 and 5.
A second option would be to buy two of the previous model A1264 which Apple offers for about $69 each, I believe under "re-furbished" products. But, the A1264 is not simultaneous dual band....like your AirPort Extreme. The A1264 is either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.
I would opt for the new Express versions if it were me.
Thanks for all of your help. A few more questions:
Our house is already wired so I am going to try to use the two A1084's. (Need to put connectors on the house cables to do the real install.) In testing the setup (in the same room), I noticed that Automatic Channel selection results in different channels being selected on the Extreme (Channel 6) and the Express (Channel 1). Should I leave this alone or force them to the same channel?
Also, what is your advice on the Multicast Rate option? The Extreme allows High, Medium, and Low. The Express allows 1, 2, 5.5, and 11. It is a big house with thick walls and a little steel, so the signal is fairly weak (in my opinion). The only thing we do that requires any bandwidth is stream a few movies.
Thank you again,
In testing the setup (in the same room), I noticed that Automatic Channel selection results in different channels being selected on the Extreme (Channel 6) and the Express (Channel 1). Should I leave this alone or force them to the same channel?
The Automatic setting is doing its job well. When you connect AirPorts with Ethernet, you want to separate the wireless channels by at least 4-5 settings from each other.
If you want to set the channels manually, just keep this in mind. So, you might have one AirPort on 1, another on 6, and another on 11.
Also, what is your advice on the Multicast Rate option? The Extreme allows High, Medium, and Low
Keep the setting on Low. Use 1 or 2 on the AirPort Express.
Well, thank you again. I have now wired everything up and it all works. You seem very knowledgable on this stuff, so I wanted to ask your opinion on measuring wifi strength. (I have no idea how to start a new topic and direct it to you, so am just adding on to this one.....)
I have tried WiFi Explorer (release 1.5.1) and iStumbler (release 99). Both seem to work, but when running at the same time on my iMac, the results are markedly different. Relative performance is the same so nothing too misleading, but one or both can not be accurate.....imho.
For example, from my Extreme 5GHz, Extreme 2.4GHz, Express 2.4GHz, Express 2.4GHz:
WiFi-Explorer - Signal strength: 91%, 86%, 61%, 16% Noise: all are 1%.
iStumbler - Signal strength: 64%, 60%, 43%, 24% Noise: all are 9%.
(Locations are: Next to the Extreme 5GHz and Extreme 2.4GHz, a room away from the Express 2.4GHz, and a floor and several rooms from Express 2.4GHz - which explains the relative strengths.)
Do you know of a signal strength app for iOS (like Wi-Fi Explorer)? (Or has Apple killed that, as usual......?)
Also, does orientation make any difference for the Expresses?
Thank you, again.
With WiFi Explorer, you can ignore all the % figures and concentrate on SNR or Signal to Noise Ratio, which is a much more useful way to evaluate signal quality.
Just locate the SNR heading and move down to either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band for your AirPort routers to find the SNR measurement for the signal. Then use this handy chart to interpret the SNR readings:
30 Very Good
10 Very Low
5 Not reliable
Do you know of a signal strength app for iOS
I don't use an iPad, but this one might be worth a look:
does orientation make any difference for the Expresses?
Not really, but location is very important. Think of any Wi-Fi access point as a water sprinkler. You want to get as big of an area as wet as possible.