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Question: Airport Express range extension problem

I have an Airport Express running 802.11n, and today I extended the network using another Airport Express running 802.11n, but there seems to be no effect on signal strength. Airport Utility shows them both working, hooked up in sequence (modem to Airport 1 via ethernet; Airport 1 to Airport 2 wirelessly), broadcasting the same network. I'm running Wireless Diagnostics Performance (on my 2017 MacBook Pro), which displays a real-time graph of RSSI strength, noise, signal quality, and transmit rate, and there is literally no change whatsoever if I unplug or plug in Airport 2 (the extender). This holds true no matter where I move in my apartment, including in the room where I was hoping to boost signal strength.


I have tried:

  • Placing Airport 2 (the extender) in various locations in the apartment, then walking my MacBook Pro around the apartment while watching Wireless Diagnostics graph the signal in real time.
  • Updating the firmware on Airport 2 (Airport 1 is already up to date)
  • Setting mode and channel to automatic for both Airports.
  • Setting both Airports to 5GHZ.
  • Setting both Airports to 2.4GHZ.


None of these made any difference. The presence or absence of Airport 2 simply does not result in any change of signal strength, signal quality, or transmit rate, no matter where it is or my computer is. It's like my computer can see it for the purposes of Airport Utility, but it doesn't boost the signal at all.


For context:

I live in an 800 sq ft apartment. Signal strength has always been spotty in the bedroom, which is about 25 feet from Airport 1 (we have concrete walls and a lot of competing signals from neighboring apartments). I tried placing Airport 2 in various locations between Airport 1 and the bedroom. I have tried minimizing the number of walls (down to none) and total distance (down to about 8 feet, with one wall in between). All of these spots get decent signal strength from Airport 1 - if I put my computer in these spots, I can stream video - so I know the signal is getting from Airport 1 to Airport 2. It just doesn't seem to be passed on by Airport 2.


Thoughts?

MacBook Pro, macOS Sierra (10.12.6)

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Nov 15, 2017 6:52 PM in response to mgrinthal In response to mgrinthal

Locate your Mac close to AirPort Express 1

Hold down the option key on the Mac while you click on the WiFi menu

Look for the BSSID and jot down the last few characters


Move the Mac very close to AirPort Express 2

Restart the Mac

Hold down the option key on the Mac while you click on the WiFi menu

Look for the BSSID and jot down the last few characters


Are the BSSID's different, or the same?


If the BSSID's are the same, AirPort Express 2 is not extending the network at all.

Using AirPort Utility, check the Network Mode for AirPort Express 2.

Is it "Extend a wireless network" or "Join a wireless network"?


Using AirPort Utility again, click on the picture of an AirPort Express so that a smaller window appears with info about the device. Look to see if there is any message next to Status. Do the same for the other AirPort


If there is a message next to Status on either AirPort, report on that message please.

Question marked as Helpful

Nov 15, 2017 6:52 PM in response to mgrinthal In response to mgrinthal

See if the following User Tip can be of help: AirPort - Optimal Base Station Placement


A few comments:

  1. The AirPort Express base station has the least efficient Wi-Fi antennae of the Apple routers.
  2. The combination of concrete walls and competing Wi-Fi networks, will greatly affect the quality of the Wi-Fi signal you will be able to produce with your base stations.
  3. The extending base station can only repeat the Wi-Fi signal at the bandwidth at which it receives it. It can "boost" the signal level, but not the bandwidth.
  4. Have you considered using wired connections between base stations? If running Ethernet is not possible or practical, another option would be to employ powerline adapters.

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Question marked as Helpful

Nov 15, 2017 6:52 PM in response to mgrinthal In response to mgrinthal

Locate your Mac close to AirPort Express 1

Hold down the option key on the Mac while you click on the WiFi menu

Look for the BSSID and jot down the last few characters


Move the Mac very close to AirPort Express 2

Restart the Mac

Hold down the option key on the Mac while you click on the WiFi menu

Look for the BSSID and jot down the last few characters


Are the BSSID's different, or the same?


If the BSSID's are the same, AirPort Express 2 is not extending the network at all.

Using AirPort Utility, check the Network Mode for AirPort Express 2.

Is it "Extend a wireless network" or "Join a wireless network"?


Using AirPort Utility again, click on the picture of an AirPort Express so that a smaller window appears with info about the device. Look to see if there is any message next to Status. Do the same for the other AirPort


If there is a message next to Status on either AirPort, report on that message please.

Nov 15, 2017 6:52 PM

Reply Helpful (1)
Question marked as Helpful

Nov 15, 2017 6:52 PM in response to mgrinthal In response to mgrinthal

See if the following User Tip can be of help: AirPort - Optimal Base Station Placement


A few comments:

  1. The AirPort Express base station has the least efficient Wi-Fi antennae of the Apple routers.
  2. The combination of concrete walls and competing Wi-Fi networks, will greatly affect the quality of the Wi-Fi signal you will be able to produce with your base stations.
  3. The extending base station can only repeat the Wi-Fi signal at the bandwidth at which it receives it. It can "boost" the signal level, but not the bandwidth.
  4. Have you considered using wired connections between base stations? If running Ethernet is not possible or practical, another option would be to employ powerline adapters.

Nov 15, 2017 6:52 PM

Reply Helpful (1)

Nov 14, 2017 4:57 PM in response to Bob Timmons In response to Bob Timmons

Thank you Bob, this was very helpful. I did restart my computer next to Airport 2 and got a different BSSID. So it's good to know that Airport 2 is actually extending the network. And it did appear that once I restarted with the Airport 2 BSSID I got better signal strength in the bedroom (though I haven't yet been able to recheck and make sure this wasn't a fluke).


So now a question I have is: how do I get the computer to automatically roam to the nearest of the two Airports? What if I restart next to Airport 2 and get that BSSID, will I lose signal strength when I go back to the Airport 1 end of the apartment?

Nov 14, 2017 4:57 PM

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Nov 14, 2017 5:01 PM in response to Tesserax In response to Tesserax

Thanks Tesserax. I think I can live with the limited bandwidth, as long as the signal strength isn't so low that my computer is continually dropping it. I'd be happy just to be able to do basic web browsing throughout the apartment, even if I have to go to the living room for "serious" stuff like streaming video. Right now even basic web browsing is intermittent at best in the bedroom.


I looked into power line adaptors, but unfortunately I see that they don't work across breakers, and all the rooms in my apartment are on different circuits.


I understand that the Airport Extreme has a stronger signal strength, but I haven't been able to find information on how much stronger, so I haven't been able to estimate whether that would make much impact on my problem. If you have any experience there, I'd be grateful to hear it.

Nov 14, 2017 5:01 PM

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Nov 15, 2017 8:06 AM in response to mgrinthal In response to mgrinthal

I understand that the Airport Extreme has a stronger signal strength, but I haven't been able to find information on how much stronger, so I haven't been able to estimate whether that would make much impact on my problem. If you have any experience there, I'd be grateful to hear it.

I think the best way to decide is to actually get an AirPort Extreme base station and see how it performs in your network situation. Apple does provide a return policy if it doesn't work out. You may want to check with your local Apple Store on the details.

Nov 15, 2017 8:06 AM

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Nov 15, 2017 10:44 AM in response to mgrinthal In response to mgrinthal

how do I get the computer to automatically roam to the nearest of the two Airports?


Unfortunately, there is really no way to insure that a wireless device will automatically pick up the signal from the closest AirPort when the wireless device changes location. The reason for this is that Apple provides no means to adjust the sensitivity or threshold level of a wireless signal.


My Mac laptop will usually pick up the signal from the closer AirPort automatically when the laptop changes locations, but it might sometimes take a minute or two for this to occur. If I turn off the WiFi on the laptop once it is at the new location for a second or two, then turn the WiFi back on, the laptop will almost always pick up the signal from the closest access point immediately.


If I move an iPhone or iPad, that device will rarely switch access points, even if I move the iPhone or iPad close to the AirPort at the new location. Nature of the beast with iOS devices, I am afraid. If I turn off the WiFi on the iPhone or iPad for a second or two, then turn the WiFi back on once it reaches the new location, it will usually pick up the signal from the closer access point.


Temporarily turning on Airplane Mode on the iOS device, then turning it back off again will basically accomplish the same thing as toggling the WiFi off and on.

Nov 15, 2017 10:44 AM

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Question: Airport Express range extension problem