I'm thinking of getting an AirPort Express so that I can stream iTunes music to my stereo and use it as a portable access point when I travel. By all accounts, it does the job for these purposes pretty well.

However, I also like the idea of using it as a wireless bridge to extend the range of my existing wireless network. According to Apple's web site, it does this too:

If you already have a wireless network in your home and would like to extend its range, AirPort Express is your answer. Suppose you want to connect to the Internet with your PowerBook in an area that lies beyond the 150-foot range of your AirPort Express or AirPort Extreme Base Station. You can use AirPort Express as a wireless bridge to extend the range of your primary base station.

Excellent. But there's a footnote that I bothered to read for some reason. It says:

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


You mean to tell me that this won't worth with my existing Linksys hardware? Is that true? Why would Apple do that? Are they really using a proprietary protocol for this?

This strikes me as the sort of detail that really shouldn't be hidden away in a footnote.

Luckily, Amazon.com's user reviews have an answer for me:

For apple users I imagine installation is a breeze... Well, I use XP and I have got this puppy hooked up to a Linksys wrt54g 1.1 router. Installation in this setting wasn't such a nice experience. Since the Apple Express Assistant will only automatically detect Apple wireless networks, you have to install the device initially (using an Ethernet cable from your router) as its own network. Once you have done that you can step back in using the Apple Admin Utility to join your current network (you will need to type the name of the network in manually). It is not a major problem but it took me a couple of hours to figure it out/install. Had the directions been clear would never have been the case. Apple tech support truly blows, but many of the user groups are pretty good, so use these if you have problems.

Why Apple didn't simply acknowledge the fact that there are millions of non-Apple base stations out there (Netgear, Linksys, Cisco, etc) and make that easy is beyond me. Isn't the goal to make the device easy to setup and, as a result, sell as many as possible?

Even so, why couldn't Apple's site have explained that this does work but requires a bit of manual configuration?

Posted by jzawodn at October 13, 2004 08:18 AM

Reader Comments
# Pelle said:

I found this thread informative when I tried to hook up my AE with my Belkin router.

on October 13, 2004 08:49 AM
# B said:

I believe WDS (wireless distribution standard? system?) is somewhat non-standard. I don't know if it's part of any WiFi spec. There's been some discussion in the sveasoft forums about the AE and sveasoft's "alternative" wrt54g firmware and I got the impression that the fact that it does work with the Linksys hardware (with the Sveasoft firmware) is something of a fluke.

on October 13, 2004 08:49 AM
# Tristan said:

I think they're just saving themselves a lot of support issues, and at the same time saving clueless users a lot of frustration.

Since WDS can be hugely painful to get to work between vendors, they're keeping safe by saying it only work with Airport base stations, since between Apple kit, they're 100% sure you can set things up painlessly.

More clued up users (like your good self) do their homework and decide by themselves whether they want to go for a unsupported solution. I'm 100% behind Apple when they passively discourage newbies, it could only hurt their reputation as a company.

on October 13, 2004 09:07 AM
# Michael Conlen said:

Don't delude yourself. Apple isn't trying to make it easy to setup and use. Apple is trying to make it easy to setup and use with Apple's fine line of computing and media products. Apple equipment is for Apple users who have other Apple equipment and Macintosh computers. You go get an Airport basestation like a good Apple user and all will be well.

I first imagined that iTunes for Windows happened as a way of saying "here's what you can have when you come to our way of thinking" but then realized with the introduction of the iTunes Music store that it was simply a necessary step to get that business off the ground, not that it isn't a nice way to get converts, it worked with me.

Outside of iTunes Apple software and Apple hardware are for Macintosh users.

As a professional vi user I like to get under the skin of things I'm working with. Once I drank the kool-aid (Apple flavored kool-aid?) I became truly happy with my computing experience (oh no! he's talking "experience"!) While I get a lot of work done inside Terminal that's because I'm always logged in to some client system for the work I do on my own computer I rarely go under the hood, I'm far too busy just getting things done. My mail, RSS feed reading, website viewing, IM chatting and so forth has never been easier and smoother. I write my documents, fill out spreadsheets with hours and all the other wonderful things I did on those "other" computers just as easily or more so on my Macintosh and I do it without all the associated hassles of those "other" computers. This means it's worth the extra money to get the Apple equipment and live in the Apple world. Go ahead, drink the kool-aid, you'll feel better for it.

The reality for you and I is that we can't live in the Macintosh world, but I've learned to segregate my worlds. Part of this is because I work from home and I need that segregation to keep my sanity but it's otherwise useful. I have different networks and equipment for different things. In one I have only what I need to get the job done or explore new technologies. In the other I have all the things I want to have, and who wants anything more than their precious Macintosh... ...my precious...

If you want to tweak with things go ahead and mix and match. If you want the Apple experience drink the kool-aid and spend the money but either way don't imagine that Apple is trying to make all their products work happily with everything else. That's Microsoft's job and you see how difficult *that* is.

on October 13, 2004 09:40 AM
# Bradley Allen said:

Linksys also provides WDS... but it only works with other Linksys products.

So I have an idea: Instead of railing against just Apple, perhaps we should put Apple *and* Linksys's product managers in a stuffy conference room until they can agree to work together?

on October 13, 2004 10:08 AM
# Anjan said:

I really don't see any problem with manually configuring AE to work with another router because it apparently does work. I use a WRT54g Linksys router and when I was looking for a PCI card to connect my desktop PC, I tried Belkin and Netgear first because they were cheaper. Now you would say that these three are "standardized", right?

Belkin did not work at all. I worked for five days with their support including an engineer that could not figure out what was wrong. So back to the store and I got Netgear. Three days with their tech support and the only way it worked was with WEP turned off! And the support person actually tried suggesting to operate it like that! So another return, this time getting the highest priced Linksys PCI card. Guess what? Plunk it in, enter the WEP info and presto! Now, how does the standardized thing work again? :)

on October 13, 2004 10:30 AM
# Dougal Campbell said:

I'm wondering if something similar might hold true in my situation. I'm looking for a repeater to extend the range of our D-Link DI-524 wireless router. The DWL-G800AP looks like what I want, except that the footnotes on the product page indicate that it will only repeat for a DI-624 router.

I'm wondering if it will work with our 524, but they just don't support it?

on October 13, 2004 10:35 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

So no vendors' prodcuts cooperate here?

What a freaking nightmare. :-(

on October 13, 2004 11:06 AM
# nate said:

"WDS is not a standardized part of the 802.11g spec" from Ars Technica, who seem to understand that wireless bridges are at this point largely proprietary. I purchased a Belkin router, and if I want an extender, I need to return to Belkin. If I introduce a Linksys extender into my network, it will not work. Why should Apple take so much vitriol on something that is an industry-wide headache?!

on October 13, 2004 11:15 AM
# Scott Ellsworth said:

The distinction the marketing droids were making was between Airport and Airport Extreme, not Apple hardware and other hardware. At the least, according to the few people I know at Apple who might have an informed opinion. Third party hardware was tested at interoperability meetings, and to the documented standards, but those cover mostly clients joining a network, not bridging two networks.

As far as "why did they not make it easy to add other manufacturer's gear", I suspect it is priorities. If Apple gear does not interoperate with other Apple gear, they are screwed. If other maker's laptops cannot join an Apple network, they are shafted. If it is tough to get two different vendor's base stations to talk, well, that is pretty much true across the board for almost any pair of vendors. This is not really going to lose them a lot of sales, given that this is the state of the industry. (I have done this for pay - you save a lot of time by sticking with a single vendor's gear, and that bites.)

I think Michael is off base about having to segregate your world into Mac and "other". Third party gear seems pretty welcome, though not with quite as many pretty wizards as single vendor gear. I used SMC network gear for quite a while before I went to Apple stuff for 802.11g, and still have mostly third party equipment around the house. I interoperate with Windows and Linux all the time, and I do find myself happy in a fairly unsegregated world. It did take a bit of setup, but I kind of expected to need to know some linux and windows to interoperate with them.

And yes, it does really, really suck that different vendor's gear is so hard to get talking. I lose more hours to that than I care to.


on October 13, 2004 12:20 PM
# Don Bachner said:

Hmm, in the review of the Airport Express by ArcTecnica it appears that you can do WDS with another manufacturer:


From the Ars Review:
"Sure, Apple says the Express will only do bridging with AirPort Base Stations. That's because WDS is not a standardized part of the 802.11g spec. However, being the inquisitive types that we are here at Ars, we knew we had to see for ourselves. Was the limitation a case of Apple stubbornness, technical limitations, or some proprietary technology used by Apple to enable bridging between two Apple wireless products?

We can report that it will work with the Linksys WRT54G 802.11g router. The procedure for getting it working involves using the open source firmware and is fairly straightforward. But it's not for the faint of heart: keep in mind that if you do update using the open source firmware, you will find your router outside the tender embrace of Linksys customer support.

First off, you may need to update the firmware in your WRT54G. You can find version 4.0 here. After that you'll need to provide the MAC address for the Express, turn lazy WDS and the WDS subnet off. Then set the channel to one, turn off loopback and the firewall, and set "ignore anonymous requests" to off. Then use the Airport Admin Utility to configure your Express. Set it to join the existing Linksys network. Add the Express' MAC address to the network and change the network name and password on the Express to match the Linksys. If you're using a 128-bit hex passphrase, be sure to preface it with a $.

After following the above procedure we were all set."

on October 13, 2004 12:28 PM
# Kmark said:

Basically, from talking to some Apple store staff, Apple did not test their Apple Express with other mfrs base stations or access points. Therefore, they cannot guarantee that it works. By the way, none of the other mfrs test their stuff with other mfrs either - they just test it with PCs, and some with Macs.

I use SMC 802.11b/g network gear with my beige Mac, Powerbook, and Dell laptop and it all works fine. I even used a super-cheap Firewire card and USB card that had no mention of Mac support in the beige Mac and its worked great for three years. And it took more effort to configure the Dell for Wifi than it did the Macs for all the other stuff.

on October 13, 2004 12:53 PM
# Al said:

I think Apple needs another footnote:

"Grossly overpriced compared to similar products."

Their "incompatibility" is probably simply a lock-in strategy.

on October 13, 2004 01:38 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Al: What similar products?

on October 13, 2004 02:09 PM
# Pedro Melo said:


I also bought a airport express.

See this site http://www.nilobject.com/apx/

It tracks all the known base stations that work with Airport Express.

I think WDS is part of the spec, but I'm no expert, so I better stop here.

Loving it byw, the music stream rockz, and streaming internet radio is very nice :)

on October 13, 2004 02:21 PM
# Al said:

The iPod.

on October 13, 2004 02:33 PM
# Joe Mullins said:

I have my Express doing WDS with 2 linksys 54gs that have the sveasoft firmware. As others have said, WDS is not standard, and different vendors implement it in different ways. Of all vendors I've set this up on, Apple is the least painful. Just going linksys to linksys is not easy by any means.

Even if Apple did decide to make the Airports set up linksys routers, what if there were some wacky settings in the linksys, or other firmware revisions that weren't expected, and as a result it breaks the setup. Who's answering those tech calls? And are you going to support another vendor's hardware when something breaks?

Bottom line here is that until WDS is standardized, it's going to be a pain in the ass.

on October 13, 2004 03:59 PM
# Alan Little said:

I hanve't had this specific problem, but I'd just like to put in a word in favour of Netgear here.

I use Macs with Apple Airport cards on a Netgear wireless network. I have had some problems, and have found Apple's support for interoperation with non-Apple products ueless, and Netgear's support for interaction with Apple products excellent. I hav yet to have a problem for which a search on netgear.com didn't give me the right answer on the first page.

This is not hard to explain: Apple want to, and assume that they do, own the whole environment. This is partly a sell-more-stuff ploy, partly support cost reduction, partly about ability to guarantee Quality of Service. Netgear know they're a minority player and have to make nice, and also know that Apple was early in the WiFi market so Apple users once were (maybe even still are) a disproportionately large part of their user base.

on October 14, 2004 02:05 AM
# Tom said:

Anybody have any luck using the AE to extend the range of a SMC 802.11g router? I really like the little unit and I THOUGHT I had figured it out, but it hasn't improved the network range at all.

Do I have to register the AE's Mac address? If so, where do I find it?

on October 14, 2004 02:59 PM
# David said:

I've just spent about 45 minutes on the phone to Apple tech support trying to get Airport Express working with my Linksys WAG54G. I found I had to do the following:
1) Set Airport Express up as its own network using the Assistant
2) Use Airport Admin Utility to reconfigure it
3) Select "Join an existing wireless network"
4) Prefix my network key with the $ sign (why?! This was the only useful thing the Apple support people came up with at any point)
5) Set up a manual IP address as it can't get one through DHCP... gaaaah. Of course, until I found this out, I kept having to reset the damn Express after each attempt and start again, because if it can't get an IP address and it's trying to connect to an existing network, you lose all contact with it.

But it's working now. Just not quite as simple as I'd hoped.

on November 11, 2004 02:29 AM
# David French said:

Just as a postscript to this, I found I was getting huge amounts of network interference, very noticeable when streaming from iTunes, which comes from 2 sources: (1) the piezo-electric ignition on my gas boiler, and (2) I suspect, from the large microwave repeater station about 1/2 mile away.

After much messing around I've found that I get best performance if I set my entire network to use 802.11g only, and not 802.11b. There are still some oddities, but it works most of the time.


on January 4, 2005 04:18 AM
# slallen said:

The airport Express will work with the Linksys WRT54G v2.2 router without having to upgrade the firmware.

In fact this router has WDS enabled by default. There is a document in the Linksys knowledge base about it.

Link Here

on February 8, 2005 09:52 AM
# Matt Simpson said:

So, I bought the vonage / linksys router combo and loved it until I bought an airport Express. If I would have found this site earlier - I would have bought an Apple Base Station and had the Vonage adapter seperately. Very frustrating... Has the above setup worked for anyone? I have not tried it - but I sure have tried everything else. Apple / Linksys should get it together and make this easier for us all. Does anyone know of any new updates to this problem? - Man in Pain

on April 15, 2005 11:43 AM
# Steven Buss said:

I wrote my own tutorial a while back because I couldn't find one tutorial that got everything right (as in I would follow the steps on one, have it not work and then compare it with another and keep messing around until it all worked). You can check it out here: http://unfound.org/airport_linksys.html

on July 1, 2005 03:01 PM
# Rich said:

Hey folks,

Had no idea about the Airport Express compatibility problems.
I have a wireless network which uses a Netgear WPN834 Rangemax. My Powerbook works absolutley fine. Have tried to configure the AE to extend the range of my network etc etc.. and it doesn't appear to be capable. Sure it "joins" my network, but makes no difference to the range. It allows the iTunes streaming to a stereo, but drops out regularly during playback.

Does anyone know what to do? Am at a loss.

on July 8, 2005 09:40 AM
# KWW said:

And now the WRT54G has WDS support built-in so you don't need to hack the firmware. The support isn't advertised and you won't find it on the config pages. I followed the instructions at this guy's page, and my original forimware WRT54G now uses my AirPort express as a repeater!!


on October 20, 2005 07:25 PM
# John Donald said:

Thanks for this blog! I had just put my APExpress back in the box in frustration when I came across this. Used the Admin Utility to make the express join my Netgear network, and now the light is green! so gratifying to see that.

on December 4, 2005 01:48 PM
# pete said:

Hey Jeremy

I am hoping you might be able to help me. I purchased a vonage box and it works fine with my ibook. Unfortunately I had to unhook my airport express and now do not have wireless. Do I need to buy a router or is there another solution ?

Thanks a lot !

on December 8, 2005 09:31 AM
# AnotherPete said:

Hi all, I have a nice sparkly new G5 iMac, and an AE base station, fresh out of it's wrapper, and am looking at getting ADSL. The ISP I prefer is pushing a Linksys WAG54G with it's plan, but I want to be able to surf and send music to the AE simultaneously (eg. stream webcasts to the stereo).

From what I read here it's possible to get a WRT54G going; does that go for a WAG54G too?

on December 21, 2005 11:33 PM
# nick said:

when i hooked up my airport express and configured it with the airport express assistant it instantly latched onto my linksys network, however when i try to set up the airport express on its own without attaching it to another router my computer says it can not find the airport express, any idea why?

on December 26, 2005 10:37 PM
# Mark Dean said:

Hi I have a new Belkin F5D76334 and would like to extend the range of the network by using an AE. Is it possible?

on December 27, 2005 10:14 AM
# Mr Blifil said:

Airport Express is an embarrassment to Apple. DO NOT get one if you live in a dense urban environment, like New York. Cannot get the connection to stay solid. Once all my "neighbors" come home at 5:30 and launch their laptops, cel phones, and microwaves, internet connection is totally hit or miss. In a word the Airport Express sucks, and it took me a year to come to that conclusion. They shouldn't be sold in city environments, period.

Did all the firmware checks, troubleshooting, research, visited Apple Store, etc. Nobody has a remedy and I have paid $150 for a paperweight with rounded corners. Come to think of it, I think it may have a future as a hockey puck.

You have been warned. Apple, you need to get it together on this point, because as it is, Airport is a travesty, as far as this user is concerned.

on April 12, 2006 04:54 PM
# jonathan catuccio said:

Saved the links in this thread for future setup, luckily I don't live in a dense urban environment.

Anyone tried the Express as an extender with the Thibor firmwares for Linksys WRT54GS routers?

I'll report back my results soon.

Thanks Jeremy.


on July 16, 2006 01:15 PM
# Jeff said:

FWIW, I purchased an AirPort Express to extend the range of my Netgear base station, back in 2004, and it just worked. No crazy hacks, no weird settings; I just plugged it in, used Mac OS X’s AirPort Setup Assistant to Set up a new AirPort Base Station, and told it to connect to the existing network. Never had a problem.

Ironically, I’ve recently swapped out the old Netgear for an AirPort Extreme POE (I need to share multiple printers) and one of my AirPort Expresses now has intense problems with the “Join an existing wireless network” setting. While my living room Express joins the network just fine, the upstairs one needs to be set it up as a wireless access point, then set to bridge the existing connection. Go figure.

on August 6, 2006 07:28 AM
# Eric said:

Mr Blifil said that "Airport Express is an embarrassment to Apple. DO NOT get one if you live in a dense urban environment, like New York. Cannot get the connection to stay solid. Once all my "neighbors" come home at 5:30 and launch their laptops, cel phones, and microwaves, internet connection is totally hit or miss. In a word the Airport Express sucks, and it took me a year to come to that conclusion. They shouldn't be sold in city environments, period."

Get a grip - that's an industry-standard problem, not limited to Apple products. Any wireless router that doesn't have a ridiculously powerful antenna is going to crap out as soon as a hundred or so people start using devices which interfere with the 2.4ghz band.

on August 7, 2006 11:19 AM
# Mitch said:

Thanks for this post! I just spent some time at the Apple Genius Bar trying to figure out how to add a previously working Airport Express (AE) to an existing Netgear wireless network in which I added a Netgear range extender. After the addition of the extender the Airport Express no longer was "seen" in the wireless network.

The Genius Bar told me I needed to reset the AE to the factory settings (helpful).... which I did. Still to no success.

Your posting let me know that I had to connect the AE to the Netgear router via an ethernet cable. Voila. The rest was easy.

on August 16, 2006 11:39 AM
# John said:

I have found the Buffalo WLI2-PCI-G54S model PCI card is compatible with Macs as an Airport Express card, at least currently. Manufacturers tend to change chipsets regularly, so this might not always be the case, but my G4 AGP Graphics machine sees it as an Airport Express, and it links up with my wireless router just fine. Hope that helps someone with an older mac that can't find the original Airport card, or that simply wants a less expensive alternative to putting an Airport or Airport express in their tower machine!

on November 9, 2006 09:43 AM
# Matt said:

Well I got this to work with my new router (wouldn't work with old router). However, I couldn't get this to work without activating the WEP security. Does anyone know if theres a way to get it to work without having the WEP active?

on January 15, 2007 10:07 PM
# said:

Airport express kinda SUCKS! I've been trying to configure an OS 10 laptop and Dell Vista desktop with 2 express boxes. Everything worked great for a while and now the Vista Itunes cannot see the remote speakers any longer but OS 10 still works great. ARGH! I've read about all the wasted hours people have spent trying to get this BS to work and now I am on of the masses ARGH! Apple you are good and BAD.

on March 8, 2007 12:04 AM
# cuvtixo said:

The airport express works fine with various Buffalo products and even an SMC router I've had. (I'm also using a Asus usb wireless-g on a G3 iBook with a driver. Apparently Apple has asked 3rd party usb wireless vendors not to support OSX.)
Fortunately, and unfortunately, good router software is all that's needed. Some 3rd party vendors have decent software. If you are tech oriented, Check out OpenWRT and WRT-DD. Apple makes their software hard to use with non-Airport hardware, but the underlying hardware is good, and not too hard to get working.

on June 26, 2007 12:03 PM
# Steve Amerson said:

Will Airport Express work with an Airport base station, NOT Airport Extreme????? I can't seem to figure out how to configure it IF it will work with an Airport.



on August 22, 2007 04:10 PM
# Wods said:

cuvtixo said:
I'm also using a Asus usb wireless-g on a G3 iBook with a driver.

How did you get it to work, did you use another driver then the one shipped with the thing? If you did wich one did you use? (I use the same thing and also on my iBook G3, but no connection for me so far.)

I have no trouble with my new iMac wich has a built in Airport card.

on December 18, 2007 08:22 AM
# said:

Type your comment here.

After you submit the comment, check your email. There will be
a link you need to click to make your comment visible.

Your email address WILL NOT appear on the site, so don't worry
about being anonymous, even if you think you are.

on December 17, 2009 07:23 AM
# Christophe said:

Hello I just bought an AE hopeing to listen the music on my stereo... unfortunately my base ADSL/Wifi is a Linsys WAG 54G ver.2. Does one of you have a step by step tutorial to make it link to my base network...
Thanks for the help...

on December 29, 2009 01:24 PM
# said:

Thanks so much! A godsend! After scratching my head for a couple of hours and seeing my dream slipping away of using my new iPhone as the remote control for streaming music from iTunes to the house stereo, I found this post and it worked to perfection. I just ran a ethernet cable from the Linksys router to the AirPort and basically followed along with the configuration then plugged the Airport out by the stereo and kept my fingers crossed while it booted up and I saw that lovely green light come on and the tunes were flowing! Thank you!

on June 10, 2010 08:48 PM
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