Airport Express

Reading time: 4 mins

Finally!!!

Considering the amount of hassle I’ve had trying to setup and configure my new Airport Express, I’ve jotted down some information which I hope may be of use to others.

I may end up waffling my way through this so, if you want, skip straight to the summary.

Firstly some notes on my setup as it will differ from many. I am on Telewest Broadband (UK) and my cable modem is a Scientific Atlanta Webstar 100 connected to the PC using a USB cable (as installed by Telewest). My wireless connection is provided by a D-Link AirPlus G DWL-G122 USB Adapter (NOT a Wireless Router but it offers the same functions for a third of the cost), and I am running Windows XP Pro SP2. My Airport Express is versioned at 6.2 and I’m using iTunes 6.0.1.3.

Ohh and before I detail how I got it working, some snippets of info to note, this may be useful if you too are having hassles setting up Airport Express on Windows XP.

The gotchas

  1. If you have a cable modem that is connected to your PC using a USB cable DO NOT EXPECT TO SEE A CONSTANT GREEN LIGHT. Flashing amber is the best you can hope for (because you are not using an ethernet cable to connect your cable modem to your PC) … given that piece of information you should also note that…
  2. A constant green light means that the Airport Express has been correctly assigned an IP address. It does not necessarily mean it is connected properly (this threw me for a while).
  3. Patience is a virtue. It takes five minutes or so for my wireless connection to kick in and for the connection to be made to the Airport Express. It may show up via the Admin Utility before then but leave it alone for a wee while if you can. No I don’t know why.

So enough of the trivia, how did I get it to work?

Well the secret, for me, was to alter the “binding order” of my PC’s network connections. You can do this by:

  1. Opening the Network Connections control panel.
  2. Selecting Advanced from the menu bar, and then select Advanced settings.
  3. On the Adapters and Bindings tab you will see a box labelled Connections.
  4. Re-order the connections to ensure your broadband connection is first, and your wireless connection comes after that (for me I also moved my Bluetooth connection to last).

Contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere, you CAN let Airport Express use DHCP to grab an IP address. In my head the rationale is – based on re-ordering the network connections – that the cable modem gets assigned an IP address first, then the Wireless connection gets assigned an IP address, then when that is done it connects with the Airport Express and it too gets assigned an IP address.

If the network connection order is wrong you end up with the Airport Express trying to assign the IP address for the PC and the Wireless connection, this is all well and good except that it breaks your internet connection. Not ideal, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Note: the previous two paragraphs might not be technically accurate but I THINK they explain what happened to me.

I spent hours mucking around trying to set the IP address manually, all to no avail (see the “green light gotcha” above) and whilst I managed three or four times to get music to stream to the Airport Express it was always at the expense of my internet connection. Re-ordering the network connections seems to have sorted that out.

So far so good then. I had fallen prey to the “audio drop” issue and turned to some of these suggestions, specifically changing the channel and turning on “interference robustness” but the key seems to be leaving the Admin Utility running. No I don’t know why either.

A final note. If you turn off your PC at night, you’ll need to restart the base station when you turn your PC back on or you won’t be able to connect to it (because it needs to have the IP address re-assigned ya see… I hope you are still following all this).

Frankly the Airport Express is not inspiring much confidence, a first for when me it comes to Apple products.

To summarise (and re-order things) then:

  1. Check your network connections order before you start.
  2. Use the setup tool, the Admin Utility can be confusing if you aren’t 100% sure what you are up to.
  3. If you don’t need to, don’t use any security.
  4. Don’t worry if you don’t get a green light, the Airport Express may still function correctly.
  5. If you restart your PC, restart your Airport Express (highlight the base station in the Admin Utility/Base Station Choose and select the Base Station menu then Restart).

I’d like to publically thank a man called Henry B. who managed to help me solve my problem. The discussion is here and may be of use to others. I’d also point out that the Discussions area on the Apple website is surprisingly open, active and helpful. A small beam of light in the quagmire that has been the “Airport Express experience”.

In closing then… no I’m not including any screenshots in this writeup as my problems were a lot simpler than I had realised. No Bonjour didn’t help (it’s only really concerned about wireless printing on the Windows platform). Yes this has lowered my opinion of Apple products.

Right, I’ve got a beautifully crafted playlist sitting in iTunes, so I’m off downstairs to listen to it!