Killing Your Airport Extreme A/C: Accidentally


Airport express

To some, this article might seem a bit obvious. In hindsight, it is. However, it is handsight that would allow us all to get rich in the stock market. Hindsight is strictly as it states in the dictionary:

hindsight |ˈhīn(d)ˌsīt|
understanding of a situation or event only after it has happened or developed: with hindsight, I should never have gone.

Or if only I had bought 50,000 shares of Apple when it was $14 back in 2000.

The WIFI Connected Computer Seemed Slow


I ran into a problem where I found that my WIFI network was running slower than I thought it should for an A/C network, the new standard released by Apple. This standard had the theoretical capability of making my remote computer, at that time a MacBook Air, feel as fast as the host computer.

The host computer ran incredibly fast as it was hardwire connected to what is referred to as Rogers Extreme network. It has a theoretical operational speed of 150 mbs down and 10 mbs up. The host computer, an iMac at the time ran not only at these theoretical maximum speeds but much faster. On a broadband network, Rogers will just assign to you the under-utilized speeds to you. As we roll into the wee hours of the night the speeds dramatically increase but at the desktop only.

On my WIFI connected computer things just didn’t seem as fast as was expected. I began researching the subject and the networked enabled computer tested slower than was to be expected.

Something was wrong in The State of the Nation


Further testing demonstrated that my network enabled computer was indeed running not nearly as fast as one would expect on an A/C network. A few calls to Apple, some tweaking and things seemed to improve. However, something wasn’t well in The State of the Nation.

No one seemed to have the answer. In fact, in a small condo it was suggested I purchase a third base station. This seemed unnecessary and illogical as the distances were not great between the base and the remote but I went ahead and purchased a second Airport Express.

Again, there was no improvement and tremendous complexity happening in what should have been a simple setup.


The reason for the improper transfer speed was rather simple. Over the years I had just evolved my system so that at one time I was running an N capable system. When I played videos or music, transferred data and ran backups they were all running at that speed.

Enter the MacBook Air. No one said to remove the Airport Expresses as although they were extending the network and increasing signal strength they were degrading network performance. That is, the A/C network was stepping down to the N speed.

Fortuitous Removal

The Airport Express that was and had been for years connected to what at one time was an amplifier was now connected to a home theatre system. I was noticing something odd in that that the Airport Express seemed to be getting in the way of the AppleTV. I disconnected it.

The change was subtle but dramatic. The first day of disconnection was a day of rest. Testing could ensue later. When I carried out my tests the system was running remarkably faster. I immediately realized that two A/C systems were working together and there was no N system between causing the system to step down.

Now things run beautifully. It’s odd that no one at Apple thought of this and I sort of latched on to this by accident. Regardless of way, the outcome is wonderful. Now I have two Airport expresses I can sell. Although this was a frustrating experience it was a rewarding one.

All’s well that ends well.

As the old saying goes All’s well that ends well. Through time my system had been set up in such a way that as it migrated it worked against the speed and capability of the new A/C network. Accidentally almost, I discovered my network could run dramatically faster by just using the A/C base station and no Airport Express N base stations to extend the network.

It was no longer necessary. If you ever suddenly feel your new network isn’t running up to snuff look at it’s historical makeup and evolution. Although for some, one way of evolving a network might work ideally, for others it will accomplish the opposite of what you want. Apple’s new A/C networking gear is quite amazing when configured properly. In my case, we got there by hook and by crook but regardless of the means it is now a delight to use.

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