How To Extend New Airport With An Older Airport Extreme

How To Extend New Airport With An Older Airport Extreme

Disclaimer:  The following how to explanation intent is to provide you my road map for incorporating an older Airport Extreme and pair it with a new Airport Extreme with the new 802.11ac technology.  My Extreme also included an internal hard drive, called Airport Time Capsule.    This post was composed August 2013.  As time goes on this tutorial will become out of date due to system software changes, Airport Utility changes and hardware upgrades.   My point is that you should take care as your circumstances may be different and procedures may change, especially as time proceeds.

Also, this setup requires quite a few steps, some computer knowledge and maybe some ability to figure out work around solutions as your environment, equipment and software might not be the same.

You should check to see if the equipment you posses is the same or similar to the WiFi system I am describing.

  • My computer operating system is 10.8.4.
  • Airport Utility version I am using is 6.3.1 (631.4)
  • WiFi Explorer version is 1.5.1.
  • My old Airport Extreme model is IC: 579C-A1143.


Background: With my purchase of a new MacBook Air, I also purchased a Airport Time Capsule.  My intent was to still use the older but extremely reliable Airport Extreme as an extension to the new system.  I did not want the old Airport Extreme to just collect dust so I decided to attempt to add it to the new network but down stream to extend the WiFi range.  The Apple sales man told me it could not be done, saying some computer chip was missing.  I had nothing to loose so I tried anyway.  It took a while but I was able to add the Extreme to the Time Capsule with a wireless connection.

I got my best information at this web site:

Let me tell you that getting this extension to the network going took some time because I did not have a clue what I was doing.  Following are some notes that might help if your willing to jump in to some frustration.

I strongly recommend that you buy WiFi Explorer, an application from the Apple Store.  This application is excellent!  I recommend this application because it really helped me set up my wireless system.  It showed me the following hidden facts:
I found out that my two wireless routers were putting out signals on THREE channels.  You do not want to do that!  You want to minimize the spectrum your WiFi is using.  Be a good neighbor.  WiFi Explorer shows that my laptop is receiving 18 separate WiFi systems!  I want to make all my routers output on the SAME channels so I would not step on other systems with radio interference.  Here is my channel list:

  • Channel 3 = old Airport Extreme
  • Channel 11 = new Airport Time Capsule
  • Channel 149 = new Airport Time Capsule (No one in my area was using 5 GHz)

NOTE: The new Airport Time Capsule does put out TWO channels.  You can not turn either off.  My concern was that the old Airport Extreme was on another channel showing to the world that I was using THREE.

I was later able to view the old Airport Extreme “come up” from a device reset.  It came up with a whole new wireless name which was a bit confusing for a while but I guessed as to what was happening and just sat back sipping my tea waiting for the boot up process to finish and provide the name I specified.

You do NOT have to connect the old Airport Extreme by Ethernet cable to get this to work (you could and it would be a bit more reliable for not dropping some packets).  We are going to set this older unit up wireless.   Obviously, you need both units to “see” one another.  Get them close to one another for this set up process.  Later on, after we are finished, you can move the child unit away to extend the system coverage.

Put the child Airport Extreme in the same room as the Airport Time Capsule and be able to view the LED lights on both units.  This will make setting this unit up much easier for you.  Unplug the child or Airport Extreme for now and let it rest of at least a minute before applying power.  The resting period is necessary for all the internal capacitors to drain and thus end any power to the device.  (This is the reason cable companies tell you to power down your router and modem for at least a minute to do a reset.)

On your computer that you will be using to set up the wireless system, turn OFF the Airport Utility if you have it running.  I really recommend that during this process you realize that Airport Utility may NOT display recent changes unless you quit the application and then restart it.  Airport Utility restart is an important check that what this program is displaying on your computer screen is up to date.

With the old Airport Extreme in the same room, powered up that unit if you have not done so.  This is done by plugging in the power at the back of the unit.  Wait a minute or two for the unit to complete its boot process.

Take a paper clip and insert it into the extremely small hole in the back of the Extreme (see image below).  The reset hole on my unit was next to the last Ethernet connection, right side of the box and  next to the Kensington lock hole.




Press in with the paper clip slightly until you feel and possibly hear a slight clicking sound.  The LED at the front of the unit will begin to flash real fast.  Keep pressing in on that hidden switch for 9 to 10 seconds.  This will erase any prior settings that this router has stored.  We want it to come up “clean” or “fresh”.  I actually had to do the reset twice  on my unit.

Go to your computer and open up the Airport Utility.  It is going to open up showing a real nice simple graphic.  At the top is the Earth which represents the Internet or your cable modem.  You can click on this Earth and you should see some simple information such as connection status, router address, DNS server list and domain name.  Just below this Earth is the name “Internet” and you should see a green dot in front of that name.  The green dot tells us that the cable company recognizes your router as being legitimate and is sending it packet signals.

Just below the Internet Earth should be Airport Time Capsule.  It had better show a green dot before its name indicating it is working properly.  If you do not see a green light, you can not go any further.  You then need to fix the Time Capsule.

Just below the Airport Time Capsule should be your Airport Extreme.  It is madly trying to figure out how to connect to the Time Capsule and let me tell you that this can really take some time.  Go get a cut of coffee to tea and take your time getting it.

In the upper left of the Airport Utility screen you will see a long horizontal button labeled “Other Wi-Fi Devices”.  It took a while before the software showed a device that could be added.

Image above shows NO other devices are recognized for setup.

The image above now shows one new device.

At some point, this button will reveal the new Airport Extreme (image above) and it is telling us that we need to bring it in as part of your existing system.  This is called a pairing process. Click on this button and you should be shown the Airport Extreme (probably your only choice).  Click on this menu item.


The Airport Utility should then start to marry or pair the two devices and finish by showing you a new splash screen.  A new graphic will show the Time Capsule to the left with a solid line to the Airport Extreme is the graphic.  A default “Base Station Name” will be provided.  I chose to add the word “Extended” to this name so I can better view this device with WiFi Explorer as a separate device and each computer can be used to show which device it is connected to later.

In the lower left corner of the splash screen is a button to activate “Other Options”.  You really need to investigate this!  You have four options:

  • Create a new network.
  • Add to an existing network.
  • Replace an existing network.
  • Restore previous settings.




Your going to choose one of the first two options.  Option one will place the Airport Extreme into a separate WiFi Channel.  I can not do this because so many people live around my home have WiFi.  I chose option two, “Add to an existing network”.  This is nifty in that it will output on the same WiFi channel and extend its range.

At the lower right of this splash screen are two buttons “Back” and “Next”.  Mouse click on “Next”.

The next step is critical.  The splash screen will now show a new graphic and ask you too which network do you want to “Connect to”?

You do not want to connect to any other WiFi network than your own.  I was given two choices.

  • My home WiFi Network
  • My home WiFi Network 5GHz

I figured that because the Airport Extreme is not 5GHz capable that I would choose the “My home WiFi Network.

After making your selection as to which network you wish the Extreme to pair too, mouse click on “Next” button (lower right corner).


Yikes, another splash screen (above).  The same graphic as before showing the Time Capsule to the left and the Airport Extreme to the right shows.  Another option to change the name of the Base Station is presented.  I again added “Extended”.  Again, go get some tea or coffee as this process will take some time.

Note:  Please notice, in the image above, that the line between the Time Capsule and Airport Extreme is dashed, not solid.  This shows that the connection between the two devices is WiFi and not Ethernet.


The Airport Utility, in the image above, shows a successful system.  Internet, Time Capsule and Extreme all show green indicators before their names (I removed my wireless name from image).

Finally, go and mouse click on the Extreme graphic shown on the Airport Utility screen to reveal information about the device.  Take special note of the “connection”.  My unit shows “Excellent”.

TIP:  Once your Extreme is set up this way, you can then move it around to get better coverage into your back yard, garage, or even neighbors if they need to borrow your Internet.  You must be certain that the Extreme can properly receive strong signals from the Time Capsule for successful operation and best performance.  The application, WiFi Explorer is perfect when loaded on to a laptop for mapping how strong the parent Time Capsule signal is.  Be aware that you can make changes in the preferences for “Scan Sensitivity”.




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