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How to speed up your network without replacing your AirPort Extreme Base Station

Chuck La Tournous | Dec. 8, 2014
With the addition of a faster (and less expensive) wireless router, you can speed up your existing network.

Location, location, location
Let's consider placement of our routers. In my house, my cable modem is connected to the Internet on a networking shelf in my basement. My current AEBS is connected to the cable modem and I have several other devices wired to it, including a VoIP box for my phone system and a line to a basement office. In other words, the basement location serves me very well there--and, in fact, would be hard to move.

What that location is not good for is providing a strong Wi-Fi signal to the rest of my house. In fact, I had previously used an AirPort Express to extend coverage. Because of this, I want my Wi-Fi router to be located on the first floor. (For simplicity's sake, I'll continue to refer to the Wi-Fi device as a router, even though it won't be providing that function.) This is another benefit of not replacing my AEBS--it gives me the flexibility to put my devices where it makes the most sense (provided, in this case, that I can run an Ethernet cable to it, as I discuss later). This means I can take my aging, slow AirPort Express off the network, where it could have slowed down all my wireless devices.

Setting it all up
Now that we've settled on a location for our devices, we'll need to configure them. Let's start with the AirPort Extreme Base Station, since we're already familiar with it and there's not a lot to do here.

Connect your computer to the AEBS via Ethernet. (Remember, we'll be turning off the Wi-Fi radio, so, in a very short time, that will be the only way to connect to it.) Open AirPort Utility, click on the icon for your base station, and click Edit. Select the Wireless tab, click the pop-up tab next to Network Mode, and choose Off. Click the Update button and you're done. The only thing you've done is to turn your base station's Wi-Fi radio off. Nothing else changes--your AEBS still provides all the functions it did before, only now it can only supply them to devices that are connected to it by Ethernet.

To configure your Wi-Fi router, likewise connect your computer to it via Ethernet and enter its default IP address in your web browser. (Although, since we'll be leaving the Wi-Fi radio on, you can also connect wirelessly.)

Follow the manufacturer's instructions to set up your Wi-Fi network, including its SSID name and security settings. In order to work with our upgraded setup, you'll need to turn off the Wi-Fi device's routing function. Depending on your device, this may be under an Advanced tab, but look for a section that says DHCP settings. Here, choose the setting to disable the DHCP server.


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