Getting the most out of your Apple AirPort Extreme network

My home network is wired through a Dell gigabit switch which is connected to my AirPort extreme. Needless to say, this has worked well for me as the only wireless devices connected are mobile devices. I decided to set up another room in the house but I didn’t want to go through the hassle of running wires through the walls again. It’s undoubtably the best thing to do but this isn’t meant to be permanent. I figured the next best thing to do is extend the network by purchasing another AirPort Extreme. The hardware in it is better than an AirPort Express plus I get a few ports to hardwire a few devices. My rule of thumb is the less WiFi, the better.

I configured the extended network with the defaults and I never spent much time optimizing the wifi because it’s primarily used for my iPhone and iPad. Streaming media online from Netflix through a device in the new setup worked fine at first. The issue became immediately apparent when a hardwired device decided to come online and start streaming as well. After doing some connection testing, it was obvious that any hardwired device sucked all the bandwidth away from the WiFi leaving it with little to no room to breathe.

After a bit of research, I’ve found how to boost my WiFi signal significantly so my additional room can enjoy streaming as well. Here is what I did:

*Note: The below is all configured through your AirPort Utility app.*

  1. Do not use WEP or WPA (TKIP) authentication. WEP was deprecated in 2004 by the FBI due to it’s security flaws. WPA was superseded by WPA2 in 2006. If you must, use WPA/WPA2 Personal but I feel it would be best to strictly use WPA2 Personal alone to ensure best transfer rates. You can do this by navigating to the Wireless tab then choosing the appropiate option under Wireless Security.
  2. In the same area screen, click the Wireless Options button. All my wireless devices support 5GHz radio frequencies so it’s best to remove 2.4GHz support. You will notice additional settings if you hold the option key and clicking the Radio Mode: drop down box. I selected 802.11n only 5GHz - 802.11b/g/n.
  3. You can leave the 2.4GHz Channel: and the 5Ghz Channel: setting beneath set to Automatic.
  4. Lastly you would like to go to the Internet tab and click on the Internet Options… button. Configure IPv6: should be set to Automatically and IPv6 Mode: should be set to Native.
  5. Save all settings and click Update.

Conclusion

After applying the above settings WiFi speeds multiplied. The only drawback is if you are trying to support legacy devices that either do not support WPA2 or 5GHz radio mode. Naturally, the 5GHz band has a shorter range but the 2.4GHz band is more prone to interference due to the fact that more devices use it. Another important thing to note is that the 5GHz band has 23 non-overlapping channels as opposed to 3 in the 2.4GHz band.

Jan 9, 2015 Networking

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Richard S.