Airport Extreme – Can you get this thing working? Because I can’t…

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So this weekend, I decided to take the plunge into the world of 802.11n. My current wi-fi router has been acting up, so I decided it was time to get a new one – and I might as well go all Apple – so I got an Airport Extreme.

And it didn’t work.

That’s right, I got it home from Best Buy late Saturday evening, hooked it up, and it connected to the net, and noticed that their was a firmware update – so it downloaded it – and it never connected to the net again. I spent hours looking up support topics on my iPhone (because my desktop and laptop were not able to get on the Internet). I finally had to give up, and wait until the next day to call Apple.

So on Sunday morning I call Apple and spend about 2 hours on the phone with them (most of it holding). The people were very nice and helpful, but ultimately they couldn’t figure out a way to get the thing working, and I even heard one of the tech guys mumble “I wonder if we just got a bad batch of Airports out there?” Apparently I’m not the only one having problems.

SO – I took that one back to Best Buy and exchanged it for another Airport Extreme. I came home, installed it (skipping the firmware update this time), and everything worked swimmingly. For a while. Late in the day I decided to update the firmware (thinking that the other Airport was probably just a dud). Well, after I updated the firmware this time the Airport still worked, but since then it has been dropping out.

It’ll work for a few hours or a few minutess, then the network will suddenly be gone with no warning. The Airport will still have a solid green light indicating that its working fine – but the entire network is gone – not just the Internet, and I’ll have to unplug it and plug it back in before it will work. This has happened 5 times in the last 24 hours. It’s completely unacceptable.

Any ideas on what might be the problem? Does anyone know how to go back to the old firmware?

I’m getting close to just taking it back, saying “to hell” with the Airport Extreme, and getting a Linksys. thoughts?

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Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

39 thoughts on “Airport Extreme – Can you get this thing working? Because I can’t…

  1. Hi!

    Beside the fact that I love Macs, exactly the same thing happened to me. I spent hours to solve the problem, but there wasn’t a clue somehow. I took it back and gave up and since then I don’t recommend this thingy to anyone.
    My friend also had issues with Airport Express. He had 8mbit/s on a wired connection, while on Express it went down to 3mbit/s. And the machine was only 1 feet away from the Macbook….

    Don’t watse your time.

    BTW excellent website, congratulations!

  2. I have had several airports over the years and never had a problem. I suggest that if it was a bad batch many of those that Best Buy got in that shipment were bad as well. So return it back to best buy and order direct from Apple or go to another retailer that carries them. This way you’ll great it from a different lot production and it should work ok.

    Again I’ve not had a problem with airports they work awesome in my opinion and I’m sorry that you are having such a hard time.

  3. I bought my AEBSn after it was out a couple of months (no GigE). I’ve had no problems using it with various settings. It’s updated to the current firmware. It’s connected to my FW800 1.42 GHz dualie over Ethernet and wirelessly to my G4 MacMini, a G3 B&W and my MacBook Pro 2.33. I have an Airport Drive of 400GB in size. Everything seems to work fine. All machines are running Tiger.

    Sometimes I run the AEBSn at “n” speeds and sometimes “g” speeds depending on what machines I need to connect. I also have an OWC Edimax USB 2.0 “n” adapter on my MacMini and that works fine too.

    The AEBSn is in my basement and I spend most of my time wirelessly connected on the ground and top floors of the house. I get a strong signal and no dropouts. The AEBSn runs 24/7 and I honestly can’t complain about it’s performance. I do a lot of wireless streaming of movies from my basement FW800 computer. All movies stream smoothly when played back using MPlayer X.

    All is well with my older AEBSn, so it must be the newer versions that are having problems.

  4. The Apple Discussion boards are full of this exact problem (AEBS drop out, reboots, etc.) Nobody can tell if it’s firmware upgrade related, Leopard related, or what. If it’s a bad batch of AEBS, then it’s a big bad batch, for sure.

    Hoping for a fix in 10.5.1 or new AEBS firmware or both. I’m back to using my Linksys WRT54G for now, but I can’t get Back to My Mac working on it, hence the AEBS “upgrade.”


  5. Mine went down frequently as well. Apple Tech Support suspected interference, maybe from a wireless phone. They suggested changing the frequency channel for Airport. I did this and it seems to have solved the outage.

    To change the channel go to the “Wireless” settings in the Airport Utility. Under Channel you will see there are 11 settings, plus automatic. Pick a channel other than automatic and it should make a difference. You may have to experiment until you get a channel that works.

  6. I’ve run a linksys since I went wireless and had a few problems with network dropping until I changed the channel because a neighbor was on the same one. Haven’t had a problem since then. Of course, linksys doesn’t offer support for Apple so you are on your own, but I love my linksys router….

  7. Hi,

    Sad, your experience with the AE.
    Maybe other electronic devises in the neigbourhood.
    Or try an other channel. With istumbler or macwireless widget you can see the channel from other routers.
    If you want another good router, try draytek.

    Good luck!

  8. I had the exact same problem *after* updating my firmware. I reverted to the previous firmware and have had no problems. I’d recommend going back, ’cause whatever the problem was (I have cable service through Comcast; perhaps it’s a problem talking to their network), it never reappeared with the older firmware.

    You can install the older firmware via the Airport Utility.

  9. Speaking as a happy APE (with gigabit router) user, I can say there’s no need to get rid of it.

    Just downgrade the firmware using the instructions here:

    The APE will flash an error light (the yellow one) once it knows there’s a newer firmware. You can turn that off by going into AirPort Utility, choosing Manual Configuration, and telling it to ignore the updated firmware.

  10. Hi,

    You don’t give much detail about your connection type.

    I have the original AEBSn at home and had problems with PPPoE after upgrading from firmware version 7.0. There were several firmware updates since, but none of them fixed the problem. I still use 7.0 for that reason.

    I have access to several AEBSn at different locations. None has any problems but none uses PPoE either. I tried with a different unit – same problem.

    You can download older firmware versions by holding the option key and selecting Check for Updates… from the AirPort Utility menu. You can re-use it later: it is stored in ~/Library/Application Support/Apple/AirPort/Firmware.

  11. After installing the AE with Comcast I found the Comcast address was not populated. Instead there was an Apple address. Once I deleted the Apple address using the Airport Utility and added Comcast’s, everyone has worked perfectly.

  12. I have at least 1 of every Airport base station created, even the grey ones from like 6 years ago. I have been very lucky and not had any die out or have any real problems (well the cat ate one of the power cords on one..) but I will give a bit of advice about WiFi in general.
    Channels are so very important… having 2-3 other conflicting signals around will be a problem for many wireless hubs, airports included. I had a customer that lived in an apartment complex with a radio station antenna above his building… we had to try each channel till we found one that worked.

    There are things that will mess with WiFi stations though that normally shouldn’t. For example my home office is on the opposite wall of my kitchen, when I mounted one of our base stations on the kitchen wall… we had a weird problem. Every time we would fire up the microwave… that base station would get whacked out… knocking every other computer off the network. Moving the Airport station to a different wall stopped that, but that put it near some older Florecent(misspelled) lights. Our airport signal went to crap on that wall… about 1/2 the normal range. (switching out with newer ballasts fixed that problem).
    I’m not saying that apple isn’t at fault for some bad base stations or funky firmware, but check some of the other issues that could be there too… OH.. and don’t forget about baby monitors… they are very very sloppy with signal overlap and conflict.

  13. One thing that I have learned over the years when dealing with Airport networking is that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I am still running a graphite basestation with it’s original firmware and everything is working fine.

  14. Install iStumbler on your Mac. Check to see what other channels are being used in your area. Let it run for 5 mins to be sure it has a chance to find everything. Chances are your getting interference from another AP or Wireless Phone which is causing the drop outs. Primary reason for intermittent behavior. In the Airport utility, change the channel. You can also experiment by turning on the Interface Robustness (under wireless options”.

    If you have a wireless phone, goto the phone and have it “scan” for a new channel. That also helps quite a bit.

    If your notebook has 802.11n, under Radio mode specify to use 802.11n under 5Ghz mode. That could also help. For my purposes I used 2.4ghz 802.11 b/g/n compatible mode

    In my neighborhood there are many people with overlapping channels. I made sure I picked a channel that was not next to the common ones. Most people just plug in their AP and leave the default channel, causing a lot of problems in neighborhoods.

  15. FYI. I have had both the Linksys WRT 54g v.1 and the APE. Although the linksys has a lot more features using DDWRT firmware, I do like the simplicity of the APE. I am using the latest firmware with pretty much no issues.

  16. Same problem here, but I chose not to spend the time with support people, and just returned it and got a Netgear to replace it … plugged it in, worked fine, 10 minutes and I was set.

  17. Someone suggested I buy a UPS (battery backup power supply) for sensitive electronics such as AEBS. I suffered through drop outs from time to time and understand the frustration.

    I bought the UPS and experimented with channels and now it’s rare that I suffer a drop out. I’m running the latest AEBS with the latest firmware in Leopard, no problems. Ran it in Tiger with no problems as well.

    I also discovered something else. When you do suffer a drop out or two, the common advice is to unplug power to the unit for 30 seconds and then plug it back in. If this step fails or performance is still erratic or slow, run Onyx and clear all my caches. Then I push the reset button on the back of the AEBS. In fact, I do it a few times and allow the thing to reset. Then I enter all the settings again manually.

    This last step has become rare, but I have had great success with it when the AEBS is having issues. The UPS may or may not help, but it’s just one more thing you can check off as a potential source of trouble.

  18. This will definitely fix your problem.

    First. Reset the AE to Factory settings. Hold the reset button in until you
    plug it in. Wait for the AE to Set up.(Light should be blinking Yellow)

    Second. Manually setup the AE. Do not choose a close network at this time.

    Third. Never us the firmware version 7.2.1, the current one on the AE is 7.2.

    Forth. After the AE is up and running(solid green light) you can go back in and manually set the network as a closed network. But remember do not upgrade to 7.2.1 not how many times you are asked to do so.

    This is what I did and my AE has been solid for months, not a single drop of the network.

  19. Same problem here… I also spent some time on the forums only to find that several others are having the exact same problem. It’s quite frustrating. It’s ruining my online life. I’m going back to linksys.

  20. downgrade your firmware:
    1. start airport config. application
    2. choose manual setup see ‘version” 7.2.1 on the list; you can click on the “version” (it will change in an arrow)
    4. choose 7.1.1, it will download autom. the old fimware and installed and reboot by itself.
    5. tip; when you add an usb HD(s), first connect it to the mac and use disk utility app. to check and restore before you connect it to AE
    goodluck !

  21. I have an older airport express and I also have just upgraded to leopard. About 2 weeks later I started having problems getting onto the internet and also printing wireless(from airport). I let it go for a week or two, but then I noticed that my girlfriends pc could do these things fine. After a while I noticed spotlight was missing from the upper right hand corner of my screen. Then I couldnt used the stickies in my dashboard for more than 2 seconds before my dashboard froze. Finally I reinstalled leopard and all of the problems disappeared instantly.
    Keep an eye on your system if it starts acting funny in other ways besides connecting to your airport maybe reinstalling leopard will work.

  22. My Airport has been working great since I bought it, but I was having issues myself this weekend, my brothers MacBook Pro would keep failing or timeout trying to connect to the network, but my PS3 and iMac were connecting fine, so I started messing with the settings on my Airport and after a few reboots some problems started showing, when I disabled the security on the network, it wouldn’t even show up for any of the computers. So I re-enabled it and everything worked fine even for my brothers MacBook Pro. After a day, same problem, so I messed with it more, then finally was able to get us all connected but the Airport was reporting it couldn’t get itself a valid IP to connect to the internet with, so after reading about it on the discussion boards someone mentioned DNS servers, I had added some on the Airport itself. I removed them, and removed all off my Mac’s in Network settings and everything has worked since.

    Not saying it might fix your issue, but try different security methods, ie. WEP or WPA, and/or remove any DNS servers you may have added.

  23. I just got a new Airport Extreme today. My computer (Airport Utility) sees it about 1 scan out of 20. It shows up in the list of networks, but when I go to configure it, either the auto way or manually, it pauses and says it can’t connect to the network.

    Therefore, I can’t use the Airport Utility to go in and fix anything or click back to older firmware.

    When I plug in the old Airport Express in it’s place, it works normally.

    I checked for surrounding networks with iStumbler, and none are present. We don’t have any cordless phones.

    Tomorrow, I go back to the Apple Store for an exchange.

  24. I have a note. For starters let me provide qualifications so people know I’m not blowing smoke. I’m a Best Buy Employee, avid Apple fan (and one of the Mac Specialists in my store), and former Marine with 5+ years in network infrastructure management. That said, here’s the advice.

    GET A LINKSYS! If you really want to go 802.11n, I’d recommend the WRT300N

  25. Are these problems with the 10/100 version, or the 10/100/1000? I wonder if Apple was a little too quick in pushing the 802.11n stuff out the door.

  26. I will be checking this out also. I’ve had a lot of trouble will the net going bad, but I never really blamed my Airport. I’ve had trouble with my broadband connection from Sprint before, so I assumed it was them again. This may explain why we can’t find anything on there part. I previously had a Belkin G wired/wireless router that worked fine, so I guess I may try using it again as a test.

  27. Downgrade the firmware. It works if you do that. Its easy… My AE worked just fine but I upgraded firmware to 7.2 and then it wouldn’t go online. I read this post about downgrading and so i did and then it went online in a snap. Go to the Airport Utility in Applications/Utility folder. Goto update firmware and there will be a drop down list of all firmware upgrades. I went down a version and vwalla. its works. THANKS

  28. I reverted to AEBS firmware 7.1.1 and have been content.

    I am also checking everyday for a successor to AEBS firmware 7.2.1

  29. I had the same issues and took the advice to set the channel. That worked for me. Been rock solid steady since. Before that, my macbook was in and out all the time.

    I have come to the conclusion that no router works well. I’ve had the linksys and went with the express to simplify things. The word at the store was a simple 5 minute install. Yea. Right It took five hours with 2 Apple techs and the comment from one was that they wished the sales people would stop telling them simple five minute installs.

    Thanks for the advice.

  30. What if your drop down does not have 7.1 as an option?
    Where can I find the older version to download.

    I just received my AEBS a few days ago and having same probs.
    The only downgrade/upgrade option is 7.2 or 7.2.1



  31. Problem solved!

    I ran into the same problem, and after reading these posts I was afraid I would have to downgrade my firmware in order to get it to work.

    Turns out all you have to do is press the little reset button on the back of the Arris modem!

    Just tried it out and it worked perfectly. My firmware is still version 7.2.1. I had the link to the solution I found in the Apple discussion forums, but it got my post flagged as spam. You can do a search for Arris in the Apple discussion forums to find it.


  32. This is *not* a hardware issue, it’s not a bad batch. The firmware version 7.2 and above for the Apple Airport extreme is fucked. The NAT/PMP server dies when processing completely legal NAT/PMP requests but it fails to restart. If you downgrade from 7.2.1 to 7.2 it will restart the NAT/PMP server after it crashes but umm that’s not much better. Apparently downgrading to version 7.1.1 will fix said issue, but does anyone not think this is a highly retarded situation. Sigh.

    Funnily enough, when I phoned Apple the wanted to replace my base station with a different one. I don’t think they get it.

  33. Can someone tell me where to find the 7.1.1 firmware? I’m having the same issues, but I don’t have the firmware on this machine (it’s not in the popup window), and I can’t seem to find it on apple’s site.

    anyone have a link?

  34. Hey, thanks for all the great posts on the freezing issue with the Airport Extreme (802.11n). I have Vista and the suggestion was to hold down the option key when checking for firmware versions using the AirPort Utility. For you Vista or XP folks, you have to hold the CTRL key down.

    Now for the question, I downloaded 7.1.1 using this technique. But when I try to upload the firmware to the base statiion it doesn’t give me 7.1.1 on the list. I can select “Other…” and then select the 7.1.1 binary file but then it says “The selected firmware file is not compatible with with base station”.

    Any suggestions?

  35. I hate to say this, but I had the exact same problem and a call to Comcast actually resolved the issue. (You read that right. I can hardly believe it myself.) Once they reset my cable modem from their end, my new Airport Extreme worked flawlessly.

  36. When I got mine, I thought I bought a lemon. After reading through forums and others’ experiences, the solution that worked for me is disabling IPv6. Don’t know why it’s enabled by default since most folks use IPv4.

  37. I have a Samsung ML 1740 connected to the APEBS which was printing wirelessly all fine and dandy until I upgraded the fw from 7.2.1 to 7.3.1. I’ve downgraded to 7.2 and found that printing works through Bonjour on a laptop running XP but not any laptop running Leopard. I ran a diagnostic and the results…

    Network Diagnostics was able to connect to the Internet, but not to the server “Samsung ML-1740._riousbprint._tcp.local”. This could be caused by problems with the server, or an Internet problem between this computer and the server

    Any brilliant ideas?

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