Airport Express pain

No Airport Express

I succumbed to my latent desire to buy something from Apple; their design draw was simply too powerful. I had convinced myself that I needed a portable wifi hub for my trips. I also figured that I could use it extend the range of my existing wireless net and maybe use it stream music to a stereo.

The Apple Airport Express seemed like just the ticket. It's lovely, of course, and had all the features I was looking for, except, apparently, ease-of-use. I wasted hours of my life that I'll never get back.

I'm sure if I were a Mac user and don't have an existing network, it would have been fine. I'm not. I'm a PC guy with an existing DLink network. Pain, frustration, and agony resulted.

First, you have to install software to configure the damn thing (this must be the only router in the world without browser-based configuration). The software installer sucks. Since I had QuickTime and iTunes installed already, part of the setup fails and gives a cryptic error about failure. Now I don't know if I have enough bits on the machine to make this work. To make things worse, Apple has two products in this line -- the Airport Express and the Airport Extreme, both of which are referred to as base stations in the software but which have different configuration paths. The confusion between the two screwed me up a few times. Fine, I'm dumb.

Next, from my PC (which has to have a wireless card -- you can't bridge through a wired network to an existing wireless router), the Airport would appear and disappear, seemingly randomly. The only indication of status on the device is a single light that can flash and change color (what's next, Morse code?) I tried soft and hard resets several times (which is a real joy -- putting a paper clip into a little hole while I plug the Airport back into the power strip under my desk.) Finally, I put an Ethernet cable into the damn thing and plugged the whole thing into the wall. That seemed to help somehow, although I'm still not sure why.

Then, I can't get the thing to talk to my existing network. No indication from the useless documentation on why this might be. Finally, in the Airport Express support forums, I discover that Apple has chosen a different subnet than Dlink, so I need to reconfigure the Airport to the right IP address range. OK, now it's showing up occasionally after lots of reboots.

Then, I try to figure out how to extend my network. Turns out you need routers that support some standard called WDS, but the implementations of WDS are not standardized (one of the great myths of standards is that the RFCs clearly spell out how to create a compliant implementation). I still haven't figured out if Dlink's implementation is compatible with Apple's nor can I trick the two things into talking to each other. As a result, I failed on this front. No wifi range extension.

Finally, I configured the Airport to be a music receiver. It's got an output to connect to a stereo so you can stream music from iTunes (Michelle has an iPod and lives in iTunes). I set everything up, configured iTunes, and nothing happened. Restart the hub, restart the PC, restart iTunes. Suddenly, a new button shows up in iTunes and everything works perfectly. I'm still not sure what combination of prayer, animal sacrifice, and voodoo made this work, but it did. It's actually pretty cool.

Of course, I've screwed the whole thing up again by taking the Airport on the road with me (where I had to repeat much of this dance to get the thing working in my hotel room so three of us could connect and get our machines ready for the Hack in the Box talk.) I'm not looking forward to setting this up again, but once I do, I don't think I'll take it with me on another trip.

The Linksys adapter looks better to me for travel, plus it has a four port wired router built in too, so security will be easier and configuration might be simpler.

While I love Apple's drive for simplicity, once the wheels came off, there was nothing I could do diagnose the problem. I think it's bad design to assume something this complex will work perfectly 100% of the time. Apple: give your users a chance to fix problems. Luck is not a good customer service strategy.

[Edited to remove some factual errors. NB, I just tried to hook it back up to play music -- failed horribly and torqued my network. I hate this thing.]

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TonE Reply

Apple products are alluring. But whenever I'm about to step up to the plate and buy something I'm always scared about the scenario you talked about - not being able to solve some esoteric problem. Microsoft products have their fair share of problems but I typically can find work arounds from others who have had the same problem. It's a little like buying an old American car versus a new Japanese import. I can fix an old American car. You can get 'under the hood'. I'm looking at inpenetrable electronics in a new Japanese car. The best scenario is hardware that looks like Apple but has Microsoft inside. Maybe someday...

Hillary Reply


Okay, call me a tech-moron if you must, but I cannot for the LIFE of me figure out why this stupid base station will only talk to one of my laptops! One laptop works beautifully with it - a crappy, work-issued HP. But my brand new Dell Inspirion can't connect! I keep getting this message that says "limited or no connectivity", but I have followed all of the freaking troubleshooting suggestions, have reset the damned thing FIFTY times (giggled at the memory of the paper clip in the tiny hole from the power strip...I totally feel you!) and it just WON'T WORK!! To make matters worse, after I have exhausted all of my efforts on the trouble shooting guide, I finally find a customer service nuber on their website (you know, from the WORKING computer) and, after about twenty minutes on hold they tell me that they can only help me if I pay FIFTY BUCKS for some five day extended service plan or something like that! I am about ready to throw this freaking thing in to street and (heaven forbid) plug in my damned phone wire! At least I know it'll work properly! Any suggestions before I kill myself (or the tech guy who finally answered the phone tonight)???

Tony Reply

Sorry, Hillary, I don't have any good ideas right now.

John Reply

I can second almost everything said here. The joys of pushing a paper clip tip into the damn thing, the useless installation software, the setup guide which is totally useless, etc. I have it up and running now, but I cannot get the thing to do WDS. Everytime I try, it hangs, refuses to connect, and I have to go through the whole process again: disconnect it from the powered speakers, reset it with the stupid paper clip thingy, bring it next to the router and use wired connection, and redo the entire installation.
One tip might help the unfortunate others who were stupid as I was to throw the $130+ down the drain for this product. Airport express takes just about forever to fully get itself connected. So, if you reboot it through the administrator software, or just unplug it from the wall, and plug it back again, you HAVE to give it at least 5 minutes to do whatever internal process of adjustment it requires. Hey, it's a brand new wall I am connected to, says this white miserable device, I need a couple of minutes to adjust myself to the new environment.

John Reply

I did not need to set change the subnet for it to work with my DLINK, even though the numbers were a bit different. 192.16.0.X on DLINK, and 10.0.something on the AEP. Cannot figure out how, but it works somehow, and I won't touch it now.
I could not do WDS, but the wireless speakers for WDS do work.

John Reply

OOPS, I meant that the wireless speakers work for iTunes. No WDS here, sorry.

srd Reply

I've been using the airport express since they made it (can't remember when). I think I got it mainly to be able to stream music to my hifi, but ended up replacing my airport extreme, which the express has been replaced for a cisco 1200 ap for wireless. Not had many problems, altho recently (past few months) the drop down list in itunes would not show when loading iTunes, unplug/replug in shows up works fine. I've decided to retire it's wifi abilities now that I'm moving to cisco for my network. I guess now I'm facing the only problem I've ever had. That being, I get 16 ip addresses from my isp which are all static. Now I don't want to use all of them on little devices like airport/switches/phones/etc, so I give it a address, I can still see the express in itunes, but it doesn't wanna connect. I'm guessing it has to do with being on different subnets, who knows!

Thomas Scott Reply

I cant for the world understand you PC guys.

I have had one Apple Airport Extreme base station, 2 D-link and one Airport Express and the AE is the easiest base station I have ever encountered. it is great since it with ease hooked into my existing network and stream music to my stereo and handles my printer just as easy... at the same time. I have a iMac and a Powerbook and it all works just perfectly.

Reacently I helped a friend of mine buy a macbook and install a wireless belkin router in their home along with a PC Laptop. I used the PC to install and configure the router and then restarted the PC and the router according to instruction and the result is that the MacBook is connecting w the router but the PC cant even find the damn thing.

I brought the AE there and tried it with the extra "hassel" to install the software/drivers into the PC and it all went as a charm and since it was my AE they are planning to buy a AE from Apple.

Every time I have to deal w a PC I get into trouble and...

JRL Reply

Hmmm... Dear Thomas, don't go to fast there. I just tried to connect my macbook with a AE, and lost the damn thing in no time. After many times of rebooting, I can see it again, but my macbook will refuse to connect to it. So end of story, no music, no nothing. And there is nothing much to do, as my mac and the AE have no help or fallback options. Crap.

James Morrison Reply

what a load of rubbish!

sophia Reply

We've had a Linksys router and now a D-link router and have had nothing but problems with apple's airport wireless technology.

I believe our first problem was with connecting to our network with an airport card. (my girlfriend is a mac enthusiast and was working getting a mac cube with a dead eithernet port on our network)

Now I'm trying to set up an Airport Express to be a print server and as soon as the setup finished running it went blinking amber on me and has disappeared from wireless.

Grahame Foster Reply

Well, I'm going to have to agree with the majority. I have a Powerbook G4 which used to work with Airport Express. Then one day, Telstra pulled all the codes out of the exchange on my line so I didn't have the internet. Everyone said this was the modem, so back it went under warranty. I borrowed a Netgear DG834 and found it wouldn't work (natch).. After the ADSL codes were reinstated (without any apology) I managed to get the Ethernet cable working and obviously can get to the internet. Neither my service provider nor I can get this @@##$$ Express working. I have reset the thing, made any and all adjustments through system preferences, done everything the people on MacRumours Forum suggest and the thing is still dead. I haven't put any DNS server information in as they say this is optional, but even trying this does nothing.
Does anyone have any ideas on what I should get to connect wirelessly, FEARLESSLY and something that won't strain Grandad's poor brain too much ? I have a Powerbook G4 and a little HP e-pc.

MFB Reply

I had an AE that worked perfectly on big speakers in the living room with mini mac in side room. Took it downstairs into my office, played my itunes wirelessly on old Dell speakers so I had this brilliant idea to get a second Airport Express to play my stuff in my office and my husband's stuff upstairs. Now neither works. Hours and hours wasted. Neither the mini nor the imac nor the powerbook recognize either AE. Been all over the internet looking for solutions. Airport Express is great when it works but otherwise is total rubbish.

TLF Reply

The AE is worse than useless! I gave up on the idea of connecting it to my Linksys or my D-Link wireless networks and ran it as a stand alone network hooked up to my stereo that I could connect to with my Dell laptop, worked fine the first time I used it, after that even though I can connect to it I can not stream music to it or edit its configuration with the stupid utility apple provides as neither the utility not iTunes recognizes that the device is connected, which clearly it is as it handed out an ip to my laptop, I connect with a CAT5 cable and it shows up in the utility again. What a hunk of junk and a complete waste of time, what are Apple thinking producing such a useless product?

jk Reply

I can 75th everything here... Except - My first airport express works perfectly, it is connected to my home wireless network (made up primarily of pc's and a netgear wireless router).. I then had the genius idea of going to get a second one so i could play music outside and inside. Need I say more? Apparently I was lucky enough to get the first one working - oh well im going to try and light the thing on fire and run over it with a semi-trailer and see if that helps - ill let you know.

Mg Reply

I've tried everything to get this useless piece of crap working - once I update, I can no longer see it in the garbage utility program that some shmuck wrote. I'm a programmer and I've done my fair share of configuring everything under the sun. I'm very surprised that Apple released this piece of garbage - it's very bad for their reputation. I'm a PC guy by the way, and I'm not impressed... I bought a MacBook Pro and an iPhone and I'm happy with them - but this thing is thoroughly ridiculously useless.

microsoftofficesupport Reply

Apple products are alluring.

Now I'm trying to set up an Airport Express to be a print server and as soon as the setup finished running it went blinking amber on me and has disappeared from wireless.

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