Can an Apple Airport Express extend any wifi network?
August 1, 2012 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Can an Apple Airport Express extend any wifi network? Or only ones created by Airport Extreme routers?

For some reason I can't find this info online.

Specifically, I've got a TimeWarner Roadrunner Extreme wifi router thing (see my last ask.mefi).

posted by chasing to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Assuming the TimeWarner router that you have supports WDS ("bridge mode"), then it should work, in theory. I haven't heard of any proprietary extensions to WDS on the Express, but I could be wrong about that.

Note that you can buy Apple gear from their store and return it without a restocking fee. So you could test this without much risk, either way.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:07 PM on August 1, 2012

If you open up Airport Utility and click on your Express, under the "wireless" tab, you can switch "network mode" to "extend a wireless network". Have you tried this?
posted by King Bee at 4:07 PM on August 1, 2012

I don't have one, yet. Just considering whether I should pick one up.

But, yeah, maybe I'll just go for it and return the sucker if there's an issue.
posted by chasing at 4:18 PM on August 1, 2012

highly unlikely. WDS isn't really a standard, and everyone who builds routers with those features in it tends to do it slightly (mostly) different. the only times I've seen this done successfully involved routers flashed with DD-WRT (some technical info here), which you're not going to be able to do with your router. that said, if it doesn't work you're not really out any money since there's no restocking fee, and things may have changed since the last time I looked into it.

you can definitely extend, though, an all-AirPort network. so, if you have a couple of Expresses, you could do it that way - one would be the base station (you'd use it instead of the WiFi in your router) and the other would be the remote one. additionally, a lot of cheaper routers do also support this kind of setup, so you could do it with a less-expensive non-Apple setup (though it'll more than likely be way harder to actually set up).
posted by mrg at 4:24 PM on August 1, 2012

I was just going to post what mrg posted - it's not really a standard, everyone implements it differently, and there's lot of gotchas. For example, a few combinations of brands/models won't work with security turned on, most will work with WEP but not WPA, many will work with WPA across the same brand/model, and almost none will do WPA2 security at all.

In my experience, getting anything better than WEP working between brands is rare. You don't want to rely on WEP; it's crackable in less than the time it'll take you to read these answers.

And, remember, if you do get it working : throughput is 50% of the slowest part of the connection (i.e. the worst of you<->repeater or repeater<->modem, ÷ 2)

(fwiw, your last ask.mefi was about live music in Berlin ;-)
posted by Pinback at 4:44 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

No. Quoted from the Airport Express feature sheet:

"AirPort Express can extend the range only of an AirPort Extreme or AirPort Express wireless network."

The extend feature is a proprietary one and can not be used with non-apple networks.

There appear to be a very few possible exceptions, but they depend upon network trickery and very specific models of non-apple wireless routers.
posted by Aquaman at 5:36 PM on August 1, 2012

A great question, but unfortunately the short answer is "no" and the long answer is "almost certainly no".

As mentioned above, the Airport Express extends an Airport-based network using a technology called "WDS" which is (in practice (if not in theory)) a quasi-proprietary thing.

If you enjoy hacking around with this sort of stuff, and happen to have a primary router that is
- Broadcom-based, and
- Supports DD-WRT,
then you can start here.

If, on the other hand, you're a normal, sane person with a normal set of priorities in life and haven't, for example, memorized the vendor of the chipset in your router, then you're probably best off investigating other solutions to the original problem. So – ssuming the original problem is poor wi-fi coverage in your house, you might investigate relocating your main router (line of sight's the key, so a small move can sometimes make a big difference), purchasing either a better antenna for your router (if your router allows) or a more universal non-Apple Range Extender / Repeater, or just doing what I finally decided to do, which is giving up and buying a five-dollar ethernet cable.

Good luck!
posted by churl at 7:13 PM on August 1, 2012

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