The Blog

Oct 1, 2008

WDS Problem with Airport Express (6.3 Firmware) and Airport Extreme (7.3.2 Firmware) 

by Maxim Porges @ 12:24 PM | Link | Feedback (0)

Over the years, I have been through a few wireless routers. I went through two Linksys routers (they seem to have a two year life span before hardware failures), after which I started using an Airport Express. The Airport Express was nice because I could take it with me on vacation/conferences and plug it in to the hotel Internet for strong, instant wireless signals. Then the Airport Extreme came out, with Airport Disk, ability to backup wireless clients over Time Machine, etc., so I picked one of those up.

To maintain my existing investment in the Airport Express, I set up a WDS network. This allowed me to have my Extreme in the upstairs office and my Express in the living room. The Express both extended the wireless network signal and provided a way to stream music to my entertainment system from any computer in the house (great for parties).

However, since upgrading my Extreme to the 7.3.2 firmware, I have had issues with my WDS network. The network will connect, disconnect, connect, disconnect, over and over again. The wireless signal to the Extreme is not affected, but the signal to the Express comes in and drops out over and over. Looking in the Airport Extreme logs, I was getting the message
"Authenticating with station xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx" followed by "Deauthenticating with station xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx (reserved 2)". I could also see that there seemed to be a third wireless client trying to connect to my network and failing, so it's possible that interference from this network is confusing my Extreme.

Anyway, I didn't really need the wireless network extension - the Extreme provides a good strong signal all over the house. However, I did want the wireless music streaming capability, which I could no longer have since I couldn't figure out how to get WDS to work for the life of me. So, I simply switched the config for the Airport Express in the Airport Utility to "Join a Wireless Network" instead of "Participate in a Wireless Network". I entered the security credentials for the network and rebooted it, and I now have wireless music streaming working again. The Express does not provide any Internet connectivity, however, but since it is on the network, clients connect to the Extreme base station. iTunes will then find the Express and give you the option to stream music to it using Airtunes.

Not an ideal scenario, but workable. My Airport Express is an old 802.11-G model whose firmware updates stopped at 6.3, and the Extreme base station is an 802.11- N model on the most current 7.3.2 firmware. I could revert the Extreme firmware back to an earlier revision, but then I would be working with dodgy firmware and would lose the ability to do Time Machine backups over wireless, which is a deal-breaker for me.

If I bought a new Express today it would have the 7.3.2 firmware, and I expect would work fine with WDS again. Alas, I don't need WDS that much, and don't feel like spending the money unnecessarily to find out.